An Icelandic Family History of the
Ninth and Tenth Centuries,
TRANSLATED FROM THE ICELANDIC,
REV. W. C. GREEN,
LATE FELLOW OF KING'S
EDITOR OF 'ARISTOPHANES;' AUTHOR OF 'HOMERIC SIMILES,' ETC.
ELLIOT STOCK, 62, PATERNOSTER ROW, E.C.
It is now more than thirty years since
Dasent by the story of Burnt Njal delighted many readers and awakened in
England an interest in the Icelandic Sagas. The introduction to Burnt Njal
trats ably and fully of Icelandic history and literature, pointing out their
especial value to us Englishmen. And this the same author has further done in
his introduction to Vigusson's Dictionary. Other Sagas have since been made
accessible in English: e.g., the story of Gisli the outlaw, by Dasent;
Grettir's Saga, by Magnusson and Morris; and recently some others in the series
entitled 'The Saga Library.'
Dasent put before us the best first, for
of Iceland's Sagas the Njala undoubtedly bears the palm. But the next best has
hitherto not been open to English readers—the Egilssaga to wit. Second only to
the Njala in interest and merit is the Egla, and second (in my judgement) after
no long interval. For though no one character enlists our sympathy in Egil's
story so much as does the wise and good Njal so underservedly cut off, yet the
whole story is in stle and force little, if at all, inferior. Nay it has more
variety of scene and adventure, more points of contact with history, than has
the Njala; it is to Englishmen especially interesting, as one part of it is
much concerned with England. The narrative takes us to many lands; all over
Norway, to Sweden, to Finmark, and the lands beyond, Kvenland, Bjarmaland, the
shores of the White Sea; in company with the Vikings we go 'the eastward way'
to the Baltic, to Courland in Russia; we visit Holland, Friesland, Jutland;
[iv] westwards and southwestwards we cruise about Shetland, the Orkneys,
Scotland; England is reached by our hero Egil; York is the scene of his most
perilous venture; he comes even as far as London.
The earlier part of the Saga, the scene of
which is in Norway, with the account of Harold Fairhair's obtaining sole
dominion there, is of great interest, and agrees with other accounts of the
same. It is well known that Harold's tyranny (as they deemed it) drove many
Norsemen of good familyto seek Iceland and freedom. Among these were Egil's
grandfather and father. We have a full account of their settlement in the island,
whither as yet few had gone, and where land was to be had for the taking, but
hard work was needed. We read of these early pioneers' industries—their
farming, smithying, fishing on sea and river, seal-hunting, whaling,
egg-gathering. Minute descriptions there are of the island, particularly of its
western coast, its firths, nesses, rivers, fells.
No reader of this Saga can for a moment
doubt the truthfulness of the picture given of life and manners at that time. A
seafaring race were those Norsemen, both for trade in their ships of burden and
for freebooting in their long ships; bold and skilful mariners they are seen to
be. We read of a winter sledging journey in one most adventurous episode. There
are battles, some of great moment, by sea and by land. One of the latter, the
battle of Vinheath, in England, is told with much detail, and is (one may
venture to say) as vivid an account of a battle as can be found anywhere in any
language. There are single combats or wagers of battle, about the manner and
terms of which we learn much that is noteworthy. There are also lawsuits in
Norway, and, towards the end of the story, one in Iceland, whence we learn that
the emigrants carried out with them and established their civilization with all
the machinery of courts and legal procedure. There is less litigation in the
Egla than in the Njala, but few readers will regret this, for, if there be
anything in the story of Burnt Njal which one would be inclined to skip, it is
some of the long law-pleadings.
The home life of the North is in this Saga
graphically set [v] before us. We see the men at their banquets; mighty
drinkings they had, with curious manners and rules. There are feasts at
harvest, at Yule-tide; they exchange visits at each other's houses; hospitality
is universal; weddings there are, burials. Of their halls, the arrangement
thereof, their order of sitting, their armour hanging ready above the warriors,
we can from scenes in this story form a complete idea. We witness their
amusements, their trials of strength; a certain game at ball is described in
Of their religion perhaps we do not read
so much in the Egla as might be expected. They were still heathens, though
Christianity was prevailing in the countries around. That the Norwegians and
Icelanders were familiar with their own theology and mythology is, however,
plain; their knowledge of it is constantly assumed in the poetry. Of priests
the Egilssaga tells us, and of temples, and one great religious gathering
isdescribed. There is not much of the marvellous or supernatural in this Saga:
no ghost, as in Grettir's Saga. Some superstitions appear: a belief in magic
and spells, in the force of runes graved rightly or wrongly. Several women are
spoken of as possessing magic skill, especially queen Gunnhilda, who on one
memorable occasion exercises all but fatally for Egil her power of
shape-changing. There is one remarkable instance of a solemn spoken and written
curse, with very curious accompaniments. But upon the whole little happens that
is beyond fair probability, or that does not spring from natural causes.
Although, as we have seen, Egil and his comrades were not Christians, the
Christian faith is incidentally mentioned as prevailing in England, and towards
the end of the Saga we read that Thorstein, Egil's youngest son, became
eventually a Christian.
The characters in the Egilssaga are well
marked and forcibly drawn. In the house of Kveldulf, old Kveldulf himself,
Thorolf the elder, Skallagrim, Egil, stand forth as real men with characters
well-sustained throughout. Outside the family king Harold is well drawn, the
able ruler, generous in much, but suspicious, as a tyrant must needs be. His
son Eric is violent, but weaker, and swayed by his wife Gunnhilda, who is to
him somewhat as Jezebel [vi] was to Ahab. Arinbjorn is perhaps the noblest
character in the story, the brave, generous, true friend. But the reader will
estimate these and others for himself; of the hero who gives his name to the
Saga a few words will not be out of place. Egil certainly must have been a
remarkable man. Strong in body beyond his fllows, he was no less uncommonly
gifted in mind, a poet as well as a soldier. Brave he was even to
foolhardiness, yet wary withal and prudent; full of resource in danger, never
giving up the game however desperate; a born leader, liked and trusted by his
men. His character has its unpleasant side; he was headstrong, brutal at times
when provoked, determined to have his own way, and overbearing in pursuit of
it. Yet there is nothing mean or little about him; he does not engage in petty
quarrels, he helps or hinders kings and great chiefs. He is outspoken and
truthful, and his ire is especially stirred by meanness and falsehood in
others. To women he is pleasant and courteous, as appears on several occasions.
For the sake of his friend Arinbjorn and his kin he risks his life more than
That the bad points in Egil's character
are not screened is surely one proof of the truthfulness of the Saga-writer; a
mere eulogist would have blazoned forth all his hero's noble exploits, but
veiled the other side, and hardly would anyone inventing a fictitious character
have put such dark blots in it. But some of Egil's faults were rather those of
his time than of himself. A careful reading of the whole Saga leaves us with a
more favourable opinion of Egil than we form at the beginning of his life. For
most readers will (I think) at the first dislike Egil; they will agree with his
father Skallagrim and his elder brother Thorolf, who had not much affection for
the boy. But as the story goes on, one cannot but admire his bravery, his
resource, his indomitable resolution, his readiness to face danger, not only
for himself, but for others whom he really prized.
The Egla contains many wonderfully good
descriptive passages of the fjords, sounds, and islands of the North. An
instance is chapter xlv., which relates Egil's first scape from Eric. A most
dramatic scene is that where Skallagrim [vii] goes before king Harold in
chapter xxv. So is chapter lxii., where Egil and Arinbjorn are before king Eric
Bloodaxe in York. Very striking is the interview between Egil and his daughter
Thorgerdr, after Bodvar's death, in chapter lxxi. Looking at the vigour and
beauty of the style in these and other passages, we agree with the judgment in
Thordarson's preface, that the Egilssaga was put into writing 'in the golden
age of Icelandic literature.' And for these excellencies we must remember to
give due credit and admiration to the Saga-writer. For though he was (as is
generally believed) describing real men, real scenes, real characters, yet it
is not everyone who, having the matter to hand, can put it together and express
it so well.
About the truthfulness and historical
value of the Egla there has been some discussion and difference of opinion. Is
it in the main a true family history, or a romance? How long after the events
recorded was it written? And by whom? These questions have een debated by
northern scholars, Icelanders and others. The balance of authority and reason
appears to be very much in favour of the general truthfulness of the story. The
writer surely wrote down the facts as he heard or read them, not departing from
the truth as he knew it or believed it. But on this question let us hear what
the northern editors say.
Finnur Jónsson (Copenhagen, 1888) gives
his judgement thus:
'1. The Saga in what concerns persons and
events in Iceland and Norway may be considered true, with small and unimportant
2. For what happens in other countries it
cannot be reckoned quite trustworthy.
3. Its chronology is in several places
faulty, which is not to be wondered at.
4. It shows extensive geographical
knowledge, insight into Icelandic and Norse law and culture.
5. The composer had partly written sources
of information, partly family traditions of the Moormen to go upon, with much
of Egil's verses and poems.
6. He is a master in the art of telling a
story and delineating character.
7. He must have lived on the
[viii] The preface to Thordarson's edition
'The Saga agrees well with other Icelandic
Sagas, and may be reckoned as one of the most truthful; but when it is
considered that it was kept in men's memory for a very long time—the events
happening before the year 1000, and the story not being put into writing till
near the end of the twelfth century—naturally every syllable of it will not be
true. Neither in this, however, nor in any of the best Icelandic Sagas do the
writers thereof deliberately assert untruth or mean to exaggerate.'
To the authority and judgment of these
scholars an Englishman can add little. Only, as regards historical events
foreign to Iceland and Norway, it may b remarked that no one could reasonable
expect Icelanders of the eleventh and twelgth centuries to be infallible about
them. In the Egilssaga what is said about foreign countries appears generally
like truth. What we read about England, e.g., and what passed there at
the beginning of Athelstan's reign, agrees fairly with what we know of that
time from history; some facts are undoubtedly true, none palpable untrue,
though there are details which present some difficulty. But these will be
better discussed in a note on that part of the Saga.
The date of the writing of Egilssaga is
put between 1160 and 1200; probably near to the latter date. In chapter xc. We
read of the taking up of Egil's supposed bones in the time of Skapti the
priest. He is known to have been priest from 1143 onwards. Thordarson's preface
suggests as a possible author Einar Skulason. He was a descendent of Egil,
being grandson of the grandson of Thorstein Egilsson; he traveled much, knew
well both Norway and Iceland, and was a good skald; he lived till late in the
twelfth century. But that he was the author is but a guess.
Of the Egilssaga there are several
editions. For this translation the following have been used: The large edition,
with a Latin translation (Havniæ, mdcccix); Einar Thordarson's (Reykjavík,
1856); Finnur Jónsson's (Copenhagen, 1888). Also Petersen's Swedish translation
(1862). The text of Thordarson's little book has been followed in the main;
Jónsson's differs from it in many places, being [ix] generally shorter. Into the
critical merits of these texts I am not competent to enter; the variations are
of no importance to the story or to an English reader.
The prose of the Saga presents few
difficulties to a translator. Icelandic prose, as regards order of words, is
simple, and runs naturally enough into English. The sentences are mostly short
and plain. In Egilssaga the style for Icelandic is pronounced by good
authorities to be of the best; the translator can only hope that in its English
dress it may not have lost all its attractiveness.
Of the verse in this Saga, and of the
principles followed in translating it, something must be said; for peculiar
difficulties beset the translator of Icelandic verses. Icelandic poetry differs
entirely from Icelandic prose. Whereas the prose is simple, the poetry is
highly artificial. Especially so are the detached staves or stanzas sprinkled
throughout the Sagas. Of such the Egla has a great number, mostly Egil's own
verses; and, as he is accounted one of the best of Iceland's ancient skalds,
they are an interesting part of the Saga and could not be omitted. But in
rendering them into English one meets with perplexing difficulties.
These staves consist nearly always of
eight lines each, made up of two sets of four lines, the sense being usually
complete in each quatrain. As regards metre, the lines are short, about of a
length, not exactly so in syllables, but alike in rhythm and number of accented
syllables. No doubt more exact rules about their metre are discoverable and
known to Icelanders, but for the English reader the above description will
suffice. The lines to not rhyme, or very seldom do so, and (I believe) rhyme in
these detached stanzas is looked on as a mark of a later date than the tenth
century. The place of rhyme is taken by alliteration of initials. That is to
say, in the second line must be repeated the same initial consonant that has
been used twice (or at least once) in the first line, or else a vowel must be
so repeated. Anyone familiar with old English or Saxon verses (such as occur in
the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, e.g., the battle of Brunanburh) will
understand the kind of alliteration meant.
Now, a translator has to choose between
keeping this [x] form as far as he may, or changing it into rhyme with strict
syllabic metre. As the former method of alliteration with some license as to
length of line by unaccented syllables allows of a closer rendering of the
original, it has been preferred.
But there are several puzzles to solve in
icelandic verse. There is often a curiously complex order of words, an order
that sometimes renders a sentence unconstruable at first sight even to one
accustomed to the involutions of Latin and German. Were it not for the
consentient authority of Scandinavian interpreters, I could never have imagind
words to be meant so out of the order in which they are written. To keep their
rules of alliterative sound, the skalds broke those of grammatical sense. The
subjoined examples (by no means extreme ones—will give an idea of the Icelandic
practice in this kind.
(1) 'Now hath the lord of earth slain
falls the land under the descendent of Ella forward in fight of rule head-stem
Which being interpreted is: 'Now hath the
lord of earth, forward in fight, head-stem, slain three princes: the land falls
under the rule of the descendant of Ella.'
(2) 'Let listen pleased to the stream of
long-haired friend of altars take heed thane of silence thy people the king's
Interpreted: 'Let the king's thane listen
pleased to the stream of my long-haired altar-friend (= to the stream of song
from Odin); let the people take heed of silence.'
The consenting voice of three gives (with
hardly a variation in detail) these explanations. Now, these examples in their
original order sound much as if Scott had written in the opening of the 'Lady
of the Lake':
'At eve had drunk where danced
The stag the moon on Monan's
This feature of Icelandic verse plainly
cannot be kept, nor is it worth keeping. We must presume that somehow the
hearers (or most of them) did understand what was sung, but no English hearer
or reader could understand his own language so treated. A translator must give
up this artificial order. But this peculiarity, besides making the sense hard
[xi] to unravel, may also cause additional trouble to the translator, who has
to make new alliterations in place of old ones, that were perhaps ready to
hand, but have disappeared by the rearranging of the words into something
But the most curious characteristic of
Icelandic poetry and the most difficult to deal with is the 'kenning,' as it is
called. It means 'a mark of recognition'; kennings are descriptive names or periphrases.
Such phraseology we find, to some extent, in all ancient poetry, but it is most
artificial in the Northern poets. It seems a principle with them seldom to call
a thing or person by its plain name, but to use a periphrasis. These kennings
are of very different kinds. Sometimes they are really poetical descriptions,
figurative, but easily understood and appreciated, and apposite to the passage
in which they occur. For instance, anyone can understand a sword in action
being called a 'wound-snake' or 'wound-wolf,' arrows flying from the bowstring
'wound-bees,' a shield a 'rimmed moon,' a ship 'sea-swan,' sea-horse
'sea-king's steed.' 'Willow-render' (tree-render) for wind recalls the silvifraga
flabra of Lucretius. But some kennings are extraordinary, especially when
compound, as they often are. 'Dale-fish,' for example, is a curious roundabout
for 'serpent'; then built upon this we find 'dale-fish mercy,' for the season
that cheers or enlivens the serpent, i.e., 'summer.' We know that 'it is
the bright day that brings forth the adder,' but very cumbrous is this kenning
used in a verse of the Egla simply to mark the time of an exploit. Numerous are
the kennings for 'gold,' 'man,' 'woman,' nor are these (as far as one can see)
used with any reference to the fitness of each for the occasion.
Again, some of the kennings seem meant to
be rather humorous than what we should call poetical, as when the head is
'hat-knoll,' 'hat-stall'; the eyes 'brow-pits'; the tongue 'song-pounder.' And
certainly some were purposely enigmatical, meant to tax the ingenuity of the
hearer to solve. Names of persons are hidden. Egil is supposed once to do this
with the name of a woman; it is hidden so carefully that his friend Arinbjorn
cannot discover it, nor have commentators satisfactorily found it yet. On
another occasion Egil describes Arinbjorn by a kind of pun [xii] as 'the bear'
(bjorn) of the birchwood's terror (of arin, 'the hearth,' on
which birchwood is burnt).
This fondness for wrapping up wisdom in
riddles we see in Eastern nations. Solomon (Prov. i.6) puts it as a desirable
learning 'to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their
dark sayings' (marg. 'riddles'); the LXX. has parabol»n
ca…scoteiuÒu lÒgou r»seij tj sofèn ca… a…u…gata. There are phrases like Icelandic kennings in
Solomon; e.g., in Eccles. Ix. 3, 4, 'the keepers of the house, the
strong men, the grinders, those that look out of the window,' are of this kind,
as also perhaps some of those expressions that follow. And riddles of the older
type are so. Take, for example, Samson's riddle, 'Out of the eater came forth
meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.' What is this but describing
what had happened with the kennings, 'eater' and 'strong' for lion, 'meat' and
'sweetness' for honey?
In some respects the use of certain
epithets in ancient Greek poetry is like the use of kennings. We find in Homer
stock epithets, names, titles, repeatedly occurring where they do not specially
fit the passage. Men are 'articulating, enterprising' (mšropej, £lfhstai); the earth is 'black, all-feeding,
rye-giving' (mšlainam poulubÒteiram, xeidwroj); the sea is 'divine, fishful' (dia,
…cquÒessa); kings and
chiefs 'Jove's nurslings, blameless' (diotrefš ej, £mÚmonej), etc., without regard to the special
circumstances. But in Greek with the epithet the noun is mostly expressed;
whereas in Icelandic it has to be guessed.
Very many kennings are based on mythology.
This is not only true of the names of the gods, but also of other persons and
things; they are frequently described by periphrases which can only be
explained from the Edda, and are therefore meaningless to those who are not
well versed in the details of that same.
now it will be seen that these various kennings present a double difficulty,
first to understand, then to deal with in translation. Suppose them understood,
still how shall they be rendered? When they are poetical figures appropriate to
the passage they are fairly manageable, sometimes without change, sometimes by
simile, sometimes as [xii] epithet, adding the noun. But where they do not fit
the matter at hand, they are, if closely rendered, barely intelligible; to our
notions they are unpoetical; they will often spoil the spirit and meaning of
the whole verse to an English reader by calling off his attention to a puzzle.
The substance of the entire passage will be lost by too much particularity.
They are cumbrous, there is no room in the text to make them really clear, and
to be continually putting down obscurities and claiming space elsewhere in
notes to explain them seems undesirable. Therefore I elected to give up many of
the far-fetched kennings, putting the answer instead of the riddle where the
riddle seemed hardly worth keeping. For one thing seemed most important in
translating these staves, to make each stave fairly plain to be understood by
English readers as it was presumably by Icelandic hearers. That my renderings
will satisfy all I do not suppose, either all learned Northern critics or all
English readers. Many of the original staves cannot be made to satisfy modern
taste, and, indeed, they are of very unequal merit. Some of Egil's verses are
of great force and spirit; he had a true poetic vein, and depends less on
artificialities than some of the Icelandic verse-writers; but the merit and
attractiveness of the Saga does not rest on these detached verses. Were they
omitted most readers would not miss much. But to omit them I could not venture,
so I have dealt with them as best I might.
Besides these scattered stanzas the Egla
contains Egil's three great poems. Jónsson, indeed, banishes these to an
appendix. But there seems no doubt that they are genuine compositions of Egil,
though perhaps not included in the Saga in its earliest form. It appeared,
therefore, better to keep them in the place to which they have now by use a
prescriptive right. I shall say no more of them here than thatthey are each
remarkable in their way; 'Sonatorrek,' for depth of feeling and poetry, I should
rank first; it is unlike the generality of Icelandic poems.
And now pass we to the actual matter and
outline of the story, which naturally falls into three divisions.
I. The history of Kveldulf's family,
especially of Thorolf, in Norway.
[xiv] II. The settlement of Skallagrim in
Iceland, the birth of Thorolf the younger, then of Egil, whose adventures (all
out of Iceland) are told up to his final return when fifty years old.
III. Egil's later uneventful years in
Iceland, his old age and death, and a brief notice of his descendants. The
outline of the story is this:
Kveldulf, a rich yeoman, marrying rather
late in life, has two sons. The younger son, Skallagrim, stays at home with his
father. Thorolf the elder goes freebooting. While these two are young men,
Harold Fairhair is winning to himself the sole rule of Norway and putting down
the petty kings. Kveldulf refuses to leave home and help in fight against
Harold, yet will he not upon Harold's success take service under him. Thorolf,
however, against his father's warning, does so, and wins favour and rank at
court. Upon the death of his friend Bard he inherits his wealth and widow. Then
two half-brothers of Bard's father claim part of the property. Being denied
allshare, they slander Thorolf to the king. Harold is by degrees brought to
believe their charges; he deprives Thorolf of his honours and his inheritance
fom Bard, then seizes Thorolf's own ship and cargo. Whereupon Thorolf seizes
Thorolf's own property. Then king Harold goes against him with a large force,
burns his house, and in a desperate fight slays him.
After awhile Harold is willing to make
some amends; but Kveldulf and Skallagrim refuse all overtures of
reconciliation. They take what vengeance they can on some concerned in
Thorolf's death, and resolve to seek Iceland. Kveldulf dies on the way, but his
coffin is cast upon Iceland's near shore, and found by the rest soon after
their landing. Near this spot on the Borgar Firth Skallagrim settles. He and
his company thrive. Two sons are born to him: Thorolf, and about ten years
later Egil. Thorolf grows to be like his namesake and uncle; he soon takes to
roving; visits Norway, where at the house of Thorir, his father's friend, he
meets a son of Harold Fairhair, Eric, then but a boy. They strike up a
friendship, which continues when Eric Bloodaxe becomes king; and Thorolf is
much with Ericand queen Gunnhilda. After some years he returns to Iceland.
[xv] Meanwhile Egil has been growing up.
As a child he shows no common wit and strength, but is wilful, unmanageable,
agrees ill with his father, breaks out in acts of violence. He goes out with
Thorolf on his next voyage to Norway; he and Arinbjorn, Thorir's son, become
friends. But Egil soon provokes the wrath of Eric and Gunnhilda; Gunnhilda
attempts his life; Egil retaliates, and the brothers have to quit Norway. They
seek England, serve under king Athelstan, win for him a battle in
Northumberland, in which Thorold falls. Egil, though promised great honours with
Athelstan, goes to Norway to see after Thorolf's widow; after awhile he marries
her and returns to Iceland. On tidings of his wife's father's death he goes to
Norway to claim her inheritance, which is unjustly and violently kept from him.
Egil narrowly escapes from Eric's ships, slays the man who holds the property,
also slays a son of Eric, and after solemnly cursing the king and queen returns
to Iceland. He finds his father ageing much; soon Skallagrim dies. And now
Hacon, Eric's brother, foster-son of king Athelstan, is recalled to Norway as
king, and Eric Bloodaxe is forced to flee. He with Arinbjorn goes to Scotland,
then to Northumberland, of which he is made governor for Athelstan. Egil,
resolving to revisit Athelstan in England, is wrecked at Humbermouth, within
Eric's dominion. At once he rides to York, seeks ou Arinbjorn, and they two go
before Eric. Gunnhilda urges that Egil be put to death; but for Arinbjorn's
sake, after recital of his poem, he is spared. Going on to Athelstan, he is
well received, and urged to stay; but first he will go to Norway after his
wife's property. From Hacon he wins a hearing, brings a suit against Earl Atli,
the holder of the property: the matter is referred to wager of battle; Atli is
slain, whereupon Egil returns to Iceland; he is there twelve years: sons and
daughters are born to him. Athelstan dies soon after Egil's return to Iceland;
some years later Eric is killed in battle. Arinbjorn is again in Norway; so
Egil goes thither, is with him; they go harrying in Saxland and Friesland,
after which Arinbjorn joins Eric's sons in Denmark; Egil returns to Thorstein,
Arinbjorn's nephew, and he takes Thorstein's place in a winter expedition to
[xvi] Vermaland to gather the king's tribute. From the perils of this he escapes;
then in spring sails out to Iceland, where he lives without further adventure.
His daughters get husbands: of his sons,
Gunnar dies young of sickness; Bodvar is drowned, aged about sixteen, on which
loss Egil composes a poem; and later one on Arinbjorn. Upon the death of
Asgerdr, his wife, he leaves Borg, and returns to live at Mossfell with Grim
and Thordisa his niece and step-daughter. Thorstein, Egil's youngest son, has a
lawsuit with an encroaching neighbour; the decision of this, referred to Egil,
is about his last public act. But he lives on to be very old and blind, and
dies of sickness.
Grim and Thorstein afterwards become
Christians. Many famous men sprang from Skallagrim and Egil. Bones believed to
be Egil's were found about a hundred and sixty years after his death, and
removed to the churchyard at Mossfell.
Through the whole Saga, as a connecting
thread, runs the family feud between the house of Kveldulf and the house of
Harold. Old Kveldulf's prophecy that Harold will work scathe on his kin comes
true by Thorolf's death. Vengeance for him is taken, and the feud sleeps
awhile; nay, against his father Harold's warning, Eric accepts the younger
Thorolf as a friend. But Egil, going to Norway, by his headstrong deeds reawakens
the quarrel, being perhaps nothing loth to do so, and following Skallagrim's
mood, who had scorned king Eric's gift sent by the hand of Thorolf. The enmity
is bitter between Egil and Eric stirred by Gunnhilda; Egil however wins through
all perils, and, even as Harold Fairhair, chief of the feud on the other side,
had done, at last dies in his bed full of years.
CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE OF THE CHIEF EVENTS IN THE
SAGA OR CONNECTED WITH IT.
A.D. 850. Birth of Harold Fairhair.
" 860. Harold Fairhair comes to the
" 870. He becomes sole king of Norway.
" 870 (circa). Thorolf, being about
twenty-four years old, goes to Harold.
" 872. Battle of Hafrsfirth.
" 877. Death of Thorolf.
" 878. Skallagrim emigrates to
" 886 (circa). Thorolf Skallagrimson
" 898-901 (circa). Egil born.
" 898-902. Bjorn's abduction of Thora,
marriage, visit to Iceland.
" 903. Feast at Yngvar's. Thorolf and
Bjorn go to Norway.
" 904-14. Thorof's freebootings. Among
these is put Eric's
expedition to Bjarmaland, but this probably was in 918.
" 906. Bjorn's second marriage.
" 906-15. Egil's childhood and boyhood
" 914. Thorolf returns to Iceland.
" 915. Thorolf goes to Norway with
Egil; twelve years pass
before Egil returns.
" 916-23. Freebootings of Thorolf and
" 923. Thorolf marries Asgerdr.
Slaying of Bard.
" 924. Fight with Eyvind Skreyja.
Thorolf and Egil go to England.
" 925. Battle of Vinheath, where
" 926. Egil goes to Norway. Marries
Asgerdr next winter.
" 927. Returns to Iceland; is there
several years, during which
probably his oldest daughter is born.
" 933. He goes to Norway. Harold
Fairhair dies. Egil has a suit with
Bergonund; returns to Iceland. Skallagrim dies this winter.
" 935. Hacon now king in Norway. Eric
is in Northumberland.
Egil wrecked there. Höfudlausn. Egil with Athelstan.
" 937. He goes to Norway; fights with
Atli; returns to Iceland.
" 938-50. Egil is in Iceland. He has
five children in all.
" 940. Death of king Athelstan.
" 950 (circa). Eric falls in battle.
Arinbjorn is back in Norway;
Egil goes to him.
[xviii] A.D. 951. They harry eastwards; Arinbjorn then joins
Eric's sons. Egil next winter goes to Vermaland.
" 952-60. Marriages of Egil's
step-daughter and daughters.
" 960. Bodvar's drowning. Sona-torrek.
" 961. Hacon's death.
" 962. Epic poem on Arinbjorn.
" 967 (circa). Thorstein's marriage.
" 973 (circa).
Asgerdr dies. Egil retires to Mossfell. Thorstein
lives at Borg.
" 975-8. Dispute between Thorstein and
" 975. Earl Hacon becomes king. In his
'early days' Egil is past eighty.
" 983-8. Egil's death.
" 1000. Grim and Thorstein are
" 1143. Skapti priest. Egil's bones
Of Kveldulf and his sons.
was a man named Ulf, son of Bjalf, and Hallbera, daughter of Ulf the fearless;
she was sister of Hallbjorn Half-giant in Hrafnista, and he the father of
Kettle Hæing. Ulf was a man so tall and strong that none could match him, and
in his youth he roved the seas as a freebooter. In fellowship with him was one
Kari of Berdla, a man of renown for strength and daring; he was a Berserk. Ulf
and he had one common purse, and were the dearest friends.
But when they gave up
freebooting, Kari went to his estate at Berdla, being a man of great wealth.
Three children had Kari, one son named Eyvind Lambi, another Aulvir Hnuf, and a
daughter Salbjorg, who was a most beautiful woman of a noble spirit. Her did
Ulf take to wife, and then he too went to his estates. Wealthy he was both in
lands and chattels; he took baron's rank as his forefathers had done, and
became a great man. It was told of Ulf that he was a great householder; it was
his wont to rise up early, and then go round among his labourers or where his
smiths were, and to overlook his stalk and fields, and at times he would talk
with such as needed his counsel, and good counsel he could give in all things,
for he was very wise. But everyday as evening drew on he became sullen, so that
few could come to speak with him. He was an evening sleeper, and it was
commonly said that he was very shape strong. He was called Kveldulf.
Kveldulf and his wife had two
sons, the elder was named Thorolf, the younger Grim; these, when they grew up,
were both tall men and strong, as was their father. But Thorolf was most comely
as well as doughty, favoring his mother's kin; very cheery was he, liberal,
impetuous in everything, a good trader, winning the hearts of all men. Grim was
swarthy, ill-favoured, like his father both in face and mind; he became a good
man of business; skilful was he in wood and iron, an excellent smith. In the
winter he often went to the herring fishing, and with him many house-carles.
But when Thorolf was twenty
years old, then he made him ready to go a harrying. Kveldulf gave him a
long-ship, and Kari of Berdla's sons, Eyvind and Aulvir, resolved to go on that
voyage, taking a large force and another long-ship; and they roved the seas in
the summer, and got them wealth, and had a large booty to divide. For several
summers they were out roving, but stayed at home in winter with their fathers.
Thorolf brought home many costly things, and took them to his father and
mother; thus they were well-to-do both for possessions and honour. Kveldulf was
now well stricken in years, and his sons were grown men.
Of Aulvir Hnuf.
was then king over the Firthfolk; there was an earl of his named Hroald, whose
son was Thorir. Atli the Slim was then an earl, he dwelt at Gaula; he had
sons—Hallstein, Holmstein, and Herstein; and a daughter, Solveig the Fair. It
happened one autumn that much people were gathered at Gaula for a sacrificial
feast, then saw Aulvir Hnuf Solveig and courted her; he afterwards asked her to
wife. But the earl thought him an unequal match and would not give her.
Whereupon Aulvir composed many love-songs, and thought so much of Solveig that
he left freebooting, but Thorolf and Eyvind Lambi kept it on.
The beginning of the rule of Harold Fairhair.
son of Halfdan Swarthy, was heir after his father. He had bound himself by this
vow, not to let his hair be cut or combed till he were sole king over Norway,
wherefore he was called Harold Shockhead. So first he warred with the kings
nearest to him and conquered them, as is told at length elsewhere. Then he got
possession of Upland; thence he went northwards to Throndheim, and had many
battles there before he became absolute over all the Thronds. After that he
purposed to go north to Naumdale to attack the brothers Herlaug and Hrollaug,
kings of Naumdale. But when these brothers heard of his coming, Herlaug with
twelve men entered the sepulchral mound which they had caused to be made (they
were three winters at the making), and the mound then was closed after them.
But king Hrollaug sank from royalty to earldom, giving up his kingdom and
becoming a vassal of Harold. So Harold gained the Naumdalesmen and Halogaland,
and he set rulers over his realm there. Then went he southwards with a fleet to
Mæra and Raumsdale. But Solvi Bandy-legs, Hunthiof's son, escaped thence, and
going to king Arnvid, in South Mæra, he asked help, with these words:
'Though this danger now touches
us, before long the same will come to you; for Harold, as I ween, will hasten
hither when he has enthralled and oppressed after his will all in North Mæra
and Raumsdale. Then will the same need be upon you as was upon us, to guard
your wealth and liberty, and to try everyone from whom you may hope for aid.
And I now offer myself with my forces against this tyranny and wrong. But, if
you make the other choice, you must do as the Naumdalesmen have done, and go of
your own will into slavery, and become Harold's thralls. My father though it
victory to die a king with honour rather than become in his old age another
king's subject. Thou, as I judge, wilt think the same, and so will others who
have any high spirit and claim to be men of valour.'
By such persuasion king Arnvid
was determined to gather his forces and defend his land. He and Solvi made a
league, and sent messengers to Audbjorn, king of the Firthfolk, that he should
come and help them. Audbjorn, after counsel taken with friends, consented, and
bade cut the war-arrow and send the war-summons throughout his realm, with word
to his nobles that they should join him.
But when the king's messengers
came to Kveldulf and told him their errand, and that the king would have Kveldulf
come to him with all his house-carles, then answered he:
'It is my duty to the king to
take the field with him if he have to defend his own land, and there be
harrying against the Firthfolk; but this I deem clean beyond my duty, to go
north to Mæra and defend their land. Briefly ye may say when ye meet your king
that Kveldulf will sit at home during this rush to war, nor will he gather
forces nor leave his home to fight with Harold Shockhead. For I think that he
has a whole load of good-fortune where our king has not a handful.'
The messengers went back to the
king, and told him how their errand had sped; but Kveldulf sat at home on his
Battle of king Harold and Audbjorn.
Audbjorn went with his forces northwards to Mæra; there he joined king Arnvid
and Solvi Bandy-legs, and altogether they had a large host. King Harold also
had come from the north with his forces, and the armies met inside Solskel.
There was fought a great battle, with much slaughter in either host. Of the
Mærian forces fell the kings Arnvid and Audbjorn, but Solvi escaped, and
afterwards became a great sea-rover, and wrought much scathe on Harold's
kingdom, and was nicknamed Bandy-legs. On Harold's side fell two earls, Asgaut
and Asbjorn, and two sons of earl Hacon, Grjotgard and Herlaug, and many other
great men. After this Harold subdued South Mæra. Vemund Audbjorn's brother
still retained the Firthfolk, being made king. It was now autumn, and king
Harold was advised not to go south in autumn-tide. So he set earl Rognvald over
North and South Mæra and Raumsdale, and kept a numerous force about himself.
That same autumn the sons of
Atli set on Aulvir Hnuf at his home, and would fain have slain him. They had
such a force that Aulvir could not withstand them, but fled for his life. Going
northwards to Mæra, he there found Harold, and submitted to him, and went north
with the king to Throndheim, and he became most friendly with him, and remained
with him for a long time thereafter, and was made a skald.
In the winter following earl
Rognvald went the inner way by the Eid-sea southwards to the Firths. Having
news by spies of the movements of king Vemund, he came by night to Naust-dale,
where Vemund was at a banquet, and, surrounding the house, burnt within it the
king and ninety men. After that Karl of Berdla came to earl Rognvald with a
long-ship fully manned, and they two went north to Mæra. Rognvald took the
ships that had belonged to Vemund and all the chattels he could get. Kari of
Berdla then went north to king Harold at Throndheim, and became his man.
Next spring king Harold went
southwards along the coast with a fleet, and subdued firths and fells, and
arranged for men of his own to rule them. Earl Hroald he set over the
Firthfolk. King Harold was very careful, when he had gotten new peoples under
his power, about barons and rich landowners, and all those whom he suspected of
being at all likely to raise rebellion. Every such man he treated in one of two
ways: he either made him become his liege-man, or go abroad; or (as a third
choice) suffer yet harder conditions, some even losing life or limb. Harold
claimed as his own through every district all patrimonies, and all land tilled
or untilled, likewise all seas and freshwater lakes. All landowners were to be
his tenants, as also all that worked in the forest, salt-burners, hunters and
fishers by land and sea, all these owed him duty. But many fled abroad from
this tyranny, and much waste land was then colonized far and wide, both
eastwards in Jamtaland and Helsingjaland, and also the West lands, the Southern
isles, Dublin in Ireland, Caithness in Scotland, and Shetland. And in that time
Iceland was found.
The king's message to Kveldulf.
Harold lay with his fleet in the Firths, whence he sent messengers round the
land to such as had not come to him, but with whom he thought he had business.
The messengers came to Kveldulf, and were well received. They set forth their
errand, said that the king would have Kveldulf come to him.
'He has heard,' said they,
'that you are a man of renown and high family. You will get from him terms of
great honour, for the king is very keen on this, to have with him such as he
hears are men of mark for strength and bravery.'
Kveldulf answered that he was
an old man, not fit for war or to be out in warships. 'I will now,' said he,
'sit at home and leave serving kings.'
Upon this the messengers said,
'Then let your son go to the king; he is a tall man and a likely warrior. The
king will make you a baron,' said they to Grim, 'if you will serve him.'
'I will be made baron under
none,' said Grim, 'while my father lives; he, while he lives, shall be my
The messengers went away, and
when they came to the king told him all that Kveldulf had said before them.
Whereat the king looked sullen, but he spoke little; these men, he said, were
proud, or what were they aiming at? Aulvir Hnuf was standing near, and he bade
the king not be wroth. 'I will go,' said he, 'to Kveldulf; and he will consent
to come to you, as soon as he knows that you think it a matter of moment.'
So Aulvir went to Kveldulf and
told him that the king was wroth, and it would not go well unless one of the
two, father or son, came to the king; he said, too, that he would get them
great honour from the king if they would but pay homage. Further he told them
at length, as was true, that the king was liberal to his men both in money and
Kveldulf said, 'My foreboding
is that I and my sons shall get no luck from this king: and I will not go to
him. But if Thorolf returns this summer, he will be easily won to this journey,
as also to be made the king's man. Say you this to the king, that I will be his
friend, and will keep to his friendship all who heed my words; I will also hold
the same rule and authority from his hand that I held before from the former
king, if he will that it continue so still, and I will see how I and the king
Then Aulvir went back and told
the king that Kveldulf would send him his son, and he (said Aulvir) would suit
better; but he was not then at home. The king let the matter rest. In the
summer he went inland to Sogn, but in autumn made ready to go northwards to
Thorolf resolves to serve the king.
Kveldulf's son and Eyvind Lambi came home from sea-roving in the autumn.
Thorolf went to his father, and father and son had some talk together. Thorolf
asked what had been the errand of the men whom Harold sent thither. Kveldulf
said the king had sent them with this message, that Kveldulf or else one of his
sons should become his man.
'How answeredst thou?' said
'I spake what was in my mind,
that I would never take service with king Harold; and ye two will both do the
same, if I may counsel: this I think will be the end, that we shall reap ruin
from that king.'
'That,' said Thorolf, 'is quite
contrary to what my mind tells me, for I think I shall get from him much
advancement. And on this I am resolved, to seek the king, and become his man;
and this I have learnt for true, that his guard is made up of none but valiant
men. To join their company, if they will have me, seems to me most desirable; these
men are in far better case than all others in the land. And 'tis told me of the
king that he is most generous in money gifts to his men, and not slow to give
them promotion and to grant rule to such as he deems meet for it. Whereas I
hear this about all that turn their backs upon him and pay him not homage with
friendship, that they all become men of nought, some flee abroad, some are made
hirelings. It seems wonderful to me, father, in a man so wise and ambitious as
thou art, that thou wouldst not thankfully take the dignity which the king
offered thee. But if thou thinkest that thou hast prophetic foresight of this,
that we shall get misfortune from this king, and that he will be our enemy,
then why didst thou not go to battle against him with that king in whose
service thou wert before? Now, methinks it is most unreasonable neither to be
his friend nor his enemy.'
'It went,' said Kveldulf, 'just
as my mind foreboded, that they marched not to victory who went northwards to
fight with Harold Shockhead in Mæra; and equally true will this be, that Harold
will work much scathe on my kin. But thou, Thorolf, wilt take thine own counsel
in thine own business; nor do I fear, though thou enter into the company of
Harold's guards, that thou wilt not be thought capable and equal to the
foremost in all proofs of manhood. Only beware of this, keep within bounds, nor
rival thy betters; thou wilt not, I am sure, yield to others overmuch.'
But when Thorolf made him ready
to go, Kveldulf accompanied him down to the ship and embraced him, with wishes
for his happy journey and their next merry meeting.
Of Bjorgolf, Brynjolf, Bard, and Hildirida.
was a man in Halogaland named Bjorgolf; he dwelt in Torgar. He was a baron,
powerful and wealthy; in strength, stature, and kindred half hill-giant. He had
a son named Brynjolf, who was like his father. Bjorgolf was now old, and his
wife was dead; and he had given over into his son's hands all business, and
found him a wife, Helga, daughter of Kettle Hæing of Hrafnista. Their son was
named Bard; he soon grew to be tall and handsome, and became a right doughty
One autumn there was a banquet
where many men were gathered, Bjorgolf and his son being there the most
honourable guests. In the evening they were paired off by lot to drink
together, as the old custom was. Now, there was at the banquet a man named
Hogni, owner of a farm in Leka, a man of great wealth, very handsome, shrewd,
but of low family, who had made his own way. He had a most beautiful daughter,
Hildirida by name; and it fell to her lot to sit by Bjorgolf. They talked much
together that evening, and the fair maiden charmed the old man. Shortly
afterwards the banquet broke up.
That same autumn old Bjorgolf
journeyed from home in a cutter of his own, with thirty men aboard. He came to
Leka, and twenty of them went up to the house, while ten guarded the ship. When
they came to the farm, Hogni went out to meet him, and made him welcome,
invited him and his comrades to lodge there, which offer Bjorgolf accepted, and
they entered the room. But when they had doffed their travelling clothes and
donned mantles, then Hogni gave orders to bring in a large bowl of beer; and
Hildirida, the daughter of the house, bare ale to the guests.
Bjorgolf called to him Hogni
the goodman, and said, 'My errand here is this: I will have your daughter to go
home with me, and will even now make with her a hasty wedding.'
Hogni saw no choice but to let
all be as Bjorgolf would; so Bjorgolf bought her with an ounce of gold, and
they became man and wife, and Hildirida went home with Bjorgolf to Torgar.
Brynjolf showed him ill-pleased at this business. Bjorgolf and Hildirida had
two sons; one was named Harek, the other Hærek.
Soon after this Bjorgolf died;
but no sooner was he buried than Brynjolf sent away Hildirida and her sons. She
went to her father at Leka, and there her sons were brought up. They were
good-looking, small of stature, naturally shrewd, like their mother's kin. They
were commonly called Hildirida's sons. Brynjolf made little count of them, and
did not let them inherit aught of their father's. Hildirida was Hogni's
heiress, and she and her sons inherited from him and dwelt in Leka, and had
plenty of wealth. Bard, Brynjolf's son, and Hildirida's sons were about of an
Bjorgolf and his son Brynjolf
had long held the office of going to the Finns, and collecting the Finns'
Northwards, in Halogaland is a
firth called Vefsnir, and in the firth lies an island called Alost, a large
island and a good, and in this a farm called Sandness. There dwelt a man named
Sigurd, the richest man thereabouts in the north; he was a baron, and wise of
understanding. He had a daughter named Sigridr; she was thought the best match
in Halogaland, being his only child and sole heiress to her father. Bard
Brynjolf's son journeyed from home with a cutter and thirty men aboard
northwards to Alost, and came to Sigurd at Sandness. There he declared his
business, and asked Sigridr to wife. This offer was well received and
favourable answered, and so it came about that Bard was betrothed to the
maiden. The marriage was to take place the next summer. Bard was then to come
north for the wedding.
Of Bard and Thorolf.
Harold had that summer sent word to the men of power that were in Halogaland,
summoning to him such as had not come to him before. Brynjolf resolved to go,
and with him Bard his son; and in the autumn they went southwards to Throndheim,
and there met the king. He received them most gladly. Brynjolf was made a baron
of the king's; the king also gave him large grants beside what he had before.
He gave him withal the right of journey to the Finns, with the king's business
on the fells and the Finn traffic. Then Brynjolf went away home to his estate,
but Bard remained, and was made one of the king's guard.
Of all his guard the king most
prized his skalds; they occupied the second high seat. Of these Audun Ill-skald
sat innermost, being the oldest; he had been skald to Halfdan Swarthy, king
Harold's father. Next to him sat Thorbjorn Raven, then Aulvir Hnuf, and next to
him was placed Bard; he was there by-named Bard the White or Bard the Strong.
He was in honour with everyone there, but between him and Aulvir Hnuf was a
That same autumn came to king
Harold Thorolf Kveldulf's son and Eyvind Lambi, Kari of Berdla's son, and they
were well received. They brought thither a swift twenty-benched long-ship well
manned, which they had before used in sea-roving. They and their company were
placed in the guest-hall; but when they had waited there till they thought it a
fit time to go before the king, Kari of Berdla and Aulvir Hnuf went in with
them. They greeted the king. Then said Aulvir Hnuf, 'Here is come Kveldulf's
son, whom I told thee in the summer Kveldulf would send. His promise to thee
will now stand fast; for here thou canst see true tokens that he will be thy
friend in all when he hath sent his son hither to take service with thee, a
stalwart man as thou mayest see. Now, this is the boon craved by Kveldulf and
by us all, that thou receive Thorolf with honour and make him a great man with
The king answered his words
well, promising that so he would do, 'If,' said he, 'Thorolf proves himself as
accomplished in deed as he is right brave in look.'
After this Thorolf was made of
the king's household, and one of his guard.
But Kari of Berdla and his son
Eyvind Lambi went back south in the ship which Thorolf had brought north, and
so home to Kari's farm. Thorolf remained with the king, who appointed him a
seat between Aulvir Hnuf and Bard; and these three struck up a close
friendship. And all men said of Thorolf and Bard that they were a well-matched
pair for comeliness, stature, strength, and all doughty deeds. And both were in
high favour with the king.
But when winter was past and
summer came, then Bard asked leave to go and see to the marriage promised to
him the summer before. And when the king knew that Bard's errand was urgent, he
allowed him to go home. Then Bard asked Thorolf to go north with him, saying
(as was true) that he would meet there many of his kin, men of renown, whom he
had not yet seen or known. Thorolf thought this desirable, so they got leave
from the king for this; then they made them ready, took a good ship and crew,
and went their way.
When they came to Torgar, they
sent word to Sigurd that Bard would now see to that marriage on which they had
agreed the summer before. Sigurd said that he would hold to all that they had
arranged; so they fixed the wedding-day, and Bard with his party were to come
north to Sandness. At the appointed time Brynjolf and Bard set out, and with
them many great men of their kin and connexions. And it was as Bard had said,
that Thorolf met there many of his kinsmen that he had not known before. They
journeyed to Sandness, and there was held the most splendid feast. And when the
feast was ended, Bard went home with his wife, and remained at home through the
summer, and Thorolf with him.
In the autumn they came south
to the king, and were with him another winter. During that winter Brynjolf
died; and when Bard learnt that the inheritance there was open for him, he
asked leave to go home. This the king granted, and before they parted Bard was
made a baron, as his father had been, and held of the king all those same
grants that Brynjolf had held. Bard went home to his estate, and at once became
a great chief; but Hildirida's sons got no more of the heritage than before.
Bard had a son by his wife; he was named Grim. Meanwhile Thorolf was with the
king, and in great honour.
Battle in Hafr's Firth.
Harold proclaimed a general levy, and gathered a fleet, summoning his forces
far and wide through the land. He went out from Throndheim, and bent his course
southwards, for he had heard that a large host was gathered throughout Agdir,
Rogaland, and Hordaland, assembled from far, both from the inland parts above,
and from the east out of Vik, and many great men were there met who purposed to
defend their land from the king. Harold held on his way from the north, with a
large force, having his guards on board. In the forecastle of the king's ship
were Thorolf Kveldulfsson, Bard the White, Kari of Berdla's sons, Aulvir Hnuf
and Eyvind Lambi, and in the prow were twelve Berserks of the king.
The fleets met south in
Rogaland in Hafr's Firth. There was fought the greatest battle that king Harold
had had, with much slaughter in either host. The king set his own ship in the
van, and there the battle was most stubborn, but the end was that king Harold
won the victory. Thorir Longchin, king of Agdir, fell there, but Kjotvi the
wealthy fled with all his men that could stand, save some that surrendered
after the battle. When the roll of Harold's army was called, many were they
that had fallen, and many were sore wounded. Thorolf was badly wounded, Bard
even worse; nor was there a man unwounded in the king's ship before the mast,
except those whom iron bit not—to wit the Berserks.
Then the king had his men's
wounds bound up, and thanked them for their valour, and gave them gifts, adding
most praise where he thought it most deserved. He promised them also further
honour, naming some to be steersmen, others forecastle men, others bow-sitters.
This was the last battle king Harold had within the land; after this none
withstood him; he was supreme over all Norway.
The king saw to the healing of
his men, whose wounds gave them hope of life, as also to the burial of the dead
with all customary honours. Thorolf and Bard lay wounded. Thorolf's wounds
began to heal, but Bard's proved mortal. Then Bard had the king called to him,
and spoke thus:
'If it so be that I die of
these wounds, then I would ask this of thee, that I may myself name my heir.'
To this when the king assented,
then said he:
'I will that Thorolf my friend
and kinsman take all my heritage, both lands and chattels. To him, also, will I
give my wife and the bringing up of my son, because I trust him for this above
This arrangement he made fast,
as the law was, with the leave of the king. Then Bard died, and was buried, and
his death was much mourned. Thorolf was healed of his wounds, and followed the
king, and had won great glory.
In the autumn the king went
north to Throndheim. Then Thorolf asked to go north to Halogaland, to see after
those gifts which he had received in the summer from his kinsman Bard. The king
gave leave for this, adding a message and tokens that Thorolf should take all
that Bard had given him, showing that the gift was with the counsel of the
king, and that he would have it so. Then the king made Thorolf a baron, and
granted him all the rights which Bard had had before, giving him the journey to
the Finns on the same terms. He also supplied to Thorolf a good long-ship, with
tackling complete, and had everything made ready for his journey thence in the
best possible way. So Thorolf set out, and he and the king parted with great
But when Thorolf came north to
Torgar, he was well received. He told them of Bard's death; also how Bard had
left him both lands and chattels, and her that had been his wife; then he
showed the king's order and tokens. When Sigridr heard these tidings, she felt
her great loss in her husband, but with Thorolf she was already well
acquainted, and knew him for a man of great mark; and this promise of her in
marriage was good, and besides there was the king's command. So she and her
friends saw it to be the best plan that she should be betrothed to Thorolf,
unless that were against her father's mind. Thereupon Thorolf took all the
management of the property, and also the king's business.
Soon after this Thorolf started
with a long-ship and about sixty men, and coasted northwards, till one day at
eventide he came to Sandness in Alost; there they moored the ship. And when
they had raised their tent, and made arrangements, Thorolf went up to the farm
buildings with twenty men. Sigurd received him well, and asked him to lodge
there, for there had been great intimacy between them since the marriage
connection between Sigurd and Bard. Then Thorolf and his men went into the
hall, and were there entertained. Sigurd sat and talked with Thorolf, and asked
tidings. Thorolf told of the battle fought that summer in the south, and of the
fall of many men whom Sigurd knew well, and withal how Bard his son-in-law had
died of wounds received in the battle. This they both felt to be a great loss.
Then Thorolf told Sigurd what had been the covenant between him and Bard before
he died, and he declared also the orders of the king, how he would have all
this hold good, and this he showed by the tokens.
After this Thorolf entered on
his wooing with Sigurd, and asked Sigridr, his daughter, to wife. Sigurd
received the proposal well; he said there were many reasons for this; first,
the king would have it so; next, Bard had asked it; and further he himself knew
Thorolf well, and thought it a good match for his daughter. Thus Sigurd was
easily won to grant this suit; whereupon the betrothal was made, and the
wedding was fixed for the autumn at Torgar.
Then Thorolf went home to his
estate, and his comrades with him. There he prepared a great feast, and bade
many thereto. Of Thorolf's kin many were present, men of renown. Sigurd also
came thither from the north with a long-ship and a chosen crew. Numerously
attended was that feast, and it was at once seen that Thorolf was free-handed
and munificent. He kept about him a large following, whereof the cost was
great, and much provision was needed; but the year was good, and needful
supplies were easily found.
During that winter Sigurd died
at Sandness, and Thorolf was heir to all his property; this was great wealth.
Now the sons of Hildirida came
to Thorolf, and put in the claim which they thought they had on the property
that had belonged to their father Bjorgolf. Thorolf answered them thus:
'This I knew of Brynjolf, and
still better of Bard, that they were men so generous that they would have let
you have of Bjorgolf's heritage what share they knew to be your right. I was
present when ye two put in this same claim on Bard, and I heard what he
thought, that there was no ground for it, for he called you illegitimate.'
Harek said that they would
bring witnesses that their mother was duly bought with payment.
'It is true that we did not at
first treat of this matter with Brynjolf our brother—it was a case of sharing
between kinsmen—but of Bard we hoped to get our dues in every respect, though
our dealings with him were not for long. Now however this heritage has come to
men who are in nowise our kin, and we cannot be altogether silent about our
wrong; but it may be that, as before, might will so prevail that we get not our
right of thee in this, if thou refuse to hear the witness that we can bring to
prove us honourably born.'
Thorolf then answered angrily:
'So far am I from thinking you
legitimate heirs that I am told your mother was taken by force, and carried
home as a captive.'
After that they left talking
Thorolf in Finmark.
the winter Thorolf took his way up to the fells with a large force of not less
than ninety men, whereas before it had been the wont of the king's stewards to
have thirty men, and sometimes fewer. He took with him plenty of wares for
trading. At once he appointed a meeting with the Finns, took of them the
tribute, and held a fair with them. All was managed with goodwill and
friendship, though not without fear on the Finns' side. Far and wide about
Finmark did he travel; but when he reached the fells eastward, he heard that
the Kylfings were come from the east, and were there for trading with the
Finns, but in some places for plunder also. Thorolf set Finns to spy out the
movements of the Kylfings, and he followed after to search for them, and came
upon thirty men in one den, all of whom he slew, letting none escape.
Afterwards he found together fifteen or twenty. In all they slew near upon a
hundred, and took immense booty, and returned in the spring after doing this.
Thorolf then went to his
estates at Sandness, and remained there through the spring. He had a long-ship
built, large, and with a dragon's head, fitted out in the best style; this he
took with him from the north. Thorolf gathered great stores of what there was
in Halogaland, employing his men after the herrings and in other fishing; seal-hunting
there was too in abundance, and egg-gathering, and all such provision he had
brought to him. Never had he fewer freedmen about his home than a hundred; he
was open-handed and liberal, and readily made friends with the great, and with
all that were near him. A mighty man he became, and he bestowed much care on
his ships, equipment, and weapons.
The king feasts with Thorolf.
Harold went that summer to Halogaland, and banquets were made ready against his
coming, both where his estates were, and also by barons and powerful
landowners. Thorolf prepared a banquet for the king at great cost; it was fixed
for when the king should come there. To this he bade a numerous company, the
best men that could be found. The king had about three hundred men with him
when he came to the banquet, but Thorolf had five hundred present. Thorolf had
caused a large granary to be fitted up where the drinking should be, for there
was no hall large enough to contain all that multitude. And all around the
building shields were hung.
The king sate in the high seat;
but when the foremost bench was filled, then the king looked round, and he
turned red, but spoke not, and men thought they could see he was angry. The
banquet was magnificent, and all the viands of the best. The king, however, was
gloomy; he remained there three nights, as had been intended. On the day when
the king was to leave Thorolf went to him, and offered that they should go
together down to the strand. The king did so, and there, moored off the land,
floated that dragon-ship which Thorolf had had built, with tent and tackling
complete. Thorolf gave the ship to the king, and prayed the king to believe
that he had gathered such numbers for this end, to show the king honour, and not
to enter into rivalry with him. The king took Thorolf's words well, and then
became merry and cheerful. Many added their good word, saying (as was true)
that the banquet was most splendid, and the farewell escort magnificent, and
that the king gained much strength by such men. Then they parted with much
The king went northwards through Halogaland as he had purposed, and returned
south as summer wore on. He went to yet other banquets there that were prepared
Hildirida's sons talk with Harold.
Hildirida's sons went to the king and bade him to a
three nights' banquet. The king accepted their bidding, and fixed when he would
come. So at the appointed time he and his train came thither. The company was
not numerous, but the feast went off very well, and the king was quite
cheerful. Harek entered into talk with the king, and their talk turned on this,
that he asked about the king's journeys in those parts during the summer.
The king answered his questions, and said that all had received him well, each
after his means.
'Great will have been the difference,' said Harek, 'and at Torgar the company
at the banquet will have been the most numerous.'
The king said that it was so.
Harek said: 'That was to be looked for, because on that banquet most was spent;
and thou, O king, hadst great luck in matters so turning out that thy life was
not endangered. The end was as was likely; thou wert very wise and very
fortunate; for thou at once suspectedst all was not for good on seeing the
numerous company there gathered; but (as I am told) thou madest all thy men
remain armed constantly and keep watch and ward night and day.'
The king looked at him and said: 'Why speakest thou thus, Harek? What canst
thou tell of this?'
Harek answered: 'May I speak with permission what I please?'
'Speak,' said the king.
'This I judge,' said Harek, 'that thou wouldst not deem it to be well, if thou,
O king, heardest every one's words, what men say when speaking their minds
freely at home, how they think that it is a tyranny thou exercisest over all
people. But the plain truth is, O king, that to rise against thee the people
lack nothing but boldness and a leader. Nor is it wonderful in a man like
Thorolf that he thinks himself above everyone; he wants not for strength and
comeliness; he keeps a guard round him like a king; he has wealth in plenty,
even though he had but what is truly his, but besides that he holds others'
property equally at his disposal with his own. Thou, too, hast bestowed on him
large grants, and he had now made all ready to repay them with ill. For this is
the truth that I tell thee: when it was learnt that thou wert coming north to
Halogaland with no more force than three hundred men, the counsel of people
here was that an army should assemble and take thy life, O king, and the lives
of all thy force. And Thorolf was head of these counsels, and it was offered
him that he should be king over the Halogalanders and Naumdalesmen. Then he
went in and out of each firth and round all the islands, and got together every
man he could find and every weapon, and it was no secret that this army was to
muster for battle against king Harold. But the truth is, O king, that though
thou hadst somewhat less force than those who met thee, yet the farmer folk
took flight when they saw thy fleet. Then this counsel was adopted, to meet
thee with friendly show and bid thee to a banquet: but it was intended, when
thou wert well drunk and lying asleep, to attack thee with fire and weapon. And
here is a proof whether I am rightly informed; ye were led into a granary
because Thorolf was loth to burn up his new and beautiful hall; and a further
proof is that every room was full of weapons and armour. But when all their
devices against thee miscarried, then they chose the best course they could;
they hushed up their former purpose. And I doubt not that all may deny this
counsel, because few, methinks, know themselves guiltless, were the truth to
come out. Now this is my counsel, O king, that thou keep Thorolf near thee, and
let him be in thy guard, and bear thy standard, and be in the forecastle of thy
ship; for this duty no man is fitter. Or if thou wilt have him to be a baron,
then give him a grant southwards in the Firths, where are all his family: thou
mayest then keep an eye on him, that he make not himself too great for thee.
But the business here in Halogaland put thou into the hands of men who are
moderate and will serve thee faithfully, and have kinsfolk here, men whose
relatives have had the same work here before. We two brothers are ready and
willing for such service as thou wilt use us in; our father long had the king's
business here, and it prospered in his hands. It is difficult, O king, to place
men as managers here, because thou wilt seldom come hither thyself. The strength
of the land is too little to need thy coming with an army, yet thou must not
come hither again with few followers, for there are here many disloyal people.'
The king was very angry at these words, but he spoke quietly, as was always his
wont when he heard tidings of great import. He asked whether Thorolf were at
home at Torgar. Harek said this was not likely.
'Thorolf,' said he, 'is too wise to be in the way of thy followers, O king, for
he must guess that all will not be so close but thou wilt get to know these
things. He went north to Alost as soon as he heard that thou wert on thy way
The king spoke little about this matter before other men; but it was easy to
see that he inclined to believe the words that had been spoken.
After this the king went his way, Hildirida's sons giving him honourable escort
with gifts at parting, while he promised them his friendship. The brothers made
themselves an errand into Naumdale, and so went round about as to cross the
king's path now and again; he always received their words well.
Thorgils goes to the king.
There was a man named Thorgils Yeller, a house-carle
of Thorolf's, honoured above all the rest of his household; he had followed
Thorolf in his roving voyages as fore-castle man and standard-bearer. He had
been in Hafr's Firth, in the fleet of king Harold, and was then steering the
very ship that Thorolf had used in his roving. Thorgils was strong of body and
right bold of heart; the king had bestowed on him friendly gifts after the battle,
and promised him his friendship. Thorgils was manager at Torgar, and bore rule
there when Thorolf was not at home.
Before Thorolf went away this time he had counted over all the king's tribute
that he had brought from the fells, and he put it in Thorgils' hand, bidding
him convey it to the king, if he himself came not home before the king returned
south. So Thorgils made ready a large ship of burden belonging to Thorolf, and
put the tribute on board, and taking about twenty men sailed southward after the
king, and found him in Naumdale.
But when Thorgils met the king he gave him greeting from Thorolf, and said that
he was come thither with the Finns' tribute sent by Thorolf. The king looked at
him, but answered never a word, and all saw that he was angry. Thorgils then
went away, thinking to find a better time to speak with the king; he sought
Aulvir Hnuf, and told him what had passed, and asked him if he knew what was
'That do I not,' said he; 'but this I have marked, that, since we were at Leka,
the king is silent every time Thorolf is mentioned, and I suspect he has been
slandered. This I know of Hildirida's sons, that they were long in conference
with the king, and it is easy to see from their words that they are Thorolf's
enemies. But I will soon be certain about this from the king himself.'
Thereupon Aulvir went to the king, and said: 'Here is come Thorgils Yeller thy
friend, with the tribute which is thine; and the tribute is much larger than it
has been before, and far better wares. He is eager to be on his way; be so
good, O king, as to go and see it; for never have been seen such good gray
The king answered not, but he went to where the ship lay. Thorgils at once set
forth the furs and showed them to the king. And when the king saw that it was
true, that the tribute was much larger and better, his brows somewhat cleared,
and Thorgils got speech with him. He brought the king some bearskins which
Thorolf sent him, and other valuables besides, which he had gotten upon the
fells. So the king brightened up, and asked tidings of the journey of Thorolf
and his company. Thorgils told it all in detail.
Then said the king: 'Great pity is it Thorolf should be unfaithful to me and
plot my death.'
Then answered many who stood by, and all with one mind, that it was a slander
of wicked men if such words had been spoken, and Thorolf would be found
guiltless. The king said he would prefer to believe this. Then was the king
cheerful in all his talk with Thorgils, and they parted friends.
but when Thorgils met Thorolf he told him all that had happened.
Thorolf again in Finmark.
That winter Thorolf went again to Finmark, taking
with him about a hundred men. As before, he held a fair with the Finns, and
travelled far and wide over Finmark. But when he reached the far east, and his
coming was heard of, then came to him some Kvens, saying that they were sent by
Faravid, king of Kvenland, because the Kiriales were harrying his land; and his
message was that Thorolf should go thither and bear him help; and further that
Thorolf should have a share of the booty equal to the king's share, and each of
his men as much as two Kvens. With the Kvens the law was that the king should
have one-third as compared with his men when the booty was shared, and beyond
that, as reserved for him, all bearskins and sables. Thorolf put this proposal
before his men, giving them the choice to go or not; and the more part chose to
venture it, as the prize was so great. This is was decided that they should go
eastwards with the messengers.
Finmark is a wide tract; it is bounded westwards by the sea, wherefrom large
firths run in; by sea also northwards and round to the east; but southwards
lies Norway; and Finmark stretches along nearly all the inland region to the
south, as also does Halogaland outside. But eastwards from Naumdale is
Jamtaland, then Helsingjaland and Kvenland, then Finland, then Kirialaland;
along all these lands to the north lies Finmark, and there are wide inhabited
fell-districts, some in dales, some by lakes. The lakes of Finmark are
wonderfully large, and by the lakes there are extensive forests. But high fells
lie behind from end to end of the Mark, and this ridge is called Keels.
But when Thorolf came to Kvenland and met king Faravid, they made them ready
for their march, being three hundred of the kings men and a fourth hundred
Norsemen. And they went by the upper way over Finmark, and came where the
Kiriales were on the fell, the same who had before harried the Kvens. These,
when they were aware of the enemy, gathered themselves and advanced to meet
them, expecting victory as heretofore. But, on the battle being joined, the
Norsemen charged furiously forwards, bearing shields stronger than those of the
Kvens; the slaughter turned to be in the Kiriales' ranks—many fell, some fled.
King Faravid and Thorolf took there immense wealth of spoil, and returned to
Kvenland, whence afterwards Thorolf and his men came to Finmark, he and Faravid
parting in friendship.
Thorolf came down from the fell to Vefsnir; then went first to his farm at
Sandness, stayed there awhile, and in spring went with his men north to Torgar.
But when he came there, it was told him how Hildirida's sons had been that
winter at Throndheim with king Harold, and that they would not spare to slander
Thorolf with the king; and it was much questioned what grounds they had had for
their slander. Thorolf answered thus: 'The king will not believe this, though
such lies be laid before him; for there are no grounds for my turning traitor
to him, when he has done me much good and no evil. And so far from wishing to
do him harm (though I had the choice), I would much rather be a baron of his
than be called king, when some other fellow-countrymen might rise and make me
King Harold and Harek.
Hildirida's sons had been that winter with king
Harold, and in their company twelve men of their own household and neighbours.
The brothers were often talking with the king, and they still spoke in the same
way of Thorolf. Harek asked: 'Didst thou like well, O king, the Finns' tribute
which Thorolf sent thee?'
'I did,' said the king.
'Then wouldst thou have been surprised,' said he, 'if thou hadst received all
that belonged to thee! But it was far from being so; Thorolf kept for himself
the larger share. He sent thee three bearskins, but I know for certain that he
kept back thirty that were by right thine; and I guess it was the same with
other things. This will prove true, O king, that, if thou put the stewardship
into the hand of myself and my brother, we shall bring thee more wealth.'
And to all that they said about Thorolf their comrades bore witness, wherefore
the king was exceeding angry.
Thorolf and the king.
In the summer Thorolf went south to king Harold at
Throndheim, taking with him all the tribute and much wealth besides, and ninety
men well arrayed. When he came to the king, he and his were placed in the
guest-hall and entertained magnificently.
On the morrow Aulvir Hnuf went to his kinsman Thorolf; they talked together,
Aulvir saying that Thorolf was much slandered, and the king gave ear to such
tales. Thorolf asked Aulvir to plead his cause with the king, 'for,' said he,
'I shall be short-spoken before the king if he choose rather to believe the
lies of wicked men than truth and honesty which he will find in me.'
The next day Aulvir came to see Thorolf, and told him he had spoken on his
business with the king; 'but,' said he, 'I know no more than before what is in
'Then must I myself go to him,' said Thorolf.
He did so; he went to the king where he sat at meat, and when he came in he
greeted the king. The king accepted his greeting, and bade them serve him with
drink. Thorolf said that he had there the tribute belonging to the king from
Finmark; 'and yet a further portion of booty have I brought as a present to
thee, O king. And what I bring will, I know, owe all its worth to this, that it
is given out of gratitude to thee.'
The king said that he could expect nought but good from Thorolf, 'because,'
said he, 'I deserve nought else; yet men tell two tales of thee as to thy being
careful to win my approval.'
'I am not herein justly charged,' said Thorolf, 'if any say I have shown
disloyalty to thee. This I think, and with truth: That they who speak such
lying slanders of me will prove to be in nowise thy friends, but it is quite
clear that they are my bitter enemies; 'tis likely, however, that they will pay
dearly for it if we come to deal together.'
Then Thorolf went away.
But on the morrow Thorolf counted out the tribute in the king's presence; and
when it was all paid, he then brought out some bearskins and sables, which he
begged the king to accept. Many of the bystanders said that this was well done
and deserved friendship. The king said that Thorolf had himself taken his own
reward. Thorolf said that he had loyally done all he could to please the king.
'But if he likes it not,' said he, 'I cannot help it: the king knows, when I
was with him and in his train, how I bore myself; it is wonderful to me if the
king thinks me other now than he proved me to be then.'
The king answered: 'Thou didst bear thyself well, Thorolf, when thou wert with
us; and this, I think, is best to do still, that thou join my guard, bear my
banner, be captain over the guard; then will no man slander thee, if I can
oversee night and day what thy conduct is.'
Thorolf looked on either hand where stood his house-carles; then said he: 'Loth
were I to deliver up these my followers: about thy titles and grants to me, O
king, thou wilt have thine own way, but my following I will not deliver up
while my means last, though I manage at my own sole cost. My request and wish,
O king, is this, that thou come and visit me at my home, and the hear word of
men whom thou trustest, what witness they bear to me in this matter; thereafter
do as thou findest proof to warrant.'
The king answered and said that he would not again accept entertainment from
Thorolf; so Thorolf went out, and made ready to return home.
But when he was gone, the king put into the hands of Hildirida's sons his
business in Halogaland which Thorolf had before had, as also the Finmark
journey. The king claimed ownership of the estate at Torgar, and of all the
property that Brynjolf had had; and all this he gave into the keeping of
Hildirida's sons. The king sent messengers with tokens to Thorolf to tell him
of this arrangement, whereupon Thorolf took the ships belonging to him, put on
board all the chattels he could carry, and with all his men, both freedmen and
thralls, sailed northwards to his farm at Sandness, where he kept up no fewer
and no less state than before.
Hildirida's sons in Finmark and at Harold's court.
Hildirida's sons took the business in Halogaland; and
none gainsaid this because of the king's power, but Thorolf's kinsmen and
friends were much displeased at the change. The two brothers went on the fell
in the winter, taking with them thirty men. To the Finns there seemed much less
honour in these stewards than when Thorolf came, and the money due was far worse
That same winter Thorolf went up on the fell with a hundred men; he passed on
at once eastwards to Kvenland and met king Faravid. They took counsel together,
and resolved to go on the fell again as in the winter before; and with four
hundred men they made a descent on Kirialaland, and attacked those districts
for which they thought themselves a match in numbers, and harrying there took
much booty, returning up to Finmark as the winter wore on. In the spring
Thorolf went home to his farm, and then employed his men at the fishing in
Vagar, and some in herring-fishing, and had the take of every kind brought to
Thorolf had a large ship, which was waiting to put to sea. It was elaborate in
everything, beautifully painted down to the sea-line, the sails also carefully
striped with blue and red, and all the tackling as elaborate as the ship.
Thorolf had this ship made ready, and put aboard some of his house-carles as
crew; he freighted it with dried fish and hides, and ermine and gray furs too
in abundance, and other peltry such as he had gotten from the fell; it was a
most valuable cargo. This ship he bade sail westwards for England to buy him
clothes and other supplies that he needed; and they, first steering southwards
along the coast, then stretching across the main, came to England. There they
found a good market, laded the ship with wheat and honey and wine and clothes,
and sailing back in autumn with a fair wind came to Hordaland.
That same autumn Hildirida's sons carried tribute to the king. But when they
paid it the king himself was present and saw. He said:
'Is this tribute now paid all that ye took in Finmark?'
'It is,' they answered.
'Less by far,' said the king, 'and much worse paid is the tribute now than when
Thorolf gathered it; yet ye said that he managed the business ill.'
'It is well, O king,' said Harek, 'that thou hast considered how large a
tribute should usually come from Finmark, because thus thou knowest how much
thou losest, if Thorolf waste all the tribute before thee. Last winter we were
in Finmark with thirty men, as has been the wont of thy stewards heretofore.
Soon after came Thorolf with a hundred men, and we learnt this, that he meant
to take the lives of us two brothers and all our followers, his reason being
that thou, O king, hadst handed over to us the business that he wished to have.
It was then our best choice to shun meeting him, and to save ourselves:
therefore we quickly left the settled districts, and went on the fell. But
Thorolf went all round Finmark with his armed warriors; he had all the trade,
the Finns paid him tribute, and he hindered thy stewards from entering Finmark.
He means to be made king over the north there, both over Finmark and
Halogaland: and the wonder is that thou wilt listen to him in anything
whatever. Herein may true evidence be found of Thorolf's ill-gotten gains from
Finmark; for the largest merchant ship in Halogaland was made ready for sea at
Sandness in the spring, and all the cargo on board was said to be Thorolf's. It
was laden mostly, I think, with gray furs, but there would be found there also
bearskins and sables more than Thorolf brought to thee. And with that ship went
Thorgils Yeller, and I believe he sailed westwards for England. But if thou
wilt know the truth of this, set spies on the track of Thorgils when he comes
eastwards; for I fancy that no trading-ship in our days has carried such store
of wealth. And I am telling thee what is true, O king, when I say that to thee
belongs every penny on board.'
All that Harek said his companions confirmed, and none there ventured to
Thorolf's ship is taken.
There were two brothers named Sigtrygg Swiftfarer and
Hallvard Hardfarer, kinsmen of king Harold on the mother's side; from their
father, a wealthy man, they had inherited an estate in Hising. Four brothers
there were in all; but Thord and Thorgeir, the two younger, were at home, and
managed the estate. Sigtrygg and Hallvard carried all the king's messages, both
within and without the land, and had gone on many dangerous journeys, both for
putting men out of the way and confiscating the goods of those whose homes the
king ordered to be attacked. They kept about them a large following; they were
not generally in favour, but the king prized them highly. None could match them
at travelling, either on foot or on snow-shoes; in voyaging also they were
speedier than others—valiant men they were, and very wary.
These two men were with the king when those things happened that have just been
told. In the autumn the king went to a banquet in Hordaland. And one day he
summoned to him the brothers Hallvard and Sigtrygg, and when they came he bade
them go with their following and spy after the ship which Thorgils had taken
westward to England in the summer.
'Bring me,' said he, 'the ship and all that is in it, except the men; let them
go their way in peace, if they do not try to defend the ship.'
The brothers made them ready for this, and, taking each one his long-ship, went
to seek Thorgils, and learnt that he was come from the west, and had sailed
northwards along the coast. Northwards after him went they, and found him in
Fir Sound. They knew the ship at once, and laid one of their ships on the
seaward side of her, while some of them landed, and thence went out on to the
ship by the gangways. Thorgils' crew, apprehending no danger, made no defence;
they found out nothing till many armed men were aboard, and so they were all
seized, and afterwards put on shore weaponless, with nothing but the clothes
they wore. But Hallvard's men drew out the gangways, loosed the cables, and
towed out the ship; then turned them about, and sailed southwards along the
coast till they met the king, to whom they brought the ship and all that was in
it. And when the cargo was unloaded, the king saw that it was great wealth, and
what Harek had said was no lie.
But Thorgils and his comrades got conveyance, and went to Kveldulf and his son,
and told of the misadventure of their voyage, yet were they well received.
Kveldulf said all was tending to what he had foreboded, that Thorolf would not
in the end have good luck in his friendship with king Harold.
'And I care little,' said he, 'for Thorolf's money loss in this, if worse does
not come after; but I misdoubt, as before, that Thorolf will not rightly rate
his own means against the stronger power with which he has to deal.'
And he bade Thorgils say this to Thorolf:
'My counsel is that you go away out of the land, for maybe you will do better
for yourself if you serve under the king of England, or of Denmark, or of
Then he gave Thorgils a rowing-cutter with tackling complete, a tent also, and
provisions, and all things needful for their journey. So they departed, and
stayed not their journey till they came to Thorolf and told him all that had
Thorolf took his loss cheerfully, and said that he should not be short of
money; ''tis good,' said he, 'to be in partnership with a king.' He then bought
meal and all that he needed for the maintenance of his people; his house-carles
must for awhile, he said, be less bravely attired than he had purposed. Some
lands he sold, some he mortgaged, but he kept up all expenses as before; he had
no fewer men with him than last winter, nay, rather more. And as to feasts and
friends entertained at his house, he had more means for all this than before.
He stayed at home all that winter.
When spring came, and the snow and ice were loosed,
then Thorolf launched a large warship of his own, and he had it made ready, and
equipped his house-carles, taking with him more than a hundred men; and a
goodly company there were, and well weaponed. And when a fair wind blew,
Thorolf steered southwards along the coast till he came to Byrda; then they
held an outer course outside the islands, but at times through channels between
hill-slopes. Thus they coasted on southwards, and had no tidings of men till
they came eastwards to Vik. There they heard that king Harold was in Vik,
meaning in the summer to go into Upland. The people of the country knew nothing
of Thorolf's voyage. With a fair wind he held on south to Denmark, and thence
into the Baltic, where he harried through that summer, but got no good booty.
In the autumn he steered back from the east to Denmark, at the time when the
fleet at Eyrar was breaking up. In the summer there had been, as was usual,
many ships from Norway. Thorolf let all these vessels sail past, and did not
show himself. One day at eventide he sailed into Mostrarsound , where in the
haven was a large ship of burden that had come from Eyrar. The steersman was
named Thorir Thruma; he was a steward of king Harold's, manager of his farm at
Thruma, a large farm in which the king used to make a long stay when he was in
Vik. Much provision was needed for this farm, and Thorir had gone to Eyrar for
this, to buy a cargo, malt, wheat, and honey; and much wealth of the king's had
he for that end. Thorolf made for this ship, and offered Thorir and his crew
the choice to defend themselves, but, as they had no force to make defence
against such numbers, they yielded. The ship with all its freight Thorolf took,
but Thorir he put out on an island.
Then he sailed northwards along the coast with both the ships; but when they
came to the mouth of the Elbe, they lay there and waited for night. And when it
was dark, they rowed their long-ship up the river and stood in for the
farm-buildings belonging to Hallvard and Sigtrygg. They came there before
daybreak, and formed a ring of men round the place, then raised a war-whoop and
wakened those within, who quickly leapt up to their weapons. Thorgeir at once
fled from his bedchamber. Round the farmhouse were high wooden palings: at
these Thorgeir leapt, grasping with his hand the stakes, and so swung himself
out of the yard. Thorgils Yeller was standing near; he made a sweep with his
sword at Thorgeir, and cut off his hand along with the fence-stake. Then
Thorgeir escaped to the wood, but Thord, his brother, fell slain there, and
more than twenty men. Thorolf's band plundered and burnt the house, then went
back down the river to the sea.
With a fair wind they sailed north to Vik; there again they fell in with a
large merchant-ship belonging to men of Vik, laden with malt and meal. For this
ship they made; but those on board, deeming they had no means of defence,
yielded, and were disarmed and put on shore, and Thorolf's men, taking the ship
and its cargo, went on their way.
Thorolf had now three ships, with which he sailed westwards by Fold. Then they
took the high road of the sea to Lidandisness, going with all despatch, but
making raid and lifting cattle on ness and shore. Northwards from Lidandisness
they held a course further out, but pillaged wherever they touched land. But
when Thorolf came over against the Firths, then he turned his course inward, and
went to see his father Kveldulf, and there they were made welcome. Thorolf told
his father what had happened in his summer voyage; he stayed there but a short
time, and Kveldulf and his son Grim accompanied him to the ship.
But before they parted Thorolf and his father talked together, and Kveldulf
said: 'I was not far wrong, Thorolf, in telling thee, when thou wentest to join
king Harold's guard, that neither thou nor we thy kindred would in the long run
get good-fortune therefrom. Now thou hast taken up the very counsel against
which I warned thee; thou matchest thy force against king Harold's. But though
thou art well endowed with valour and all prowess, thou hast not luck enough
for this, to play on even terms with the king—a thing wherein no one here in
the land has succeeded, though others have had great power and large force of
men. And my foreboding is that this is our last meeting: it were in the course
of nature from our ages that thou shouldst overlive me, but I think it will be
After this Thorolf embarked and went his way. And no tidings are told of his
voyage till he arrived home at Sandness, and caused to be conveyed to his farm
all the booty he had taken, and had his ship set up upon land. There was now no
lack of provision to keep his people through the winter. Thorolf stayed on at
home with no fewer men than in the winter before.
There was a man named Yngvar, powerful and wealthy.
He had been a baron of the former kings. But after Harold came to the throne,
Yngvar sate at home and served not the king. Yngvar was married and had a
daughter named Bera. Yngvar dwelt in the Firths. Bera was his only child and
heiress. Grim Kveldulf's son asked Bera to wife, and the match was arranged.
Grim took Bera in the winter following the summer when Thorolf had parted from
him and his father.
Grim was then twenty-five years old, and was now bald, wherefore he was
henceforth called Skallagrim. He had then the management of all the farms
belonging to his father and himself and of all the produce, though Kveldulf was
yet a hale and strong man. They had many freedmen about them, and many men who
had grown up there at home and were about Skallagrim's equals in age. Men of
prowess and strength they were mostly, for both father and son chose strong
fellows to be their followers, and trained them after their mind. Skallagrim
was like his father in stature and strength, as also in face and temper.
Hallvard and his brother go after Thorolf.
King Harold was in Vik while Thorolf was harrying,
and in the autumn he went to Upland, and thence northward to Throndheim, where
he stayed through the winter with a large force. Sigtrygg and Hallvard were
with him: they had heard what Thorolf had done at their house on Hising, what
scathe he had wrought on men and property. They often reminded the king of
this, and withal how Thorolf had plundered the king and his subjects, and had
gone about harrying within the land. They begged the king's leave that they two
brothers might go with their usual following and attack Thorolf in his home.
The king answered thus: 'Ye may think ye have good cause for taking Thorolf's
life, but I doubt your fortune falls far short of this work. Thorolf is more
than your match, brave and doughty as ye may deem yourselves.'
The brothers said that his would be put to the proof, if the king would grant
them leave; they had often run great risk against men on whom they had less to
avenge, and generally they had won the day.
And when spring came, and men made ready to go their several ways, then did
Hallvard and his brother again urge their request that they might go and take
Thorolf's life. So the king gave them leave. 'And I know,' he said, 'ye will
bring me his head and many costly things withal when ye come back; yet some do
guess that if ye sail north ye will both sail and row south.'
They made them ready with all speed, taking two ships and two hundred men; and
when they were ready they sailed with a north-east wind out of the firth, but
that is a head-wind for those coasting northward.
Death of Thorolf Kveldulfsson.
King Harold was at Hlada when the brothers went away.
Immediately after this the king made him ready with all haste, and embarked his
force on four ships, and they rowed up the firth, and so by Beitis-sea inwards
to the isthmus of Elda. There he left his ships behind, and crossed the isthmus
northwards to Naumdale. The king there took ships belonging to the landowners,
and embarked his force on them, having with him his guard; four hundred men
they were. Six ships he had well equipped both with weapons and men. They
encountered a fresh head-wind, and rowed night and day, making what progress
they could. The night was then light enough for travel.
On the evening of a day after sunset they came to Sandness, and saw lying there
opposite the farm a long-ship with tent spread, which they knew to be
Thorolf's. He was even then purposing to sail away, and had bidden them brew
the ale for their parting carousal. The king ordered his men to disembark and
his standard to be raised. It was but a short way to the farm buildings.
Thorolf's watchmen sate within drinking, and were not gone to their posts; not
a man was without; all sate within drinking. The king had a ring of men set
round the hall: they then shouted a war-whoop, and a war-blast was blown on the
king's trumpet. On hearing which Thorolf's men sprang to their weapons, for
each man's weapons hung above his seat. The king caused some to make
proclamation at the door, bidding women, children, old men, thralls, and
bondmen to come out. Then came out Sigridr the mistress, and with her the women
that were within, and the others to whom permission was given. Sigridr asked if
the sons of Kari of Berdla were there. They both came forward and asked what
she would of them.
'Lead me to the king,' said she.
They did so. But when she came to the king, she said: 'Will anything, my lord,
avail to reconcile thee with Thorolf?'
The king answered, 'If Thorolf will yield him to my mercy, then shall he have
life and limb, but his men shall undergo punishment according to the charges
Upon this Aulvir Hnuf went to the room, and had Thorolf called to speak with
him, and told him what terms the king offered them.
Thorolf answered that he would not take of the king compulsory terms or
reconciliation. 'Bid thou the king allow us to go out, and then leave we things
to go their own course.'
The king said: 'Set fire to the room; I will not waste my men by doing battle
with him outside; I know that Thorolf will work us great man-scathe if he come
out, though he has fewer men than we.'
So fire was set to the room, and it soon caught, because the wood was dry and
the walls tarred and the roof thatched with birch-bark. Thorolf bade his men
break up the wainscoting and get gable-beams, and so burst through the
planking; and when they got the beams, then as many men as could hold on to it
took one beam, and they rammed at the corner with the other beam-end so hard
that the clasps flew out, and the walls started asunder, and there was a wide
First went out Thorolf, then Thorgils Yeller, then the rest one after another.
Fierce then was the fight; nor for awhile could it be seen which had the better
of it, for the room guarded the rear of Thorolf's force. The king lost many men
before the room began to burn; then the fire attacked Thorolf's side, and many
of them fell. Now Thorolf bounded forwards and hewed on either hand; small need
to bind the wounds of those who encountered him. He made for where the king's
standard was, and at this moment fell Thorgils Yeller. But when Thorolf reached
the shield-wall, he pierced with a stroke the standard-bearer, crying, 'Now am
I but three feet short of my aim.' Then bore at him both sword and spear; but
the king himself dealt him his death-wound, and he fell forward at the king's
feet. The king called out then, and bade them cease further slaughter; and they
After this the king bade his men go down to the ships. To Aulvir Hnuf and his
brother he said:
'Take ye Thorolf your kinsman and give him honourable burial; bury also the
other men who have fallen, and see to the binding of the wounds of those who
have hope of life; but let none plunder here, for all this is my property.'
This said, the king went down to his ships, and most of his force with him; and
when they were come on board men began to bind their wounds. The king went
round the ship and looked at men's wounds; and when he saw a man binding a
surface-wound, he said: 'Thorolf gave not that wound; his weapon bites far
otherwise; few, methinks, bind the wounds which he gave; and great loss have we
in such men.'
As soon as day dawned the king had his sail hoisted, and sailed south as fast
as he could. As the day wore on, they came upon many rowing-vessels in all the
sounds between the islands; the forces on board them had meant to join Thorolf,
for spies of his had been southwards as far as Naumdale, and far and wide about
the islands. These had got to know how Hallvard and his brother were come from
the south with a large force meaning to attack Thorolf. Hallvard's company had
constantly met a head-wind, and had waited about in various havens till news of
them had gone the upper way overland, and Thorolf's spies had become aware of
it, and this gathering of force was on this account.
The king sailed before a strong wind till he came to Naumdale; there he left
the ships behind, and went by land to Throndheim, where he took his own ships
that he had left there, and thence stood out to Hlada. These tidings were soon
heard, and reached Hallvard and his men where they lay. They then returned to
the king, and their voyage was much mocked at.
The brothers Aulvir Hnuf and Eyvind Lambi remained awhile at Sandness and saw
to the burial of the slain. To Thorolf's body they gave all the customary
honours paid at the burial of a man of wealth and renown, and set over him a
memorial stone. They saw also to the healing of the wounded. They arranged also
the house with Sigridr; all the stock remained, but most of the house-furniture
and table-service and clothing was burnt. And when this was done, they went
south and came to king Harold at Throndheim, and were with him for awhile.
They were sad, and spoke little with others. And it was so that one day the
brothers went before the king, and Aulvir said:
'This permission we brothers claim of thee, O king, that we go home to our
farms; for such things have happened here that we have no heart to share drink
and seat with those who drew weapon on our kinsman Thorolf.'
The king looked at them, and answered curtly:
'I will not grant you this; ye shall be here with me.'
They went back to their place.
Next day, as the king sat in the audience hall, he had the brothers called to
him, and said:
'Now shall ye know of that your business which ye began with me, craving to go
home. Ye have been some while here with me, and have borne you well, and always
done your duty. I have thought well of you in everything. Now will I, Eyvind,
that thou go north to Halogaland. I will give thee in marriage Sigridr of
Sandness, her that Thorolf had to wife; and I will bestow on thee all the
wealth that belonged to Thorolf; thou shalt also have my friendship if thou
canst keep it. But Aulvir shall remain with me; for his skill as skald I cannot
The brothers thanked the king for the honour granted to them, and said that
they would willingly accept it.
Then Eyvind made him ready for the journey, getting a good and suitable ship.
The king gave him tokens for this matter. His voyage sped well, and he came north
to Alost and Sandness. Sigridr welcomed him; and Eyvind then showed her the
king's tokens and declared his errand, and asked her in marriage, saying that
it was the king's message that he should obtain this match. But Sigridr saw
that her only choice, as things had gone, was to let the king rule it. So the
arrangement was made, and Eyvind married Sigridr, receiving with her the farm
at Sandness and all the property that had been Thorolf's. Thus Eyvind was a
The children of Eyvind and Sigridr were Fid Squinter, father of Eyvind
Skald-spoiler, and Geirlaug, whom Sighvat Red had to wife. Fid Squinter married
Gunnhilda, daughter of earl Halfdan. Her mother was Ingibjorg, daughter of king
Harold Fairhair. Eyvind Lambi kept the king's friendship so long as they both
The slaying of Hildirida's sons.
There was a man named Kettle Hæing, son of Thorkel
earl of Naumdale, and of Hrafnilda daughter of Kettle Hæing of Hrafnista. He
was a man of wealth and renown; he had been a fast friend of Thorolf Kveldulf's
son, and was his near kinsman. He had been out on that expedition when forces
gathered in Halogaland with intent to join Thorolf, as has been written above.
But when king Harold went south, and men knew of Thorolf's slaying, then they
called a gathering.
Hæing took with him sixty men, and turned to Torgar. Hildirida's sons were
there, and few men with them. He went up to the farm, and made an attack on
them; and there fell Hildirida's sons, and most of those who were there; and
Hæing and his company took all the wealth they could lay hands on. After that
Hæing took two ships of burden, the largest he could get, and put on board all
the wealth belonging to him that he could carry; his wife and children also he
took, and all the men that had been with him in the late work. And when they
were ready and the wind blew fair, they sailed out to sea. A man named Baug,
Hæing's foster-brother, of good family and wealthy, steered the second ship.
A few winters before Ingjolf and Hjorleif had gone to settle in Iceland; their
voyage was much talked about, and 'twas said there was good choice of land
there. So Hæing sailed west over the sea to seek Iceland. And when they saw
land, they were approaching it from the south. But because the wind was
boisterous, and the surf ran high on the shore, and there was no haven, they
sailed on westwards along the sandy coast. And when the wind began to abate,
and the surf to calm down, there before them was a wide river-mouth. Up this
river they steered their ships, and lay close to the eastern shore thereof.
That river is now called Thjors-river; its stream was then much narrower and
deeper that it is now. They unloaded their ships, then searched the land
eastward of the river, bringing their cattle after them. Hæing remained for the
first winter on the eastern bank of the outer Rang-river.
But in the spring he searched the land eastwards, and then took land between
Thjors-river and Mark-fleet, from fell to firth, and made his home at Hofi by
east Rang-river. Ingunn his wife bare a son in this spring after their first
winter, and the boy was named Hrafn. And though the house there was pulled
down, the place continued to be called Hrafn-toft.
Hæing gave Baug land in Fleet-lithe, down from Mark-river to the river outside
Breidabolstead; and he dwelt at Lithe-end. To his shipmates Hæing gave land or
sold it for a small price, and these first settlers are called land-takers.
Hæing had sons Storolf, Herjolf, Helgi, Vestar; they all had land. Hrafn was
Hæing's fifth son. He was the first law-man in Iceland; he dwelt at Hofi after
his father, and was the most renowned of Hæing's sons.
Kveldulf heard of his son Thorolf's death, and so
deeply grieved was he at the tidings that he took to his bed from sorrow and
age. Skallagrim came often to him, and talked with him; he bade him cheer up.
'Anything,' (he said) ' was more fitting than to become worthless and lie
bedridden; better counsel is it that we seek to avenge Thorolf. Maybe we shall come
across some of those who took part in his slaying; but if not that, yet there
will be men whom we can reach, and thereby displease the king.'
Kveldulf sang a stave:
'Thorolf in northern isle
cruel Norns!) is dead:
soon the Thunder-god
ta'en my warrior son.
heavy wrestler, age,
my weak limbs from fray:
Though keen my spirit spurs,
No speedy vengeance mine.'
King Harold went that summer to
Upland, and in the autumn westwards to Valres, and as far as Vors. Aulvir Hnuf
was with the king, and often spoke with him about whether he would pay
atonement for Thorolf, granting to Kveldulf and Skallagrim money compensation,
or such honour as would content them. The king did not altogether refuse this,
if father and son would come to him. Whereupon Aulvir started northwards for
the Firths, nor stayed his journey till he came one evening to these twain.
They received him gratefully, and he remained there for some time. Kveldulf
questioned Aulvir closely about the doings at Sandness when Thorolf fell, what
doughty deeds Thorolf had wrought before he fell, who smote him with weapon,
where he received most wounds, what was the manner of his fall. Aulvir told him
all that he asked; and that king Harold gave him the wound that was alone
enough for his bane, and that Thorolf fell forward at the very feet of the
Then answered Kveldulf: 'Good
is that thou tellest; for 'tis an old saw that he will be avenged who falls
forward, and that vengeance will reach him who stands before him when he falls;
yet is it unlikely that such good-fortune will be ours.'
Aulvir told father and son that
he hoped, if they would go to the king and crave atonement, that it would be a
journey to their honour; and he bade them venture this, adding many words to
Kveldulf said he was too old to
travel: 'I shall sit at home,' said he.
'Wilt thou go, Grim?' said
'I think I have no errand
thither,' said Grim; 'I shall seem to the king not fluent in speech; nor do I
think I shall long pray for atonement.'
Aulvir said that he would not
need to do so: 'We will do all the speaking for thee as well as we can.'
And seeing that Aulvir pressed
this matter strongly, Grim promised to go when he thought he could be ready. He
and Aulvir set them a time when Grim should come to the king. Then Aulvir went
away first, and returned to the king.
Skallagrim's journey to the king.
Skallagrim made him ready for this journey, choosing
out of his household and neighbours the strongest and doughtiest that were to
be found. One was Ani, a wealthy landowner, another Grani, a third Grimolf and his
brother Grim, house-carles these of Skallagrim, and the two brothers Thorbjorn
Krum and Thord Beigaldi. These were called Thororna's sons; she dwelt hard by
Skallagrim, and was of magic skill. Beigaldi was a coal-biter. There was a man
named Thorir Giant, and his brother Thorgeir Earthlong, Odd Lonedweller, and
Griss Freedman. Twelve there were for the journey, all stalwart men, and
several of them shape-strong.
They took a rowing-ship of
Skallagrim's, went southwards along the coast, stood in to Ostra Firth, then
travelled by land up to Vors to the lake there; and, their course lying so that
they must cross it, they got a suitable rowing-ship and ferried them over,
whence they had not very far to go to the farm where the king was being entertained.
They came there at the time
when the king was gone to table. Some men they found to speak with outside in
the yard, and asked what was going on. This being told them, Grim begged one to
call Aulvir Hnuf to speak with him. The man went into the room and up to where
Aulvir sat, and said: 'There be men here outside newly come, twelve together,
if men one may call them, for they are liker to giants in stature and semblance
than to mortal men.'
Aulvir at once rose and went
out, for he knew who they were who had come. He greeted well his kinsman Grim,
and bade him go with him into the room.
Grim said to his comrades:
''Tis the custom here that men go weaponless before the king; six of us shall
go in, the other six shall bide without and keep our weapons.'
Then they entered, and Aulvir
went up to the king, Skallagrim standing at his back. Aulvir was spokesman:
'Here now is come Grim Kveldulf's son; we shall feel thankful to thee, O king,
if thou make his journey hither a good one, as we hope it will be. Many get
great honour from thee to whom less is due, and who are not nearly so
accomplished as is he in every kind of skill. Thou wilt also do this because it
is a matter of moment to me, if that is of any worth in thy opinion.'
Aulvir spoke fully and
fluently, for he was a man ready of words. And many other friends of Aulvir
went before the king and pleaded this cause.
The king looked round, and saw
that a man stood at Aulvir's back taller than the others by a head, and bald.
'Is that Skallagrim,' asked the
king, 'that tall man?'
Grim said he guessed rightly.
'I will then,' said the king,
'if thou cravest atonement for Thorolf, that thou become my liege-man, and
enter my guard here and serve me. Maybe I shall so like thy service that I
shall grant thee atonement for thy brother, or other honour not less than I
granted him; but thou must know how to keep it better than he did, if I make
thee as great a man as was he.'
Skallagrim answered: 'It is
well known how far superior to me was Thorolf in every point, and he got no
luck by serving thee, O king. Now will I not take that counsel; serve thee I
will not, for I know I should get no luck by yielding thee such service as I
should wish and as would be worthy. Methinks I should fail herein more than
The king was silent, and his
face became blood-red. Aulvir at once turned away, and bade Grim and his men go
out. They did so. They went out, and took their weapons, and Aulvir bade them
begone with all haste. He and many with him escorted them to the water-side.
Before parting with Skallagrim, Aulvir said:
'Kinsman, thy journey to the
king ended otherwise than I would have chosen. I urged much thy coming hither;
now, I entreat thee, go home with all speed, and come not in the way of king
Harold, unless there be better agreement between you than now seems likely, and
keep thee well from the king and from his men.'
Then Grim and his company went
over the water; but Aulvir with his men, going to the ships drawn up by the
water-side, so hacked them about that none was fit to launch. For they saw men
coming down from the king's house, a large body well armed and advancing
furiously. These men king Harold had sent after them to slay Grim. The king had
found words soon after Grim went out, and said:
'This I see in that tall
baldhead: that he is brim full of wolfishness, and he will, if he can reach
them, work scathe on men whom we should be loth to lose. Ye may be sure, ye
against whom he may bear a grudge, that he will spare none, if he get a chance.
Wherefore go after him and slay him.'
Upon this they went and came to
the water, and saw no ship there fit to launch. So they went back and told the
king of their journey, and that Grim and his comrades would now have got clear
over the lake.
Skallagrim went his way with
his comrades till he reached home; he then told Kveldulf of this journey.
Kveldulf showed him well pleased that Skallagrim had not gone to the king on
this errand to take service under him; he still said, as before, that from the
king they would get only loss and no amends. Kveldulf and Skallagrim spoke
often of their plans, and on this they were agreed, that they would not be able
to remain in the land any more than other men who were at enmity with the king,
but their counsel must be to go abroad. And it seemed to them desirable to seek
Iceland, for good reports were given about choice of land there. Already
friends and acquaintances of theirs had gone thither—to wit, Ingolf Arnarson,
and his companions—and had taken to them land and homestead in Iceland. Men
might take land there free of cost, and choose their homestead at will.
So they quite settled to break
up their household and go abroad.
Thorir Hroaldson had in his
childhood been fostered with Kveldulf, and he and Skallagrim were about of an
age, and as foster-brothers were dear friends. Thorir had become a baron of the
king's at the time when the events just told happened, but the friendship
between him and Skallagrim continued.
Early in the spring Kveldulf
and his company made ready their ships. They had plenty of good craft to choose
from; they made ready two large ships of burden, and took in each thirty able-bodied
men, besides women and children. All the movable goods that they could carry
they took with them, but their lands none dared buy, for fear of the king's
power. And when they were ready, they sailed away: first to the islands called
Solundir, which are many and large, and so scored with bays that few men (it is
said) know all their havens.
was a man named Guttorm, son of Sigurd Hart. He was mother's brother to king
Harold; also he had been his foster-father, and ruler over his forces, for the
king was a child when he first came to the throne. Guttorm had commanded the
army in all battles which Harold had fought to bring the land under his sway.
But when Harold became sole king of all Norway, and sat in peace, then he gave
to his kinsman Guttorm Westfold and East-Agdir, and Hringariki, and all the
land that had belonged to Halfdan Swarthy his father. Guttorm had two sons and
two daughters. His sons were named Sigurd and Ragnar; his daughters Ragnhildr
Guttorm fell sick, and when
near his end sent to king Harold, bidding him see to his children and his
province. Soon after this he died. On hearing of his death, the king summoned
Hallvard Hardfarer and his brother, and told them to go on a message for him
eastwards to Vik, he being then at Throndheim. They made great preparations for
their journey, choosing them men and the best ship they could get; it was the
very ship they had taken from Thorgils Yeller. But when they were ready, the
king told them their errand: they were to go eastwards to Tunsberg, the market
town where Guttorm had resided. 'Ye shall,' said the king, 'bring to me
Guttorm's sons, but his daughters shall be fostered there till I bestow them in
marriage. I will find men to take charge of the province and foster the
So the brothers started with a
fair wind, and came in the spring eastwards to Vik and to Tunsberg, and there
declared their errand. They took the sons of Guttorm, and much movable
property, and went their way back. The wind was then somewhat slack, and their
voyage slower, but nothing happened till they sailed northwards over the
Sogn-sea, having now a good wind and bright weather, and being in merry mood.
Slaying of Hallvard and Sigtrygg.
through the summer Kveldulf and Skallagrim kept a look-out shorewards on the
highway of vessels. Skallagrim was very sharp-sighted. He saw Hallvard's
company sailing by, and he knew the ship, for he had seen it before when
Thorgils went with it. Skallagrim watched their course, and where they lay to
in haven at eventide. Then he went back to his own people, and told Kveldulf
what he had seen, and withal how he had recognised the ship, being that which
once was Thorolf's, and was taken by Hallvard from Thorgils, and doubtless
there were some men on board who would be worth catching.
So they made them ready with
both their boats, and twenty men in each. Kveldulf steered one, Skallagrim the
other. Then they rowed and made for the ship. But when they came where it lay,
they put in to land.
Hallvard's men had set up the
tent over their ship, and laid them down to sleep. But when Kveldulf's force
came upon them, then the watchmen who sat at the gangway-end leapt up, and
called out to the ship; they bade the men rise, for an enemy was upon them.
Hallvard's party leapt to their weapons. But when Kveldulf with his men came to
the gangway-end, he went out by the stern gangway, while Skallagrim went
forward to the other gangway.
Kveldulf had in his hand a
battle-axe; but when he got on board, he bade his men go along the outer way by
the gunwale and cut the tent from its forks, while he himself rushed aft to the
stern-castle. And it is said that he then had a fit of shape-strength, as had
also several of his comrades. They slew all that came in their way, the same
did Skallagrim where he boarded the ship; nor did father and son stay hands
till the ship was cleared. When Kveldulf came aft to the stern-castle, he
brandished high his battle-axe, and smote Hallvard right through helm and head,
so that the axe sank in even to the shaft; then he snatched it back towards him
so forcibly that he whirled Hallvard aloft, and slung him overboard. Skallagrim
cleared the forecastle, slaying Sigtrygg. Many men plunged into the sea; but
Skallagrim's men took one of the boats, and rowed after and slew all that were
There were lost with Hallvard
fifty men in all. The ship and the wealth that was in it Skallagrim's men took.
Two or three men whom they deemed of least note they seized, and gave them
their lives, asking of them who had been in the ship, and what had been the
purport of the voyage. After learning all the truth about this, they looked
over the slain who lay on ship-board. It was found that more had leapt
overboard, and so perished, than had fallen on the ship. The sons of Guttorm
had leapt overboard and perished. Of these, one was twelve years old, the other
ten, and both were lads of promise.
Then Skallagrim set free the
men whose lives he had spared, and bade them go to king Harold and tell him the
whole tale of what had been done there, and who had been the doers of it. 'Ye
shall also,' said he, 'bear to the king this ditty:
'For a noble warrior slain
now on king is ta'en:
and eagle tread as prey
born to sovereign sway.
body cloven through
in the billows flew;
of wight once swift to fare
vulture's beak doth tear.'
After this Skallagrim and his
men took out to their ships and captured ship and her cargo. And then they made
an exchange, loading the ship they had taken, but emptying one of their own
which was smaller; and in this they put stones, and bored holes and sank it.
Then, as soon as ever the wind was fair, they sailed out to sea.
It is said of shape-strong men,
or men with a fit of Berserk fury on them, that while the fit lasted they were
so strong that nought could withstand them; but when it passed off, then they
were weaker than their wont. Even so it was with Kveldulf. When the
shape-strong fit went from him, then he felt exhaustion from the onset he had
made, and became so utterly weak that he lay in bed.
And now a fair wind took them
out to sea. Kveldulf commanded the ship which they had taken from Hallvard.
With the fair wind the ships kept well together, and for long time were in
sight of each other.
But when they were now far
advanced over the main, Kveldulf's sickness grew worse. And when it came to
this, that death was near, then he called to him his shipmates, and told them
that he thought it likely they and he would soon take different ways. 'I have
never,' he said, 'been an ailing man; but if it so be (as now seems likely)
that I die, then make me a coffin, and put me overboard: and it will go far
otherwise than I think if I do not come to Iceland and take land there. Ye
shall bear my greeting to my son Grim, when ye meet, and tell him withal that
if he come to Iceland, and things so turn out that—unlikely as it may seem—I be
there first, then he shall choose him a homestead as near as may be to where I
have come ashore.'
Shortly after this Kveldulf
His shipmates did as he had
bidden them do; they laid him in a coffin, and shot it overboard. There was a
man named Grim, son of Thorir Kettlesson Keel-fare, of noble kin and wealthy.
He was in Kveldulf's ship; he had been an old friend of both father and son,
and a companion both of them and of Thorolf, for which reason he had incurred
the king's anger. He now took command of the ship after Kveldulf was dead.
But when they were come to
Iceland, approaching the land from the south, they sailed westwards along the
coast, because they had heard that Ingolf had settled there. But coming over
against Reykja-ness, and seeing the firth open before them, they steered both
ships into the firth.
And now the wind came on to
blow hard, with much rain and mist. Thus the ships were parted.
Grim the Halogalander and his
crew sailed in up the Borgar Firth past all the skerries; then they cast anchor
till the wind fell and the weather cleared. They waited for the flood-tide, and
then took their ship up into a river-mouth; it is called Gufu-river. They drew
the ship up this river as far as it could go; then unshipped the cargo, and
remained there for the first winter. They explored the land along the sea both
inwards and outwards, and they had not gone far before they found Kveldulf's
coffin cast up in a creek. They carried the coffin to the ness hard by, set it
down there, and raised thereover a pile of stones.
Of Skallagrim's land-taking.
came to land where a large ness ran out into the sea, and above the ness was a
narrow isthmus; and there they put out their lading. That ness they called Ship-ness.
Then Skallagrim spied out the land: there was much moorland and wide woods, and
a broad space between fells and firths, seal-hunting in plenty, and good
fishing. But as they spied out the land southwards along the sea, they found
before them a large firth; and, turning inwards along this firth, they stayed
not their going till they found their companions, Grim the Halogalander and the
rest. A joyful meeting was there. They told Skallagrim of his father's death,
and how Kveldulf had come to land there, and they had buried him. Then they led
Skallagrim to the place, and it seemed to him that thereabouts would be a good
spot to build a homestead. He then went away, and back to his shipmates; and
for that winter each party remained where they had come to land. Then
Skallagrim took land between fells and firths, all the moors out to Seal-loch,
and the upper land to Borgarhraun, and southwards to Hafnar-fell, and all that
land from the watershed to the sea. Next spring he moved his ship southwards to
the firth, and into the creek close to where Kveldulf came to land; and there
he set his homestead, and called it Borg, and the firth Borgar-firth, and so
too the country-side further up they named after the firth.
To Grim the Halogalander he
gave dwelling-place south of Borgar-firth, on the shore named Hvann-eyrr. A
little beyond this a bay of no great size cuts into the land. There they found
many ducks, wherefore they called it Duck-kyle, and the river that fell into
the sea there Duck-kyle-river. From this river to the river called Grims-river,
the land stretching upwards between them Grim had. That same spring, as
Skallagrim had his cattle driven inwards along the sea, they came to a small
ness where they caught some swans, so they called it Swan-ness. Skallagrim gave
land to his shipmates. The land between Long-river and Hafs-brook he gave to
Ani, who dwelt at Anabrekka. His son was Aunund Sjoni. About this was the
controversy of Thorstein and Tongue Odd.
Grani dwelt at Granastead on
Digraness. To Thorbjorn Krum he gave the land by Gufu-river upward, and to
Thord of Beigaldi. Krum dwelt at Krums-hills, but Thord at Beigaldi. To Thorir
Giant and his brothers he gave land upwards from Einkunnir and the outer part
by Long-river. Thorir Giant dwelt at Giantstead. His daughter was Thordis
Staung, who afterwards dwelt at Stangerholt. Thorgeir dwelt at Earthlongstead.
Skallagrim spied out the land
upwards all round the country-side. First he went inwards along the
Borgar-firth to its head; then followed the west bank of the river, which he
called White-river, because he and his companions had never before seen waters
that fell out of glaciers, and the colour of the river seemed to them
They went up along White-river
till a river was before them coming down from the fells to the north; this they
called North-river. And they followed it up till yet again before them was a
river bringing down but little water. This river they crossed, and still went
up along North-river; then they soon saw where the little river fell out of a
cleft, and they called it Cleave-river. Then they crossed North-river, and went
back to White-river, and followed that upwards. Soon again a river crossed
their way, and fell into White-river; this they called Cross-river. They learnt
that every river was full of fish. After this they returned to Borg.
Of Skallagrim's industry.
was most industrious. He had about him always many men, whom he set to seek
diligently all such provisions as could be got there for man's sustenance,
because at first they had but little live-stock compared with the needs of
their numerous company. But what live-stock they had went every winter
self-feeding in the woods.
Skallagrim was a good shipwright,
and westwards of Myrar was no lack of driftwood. He had buildings set up on
Swan-ness, and had another house there. This he made a starting-point for
sea-fishing, seal-hunting, and egg-gathering; in all these kinds there was
plenty of provisions to get, as well as driftwood to bring to him. Whales also
often came in there, and whoso would might shoot them. All such creatures were
then tame on the hunting-ground, as they were unused to man. His third house he
had on the sea in Western Myrar. This was even a better place to look out for
driftwood. There, too, he had land sown, and called it Acres. Over against it
lay islands, among which whales were found; these they called Whale-islands.
Skallagrim also sent his men up
on the salmon-rivers to fish. He set Odd Lonehouse by Cleave-river to see to
the salmon-fishing there. Odd dwelt under Lonehouse. Lonehouse-ness has its
name from him. Sigmund was the name of the man whom Skallagrim set by
North-river; he dwelt at what was then called Sigmundstead, but now Hauga.
Sigmundar-ness takes its name from him. He afterwards moved his homestead to
Munodar-ness, that being thought more convenient for salmon-fishing.
But as Skallagrim's live-stock
multiplied, the cattle used to go up to the fells in the summer. And he found
that the cattle that went on the heath were by far better and fatter; also that
sheep did well through the winters in the fell-dales without being driven down.
So Skallagrim set up buildings close to the fell, and had a house there; and
there he had his sheep kept. Of this farm Griss was the overlooker, and after
him was called Grisartongue. Thus Skallagrim's wealth had many legs to stand
Some time after Skallagrim's
coming out, a ship put into Borgar-firth from the main, commanded by a man
named Oleif Halt. With him were his wife and children and other of his kin, and
the aim of his voyage was to get him a home in Iceland. Oleif was a man
wealthy, high-born, and fore-seeing. Skallagrim asked Oleif and all his company
to his house for lodging. Oleif accepted this, and was with Skallagrim for his
first winter in Iceland.
But in the following spring
Skallagrim showed him to choice land south of White-river upwards from
Grims-river to Flokadale-river. Oleif accepted this, and moved thither his
household, and set there his homestead by Warm-brook as it is called. He was a
man of renown; his sons were Ragi in Hot-spring-dale, and Thorarin, Ragi's
brother, who took the law-speakership next after Hrafn Hængsson. Thorarin dwelt
at Warm-brook; he had to wife Thordis, daughter of Olaf Shy, sister of Thord
Of the coming out of Yngvar, and of Skallagrim's iron-forging.
Harold Fair-hair took for his own all those lands that Kveldulf and Skallagrim
had left behind in Norway, and all their other property that he could lay hands
on. He also sought diligently after those men who had been in the counsels or
confidence or in any way helpers of Skallagrim and his folk in the deeds which
they wrought before Skallagrim went abroad out of the land. And so far
stretched the enmity of the king against father and son, that he bore hatred
against their kith and kin, or any whom he knew to have been their dear
friends. Some suffered punishment from him, many fled away and sought refuge,
some within the land, some out of the land altogether. Yngvar Skallagrim's
wife's father was one of these men aforesaid. This rede did he take, that he
turned all his wealth that he could into movables, then gat him a sea-going
ship and a crew thereto, and made ready to go to Iceland, for he had heard that
Skallagrim had taken up his abode there, and there would be no lack of choice
land there with Skallagrim. So when they were ready and a fair wind blew, he
sailed out to sea, and his voyage sped well. He came to Iceland on the south
coast, and held on westwards past Reykja-ness, and sailed into Borgar-firth,
and entering Long-river went up it even to the Falls. There they put out they
But when Skallagrim heard of
Yngvar's coming, he at once went to meet him and bade him to his house with as
many men as he would. Yngvar accepted this offer. The ship was drawn up, and
Yngvar went to Borg with many men, and stayed that winter with Skallagrim. In
the spring Skallagrim offered him choice land. He gave Yngvar the farm which he
had on Swan-ness, and land inwards to Mud-brook and outwards to Strome-firth.
Thereupon Yngvar went out to this farm and took possession, and he was a most
able man and a wealthy. Skallagrim then built a house on Ship-ness, and this he
kept for a long time thereafter.
Skallagrim was a good
iron-smith, and in winter wrought much in red iron ore. He had a smithy set up
some way out from Borg, close by the sea, at a place now called Raufar-ness.
The woods he thought were not too far from thence. But since he could find no
stone there so hard or smooth as he thought good for hammering iron on (for
there are no beach pebbles, the seashore being all fine sand), one evening,
when other were gone to sleep, Skallagrim went to the sea, and pushed out an
eight-oared boat he had, and rowed out to the Midfirth islands. There he
dropped an anchor from the bows of the boat, then stepped overboard, and dived
down to the bottom, and brought up a large stone, and lifted it into the boat.
Then he himself climbed into the boat and rowed to land, and carried the stone
to the smithy and laid it down before the smithy door, and thenceforth he
hammered iron on it. That stone lies there yet, and much slag beside it; and
the marks of the hammering may be seen on its upper face, and it is a surf-worn
boulder, unlike the other stones that are there. Four men nowadays could not
lift a larger mass. Skallagrim worked hard at smithying, but his house-carles
grumbled thereat, and thought it over early rising. Then Skallagrim composed
wins wealth by iron
early must rise:
the sea's breezy brother
stout hammer rings,
whistling storm stir.'
Of Skallagrim's children.
and Bera had a great many children, but at first they all died. Then they had a
son, who was sprinkled with water and named Thorolf. As a child he soon grew to
be tall and was fair of countenance. It was the talk of all that he would be
just such another as Thorolf Kveldulf's son, after whom he was named. Thorolf
was far beyond children of his own age in strength. And as he grew to manhood
he became doughty in most accomplishments then in vogue among those who were
well trained. Thorolf was of a right cheery mood. Early did he come to such
full strength as to be deemed fit for warlike service with other men. He was
soon a favourite with all, and his father and mother loved him well. Skallagrim
and his wife had two daughters; one was named Sæunn, the other Thorunn. They
also were of great promise as they grew up. Then Skallagrim and his wife had
yet another son. He was sprinkled with water and named, and his name was Egil.
But as he grew up it was soon seen that he would be ill-favoured, like his
father, with black hair. When but three years old he was as tall and strong as
other boys of six or seven. He was soon talkative and word-wise. Somewhat ill
to manage was he when at play with other lads.
That spring, Yngvar went to
Borg, his errand being to bid Skallagrim to a feast at his house, he also named
for the party his daughter Bera and Thorolf her son, and any others that
Skallagrim liked to bring. Skallagrim promised to come. Yngvar then went home,
prepared for the banquet, and had ale brewed. But when the set time came that
Skallagrim and Bera should go to the feast, Thorolf made him ready to go with
them, as also some house-carles, so that they were fifteen in all. Egil told
his father that he wished to go.
'I am,' said he, 'as much akin
to Yngvar as is Thorolf.'
'You shall not go,' said
Skallagrim, 'for you know not how to behave yourself in company where there is
much drinking, you who are not good to deal with though you be sober.'
Then Skallagrim mounted his
horse and rode away, but Egil was ill content with his lot.
He went out of the yard, and
found a draught horse of Skallagrim's, got on its back and rode after
Skallagrim's party. No easy way had he over the moor, for he did not know the
road; but he kept his eyes on the riders before him when copse or wood were not
in the way. And this is to tell of his journey, that late in the evening he
came to Swan-ness, when men sat there a-drinking. He went into the room, but
when Yngvar saw Egil he received him joyfully, and asked why he had come so
late. Egil told of his words with Skallagrim. Yngvar made Egil sit by him, they
two sat opposite Skallagrim and Thorolf. For merriment over their ale they fell
to reciting staves. Then Egil recited a stave:
I came to the hearth fire
Yngvar, right fain so to find him,
who on heroes bestoweth
that the heather-worm guardeth.
of the snake's shining treasure
a generous giver,
not than me of three winters
Yngvar praised this stave, and thanked Egil much therefor, but on the morrow he
brought to Egil as reward for the poem three sea-snail shells and a duck's egg.
And next day at the drinking Egil recited another stave about his poem's
wielder of keen-biting wound-fowl
unto Egil the talker
silent dogs of the surf-swell,
for the praise in his poem.
the skilled guide of the sea-horse,
to please with a present,
as fourth gift to young Egil
egg, the brook-bird's bed-bolster.'
Egil's poetry won him thanks
from many men. No more tidings were there of that journey. Egil went home with
Of lord Brynjolf and Bjorn, his son.
was in Sogn a lord named Bjorn, a rich man; he dwelt at Aurland. His son was
Brynjolf, who was sole heir to all his father's wealth. Brynjolf's sons were
Bjorn and Thord. They were young when what has been just told happened. Bjorn
was a great traveller, sometimes on free-booting, sometimes on trading voyages.
He was a right doughty man. It so chanced that one summer Bjorn was present at
a banquet attended by many. He saw there a fair maiden who pleased him well. He
asked of what family she was, and was told that she was sister of lord Thorir
Hroaldsson, and was named Thora, with the by-name Lacehand. Bjorn made his suit
and asked Thora to wife. But Thorir refused his offer, and with this they
parted. But that same autumn Bjorn took men and went with a cutter well equipt
northwards to the Firths, and came to Thorir's when he was not at home. Bjorn
took Thora away thence, and home with him to Aurland. They two were there for
the winter, and Bjorn would fain hold a wedding with her. Brynjolf his father
ill liked what Bjorn had done; he thought there was dishonour therein, whereas
there had been ere this long friendship between Thorir and Brynjolf.
'So far,' said he, 'Bjorn, from
your holding a wedding with Thora here in my house without the leave of her
brother, she shall be here as well respected as if she were my daughter and
your sister.' And all had to be as Brynjolf ordered in his household, whether
Bjorn liked it well or ill. Brynjolf sent men to Thorir to offer him atonement
and redress for what Bjorn had done. Thorir bade Brynjolf send Thora home; no
atonement could there be else. But Bjorn would in no wise let her go away,
though Brynjolf begged it. And so the winter wore on.
But when spring came, then
Brynjolf and Bjorn were talking one day of their matters. Brynjolf asked what
Bjorn meant to do. Bjorn said 'twas likeliest that he should go away out of the
'Most to my mind is it,' said
he, 'that you should give me a long-ship and crew therewith, and I go a
'No hope is there of this,'
said Brynjolf, 'that I shall put in your hands a warship and strong force, for
I know not but you will go about just what is against my wish; why even now
already I have enough trouble from you. A merchant-ship I will give you, and
wares withal: go you then southwards to Dublin. That voyage is now most highly
spoken of. I will get you a good crew.'
Bjorn said he would take this
as his father willed. So he had a good merchant-ship made ready, and got men
for it. Bjorn now made him ready for this voyage, but was some time about it.
But when he was quite ready and a fair wind blew, he embarked on a boat with
twelve men and rowed in to Aurland, and they went up to the homestead and to
his mother's bower. She was sitting therein with many women. Thora was there.
Bjorn said Thora must go with him, and they led her away. But his mother bade
the women not dare to let them know this within in the hall: Brynjolf, she
said, would be in a sad way if he knew it, and this would bring about great
mischief between father and son. But Thora's clothes and trinkets were all laid
there ready to hand, and Bjorn and his men took all with them.
Then they went that night out
to their ship, at once hoisted their sail, and sailed out by the Sogn-sea, and
so to the main. They had an ill wind, before which they must needs run, and
were long tossed about on the main, because they were bent on shunning Norway
at all hazards. And so it was that one day they were sailing off the east coast
of Shetland during a gale, and brake their ship in making land at Moss-ey. They
got out the cargo, and went into the town that was there, carrying thither all
their wares, and they drew up their ship and repaired damages.
Bjorn goes to Iceland.
little before winter came a ship from the south out of the Orkneys, with the
tidings that a long-ship had come in autumn to those islands. Therein were
messengers of king Harold, with this errand to earl Sigurd, that the king would
have Bjorn Brynjolfsson slain wherever he might be found, and the same message
Harold sent to the Southern Isles and even to Dublin. Bjorn heard these
tidings, and withal that he was outlawed in Norway. Forthwith on reaching
Shetland Bjorn had held his wedding with Thora, and through the winter they
stayed at Moss-ey-town.
But in spring, as soon as ever
the sea began to calm, Bjorn drew forth his ship, and made him ready with all
speed. And when he was ready and got a wind, he sailed out to the main. They
had a strong breeze, and were but little time out ere they came to the south
coast of Iceland. The wind was blowing on the land; then it bore them westwards
along the coast, and so out to sea. But when they got a shift of wind back again,
then they sailed for the land. There was not a single man on board who had been
in Iceland before. They sailed into a wondrous large firth, the wind bearing
them towards its western shore. Land-wards nothing was seen but breakers and
harbourless shore. Then they stood slant-wise across the wind as they might
(but still eastwards), till a firth lay over against them, into which they
sailed, till all the skerries and the surf were passed. Then they put in by a
ness. An island lay out opposite this, and a deep sound was between them: there
they made fast the ship. A bay ran up west of the ness, and above this bay
stood a good-sized rocky hill.
Bjorn and some men with him got
into a boat, Bjorn telling his comrades to beware of saying about their voyage
aught that might work them trouble. They rowed to the buildings, and found
there men to speak to. First they asked where they had come to land. The men
told them that this was named Borgar-firth; that the buildings they saw were
called Borg; that the goodman was Skallagrim.
Bjorn at once remembered about
him, and he went to meet Skallagrim, and they talked together. Skallagrim asked
who they were. Bjorn named himself and his father, but Skallagrim knew Brynjolf
well, so he offered to Bjorn such help as he needed. This Bjorn accepted
thankfully. Then Skallagrim asked what others there were in the ship, persons
of rank. Bjorn said there was Thora, Hroald's daughter, sister of lord Thorir.
Skallagrim was right glad for that, and said that it was his bounden duty to
give to the sister of Thorir his own foster-brother such help as she needed or
he could supply; and he bade her and Bjorn both to his house with all his
shipmates. Bjorn accepted this. So the cargo was moved from the ship up to the
homestead at Borg. There they set up their booths; but the ship was drawn up
into the brook hard by. And where Bjorn's party had their booths is still
called Bjorn's home-field. Bjorn and his shipmates all took up their abode with
Skallagrim, who never had about him fewer than sixty stout fellows.
Of Skallagrim and Bjorn.
befell in autumn, when ships had come to Iceland from Norway, that this report
came over, how Bjorn had run away with Thora without the consent of her kin,
and for that the king had made him an outlaw from Norway. But when Skallagrim
got to know this, he called Bjorn to him, and asked how it had been with his
marriage; had it been made with the consent of his wife's kin.
'I never looked for this,' said
he, 'in a son of Brynjolf, that I should not know the truth from him.'
Bjorn answered, 'Truth only
told I to you, Grim, and you may not rebuke me for this, though I told you no
further than you asked. But now I must own this, which is true, that you have heard
truth about this match not being made with the agreement of Thorir, my wife's
Then spake Skallagrim in great
wrath, 'How dared you come to meet me? Did you not know what friendship was
between me and Thorir?'
Bjorn answered, 'I knew that
between you two was foster-brotherhood and close friendship; but I sought your
home because I was driven ashore here, and I knew it would avail naught to shun
you. Now will it be for you to rule what my lot shall be, but I hope for good
from you as I am of your household.'
Then came forward Thorolf
Skallagrim's son, and added many a word, and begged his father not to lay this
to Bjorn's charge after once receiving him. Several others spoke to the same
end. And so it came that Skallagrim was appeased, and said that Thorolf should
have his way here.
'Take you Bjorn,' said he, 'and
deal with him as may best prove your manhood.'
Thorolf goes abroad.
bare a child in the summer; it was a girl. She was sprinkled with water, and
named Asgerdr. Bera got a woman to look after the girl. Bjorn stayed for the
winter with Skallagrim as did all his shipmates. Thorolf struck up a friendship
with Bjorn, and was ever in his company. But when spring came, one day Thorolf
had a talk with his father, and asked him what counsel he would give about
Bjorn his winter guest, or what help he would lend him. Grim asked Thorolf what
Bjorn had in view.
'I think,' said Thorolf, 'that
Bjorn would soonest go to Norway, if he could be there in peace. Methinks,
father, this plan lies before us, that you send men to Norway to offer
atonement for Bjorn; Thorir will greatly honour your word.'
Thorolf by his persuasion so
managed that Skallagrim yielded and gave men for the outward voyage that
summer. These went with message and tokens to Thorir Hroaldsson, and sought
atonement between him and Bjorn. But no sooner did Brynjolf hear this than he,
too, set his whole mind to offer atonement for Bjorn. And the end of this
matter was that Thorir took atonement for Bjorn, because he saw that it had
come to this now that Bjorn had nothing to fear. Thus Brynjolf got atonement
accepted for Bjorn, and Skallagrim's messengers abode with Thorir for the
winter. In the summer following they went back; and on their coming back in
autumn they told their tidings that Bjorn was admitted to atonement in Norway.
Bjorn was with Skallagrim for yet a third winter. But next spring he made him
ready for departure with his following. And when Bjorn was ready for going,
then Bera said she would fain have Asgerdr, her foster-child, left-behind. This
Bjorn accepted, and the girl was left behind and brought up with Skallagrim's
family. Thorolf, Skallagrim's son, settled to go with Bjorn, and Skallagrim
gave him mean for the journey. So he went abroad in the summer with Bjorn.
Their voyage sped well, and they came off the main into Sogn-sea. Bjorn then
sailed into Sogn, and thence on home to his father, and Thorolf with him.
Brynjolf received them joyfully. Then word was sent to Thorir Hroaldsson. He
and Brynjolf set a time for a meeting; to this meeting Bjorn also came. He and
Thorir there ratified their atonement. Then Thorir paid out of hand such
property in his house as belonged to Thora; and thereafter Thorir and Bjorn
were good brothers-in-law and friends. Bjorn then stayed at home at Aurland
with Brynjolf, Thorolf also being there in much favour both with father and
Of Eric Bloodaxe and Thorolf.
Harold long held his residence in Hordaland or Rogaland, at those large estates
that he owned, at Outstone or Augvalds-ness, or at Afreksted in Fitjar, or at
Seaham in Lygra. But this winter the king was in the north part of the land.
Now, when Bjorn and Thorolf had
been one winter in Norway and spring came, they made ready a ship and gathered
men. And in the summer they went a-freebooting eastwards, and came home in the
autumn, having won much wealth. But when they came home they heard that King
Harold was in Rogaland and would remain there for the winter. King Harold was
beginning to age much and fail in strength, but many of his sons were come to
vigour. His son Eric, by-named Bloodaxe, was then quite young. He was being
fostered with lord Thorir Hroaldsson. The king loved Eric above all his sons.
Thorir was on most intimate terms with the king then.
Bjorn and Thorolf, when they
came home, went first to Aurland, but afterwards turned their way northwards to
visit lord Thorir at his home. They had a certain galley rowed by thirteen or
fourteen oarsmen on either side, and they had about thirty men with them. This
ship they had taken in their summer freebooting. It was gaily painted above the
sea-line, and was very beautiful. But when they came to Thorir they were made welcome,
and abode there some time; while the ship, tented over, floated opposite the
house. It happened one day that, as Thorolf and Bjorn were going down to the
ship, they saw that Eric, the king's son, was there; he went now out on to the
ship, now up to the land, and stood there looking at the ship. Then said Bjorn
'The king's son admires the
ship much; do you offer it to him as a present, for I know it will much help us
with the king if Eric be our pleader with him. I have heard it said that the
king bears a heavy grudge against you for your father's sake.'
Thorolf said that this would be
a good plan.
They then went down to the
ship, and Thorolf spoke:
'Thou regardest the ship
carefully, prince; how dost thou like it?'
'Right well,' said he, 'it is a
'Then will I give it thee,'
said Thorolf, 'if thou wilt take the present.'
'Take it I will,' said Eric,
'and thou wilt deem it but poor payment therefor though I should offer thee my
friendship; but this thou mayest look for if I live.'
Thorolf said that he thought
the ship were thus far overpaid.
Then they separated. But
thenceforward the king's son was right cheerful with Thorolf and his friend.
Bjorn and Thorolf, talking with
Thorir, asked him whether he thought it true that the king bore a heavy grudge
Thorir did not deny that he had
'Then I would fain,' said
Bjorn, 'that you should go and plead Thorolf's cause before him, for one lot
shall befall me and Thorolf; he did as much for me when I was in Iceland.'
The end was that Thorir
promised to go to the king, and bade them try whether the king's son would go
with him. But when Thorolf and Bjorn spake of this with Eric, he promised his
influence with his father.
After that Thorolf and Bjorn
went their way to Sogn. But Thorir and Eric the king's son set in order the
newly-given galley, and went south to meet the king, and found him in
Hordaland. He received them joyfully. They remained there for awhile, watching
for a fit time to approach the king when he should be in a good humour. Then
they opened this matter before the king, and said that a certain man had come
named Thorolf, Skallagrim's son. 'We would pray thee,' they said, 'O king, to
bear in mind this: that his kinsmen have done good to thee, and not to make him
pay for what his father did in avenging his brother.'
Thorir spoke herein soft words,
but the king answered rather shortly that to him and his much mischance had
come from Kveldulf and his sons, and 'twas to be looked for that this Thorolf
would be like-minded with his kin. 'They are all,' said he, 'overbearing men,
who know no measure, and care not with whom they have to deal.'
Then Eric took the word. He
said that Thorolf had made friends with him, and given him a noble present—that
ship which they had there. 'I have,' said he, 'promised him my hearty
friendship. There will be few to become friends with me if this man get nothing
by it. Thou wilt not let it be so, father, with him who has been the first to
give me such a treasure.'
The end was that the king
promised them before they parted that Thorolf should be in peace with him. 'But
I will not,' said he, ' that he come into my presence. And thou, Eric, mayst
make him as close to thee as thou wilt, him or more of his kin. But one of two
things will happen, either they will be softer to thee than to me, or thou wilt
rue this thy intercession, and that thou lettest them be long in thy company.'
Thereafter went Eric Bloodaxe
and Thorir home to the Firths; then they sent word to Thorolf how their errand
to the king had sped. Thorolf and Bjorn were for that winter with Brynjolf.
Many summers they were out a-freebooting, but the winters they spent with
Brynjolf, or sometimes with Thorir.
The journey to Bjarmaland.
Bloodaxe now took a share in the realm. He held oversight in Hordaland and the
Firths; he took and kept about him a body-guard. And one spring Eric Bloodaxe
made ready to go to Bjarmaland, and chose him much people for that voyage.
Thorolf betook him to this voyage with Eric, and was in the forecastle of his
ship, and bare his standard. Thorolf was then taller and stronger than other
men, and herein like his father. In that expedition befell much tidings. Eric
had a great battle by the river Dvina in Bjarmaland, wherein he won the
victory, as is told in the lays about him. And in that voyage he took
Gunnhilda, daughter of Auzur Toti, and brought her home with him. Gunnhilda was
above all women beautiful and shrewd, and of magic cunning. There was great
intimacy between Thorolf and Gunnhilda. Thorolf ever spend the winters with
Eric, the summers in freebooting.
The next tidings were that
Thora Bjorn's wife fell sick and died. But some while after Bjorn took to him
another wife; she was named Alof, the daughter of Erling the wealthy of Ostr.
They two had a daughter named Gunnhilda.
There was a man named Thorgeir
Thornfoot; he dwelt in Fenhring of Hordaland, at a place called Askr. He had
three sons—one named Hadd, another Bergonund, the third Atli the short.
Bergonund was beyond other men tall and strong, and he was grasping and
ungentle; Atli the short was of small stature, square-built, of sturdy
strength. Thorgeir was a very rich man, a devoted heathen worshipper, of magic
cunning. Hadd went out freebooting, and was seldom at home.
Thorolf comes out to Iceland.
Skallagrim's son made him ready one summer for a trading voyage; he purposed
what he also performed, to go to Iceland and see his father. He had now been
long abroad. By this he had got great store of wealth and many costly things.
When ready for the voyage, he went to king Eric. And at their parting the king
delivered to Thorolf an axe, which he said he wished to give to Skallagrim. The
axe was snag-horned, large, gold-mounted, the hilt overlaid with silver; it was
most valuable and costly.
Thorolf went his way as soon as
he was ready, and his voyage sped well; he came with his ship into
Borgar-firth, and at once hastened home to his father. A right joyful meeting
was theirs. Then Skallagrim went down to Thorolf's ship, and had it drawn up,
and Thorolf went home to Borg with twelve men. But when he came home, he gave
Skallagrim King Eric's greeting, and delivered to him the axe which the king
had sent him. Skallagrim took the axe and held it up, looked at it awhile, but
said nothing. He fixed it up by his seat.
It chanced one day in the
autumn at Borg that Skallagrim had several oxen driven home which he meant to
slaughter. Two of these he had led under the house-wall, and placed with heads
crossing. He took a large flat stone, and pushed it under their necks. Then he
went near with the axe—the king's gift—and hewed at the oxen both at once, so
that he took off the heads of the two. But the axe smote down on the stone, so
that the mouth broke, and was rent through all the tempered steel. Skallagrim
looked at the edge, said nothing, but went into the fire-hall, and, mounting to
the wall-beam, thrust the axe up among the rafters above the door. There it lay
in the smoke all the winter.
But in the spring Thorolf
declared that he meant to go abroad that summer.
Skallagrim forbade him, saying:
''Tis good to drive home with your wain whole. You have,' said he, 'gotten
great honour by travel; but there is the old saw, "Many farings, many
fortunes." Take you now here as much share of the property as you think
will make you a great man.'
Thorolf said he would make yet
one journey more. 'And I have,' said he, 'an urgent errand for the journey. But
when I come back next time I shall settle here. But Asgerdr, your foster-child,
shall go out with me to her father. This he bade me when I came west.'
Skallagrim said Thorolf would
have his way.
Thereafter Thorolf went to his
ship, and put it in order. And when all was ready they moved the ship out to
Digra-ness, and it lay there waiting a wind. Then Asgerdr went to the ship with
him. But before Thorolf left Borg Skallagrim went and took down from the
rafters over the door the axe—the king's gift—and came out with it. The haft
was now black with smoke, and the blade rusted. Skallagrim looked at the axe's
edge. Then he handed it to Thorolf, reciting this stave:
fierce would-wolf's tooth-edge
flaws not a few,
axe all deceitful,
wood cleaver weak.
prince ill-beseemed it
present to send.'
Kettle Blund comes out to Iceland.
had happened while Thorolf was away, that one summer a merchant-ship from
Norway came into Borgar-firth. Merchant-ships used then commonly to be drawn up
into rivers, brook-mouths, or ditches. This ship belonged to a man named
Kettle, and by-named Blund; he was a Norwegian of noble kin and wealthy. His
son, named Geir, who was then of full age, was with him in the ship. Kettle
meant to make his home in Iceland; he came late in the summer. Skallagrim knew
all about him, and offered him lodging for himself and all his company. This
Kettle took, and was with Skallagrim for the winter. That winter Geir, Kettle's
son, asked to wife Thorunn, Skallagrim's daughter, and the match was made, and
Geir took her.
Next spring Skallagrim showed
Kettle to land above Oleif's land, by White-river, from Flokadale-river mouth
to Reykjadale-river mouth, and all the tongue that lay between the rivers up to
Redgill, and all Flokadale above the slopes. Kettle dwelt at Thrandarholt; Geir
at Geirs-lithe; he had another farm in Reykjadale at Upper Reykir. He was
called Geir the wealthy; his sons were Blund-Kettle and Thorgeir-blund. A third
was Hrisa-blund, who first dwelt at Hrisa.
Of Egil's and Skallagrim's games.
took much pleasure in trials of strength and games; he liked to talk about
such. Ball-play was then a common game. Plenty of strong men there were at that
time in the neighbourhood, but not one of strength to match with Skallagrim. He
was now somewhat stricken in years. There was a man named Thord, son of Grani,
at Granastead, who was of great promise; he was then young; very fond he was of
Egil, Skallagrim's son. Egil often engaged in wrestling; he was headstrong and
hot-tempered, but all had the sense to teach their sons to give way to Egil. A
game of ball was held at White-river-dale in the early winter, to which was a
great gathering of people from all the country-side. Thither went many of
Skallagrim's household to the game. Chief among them was Thord, Grani's son.
Egil asked Thord to let him go with him to the game; he was then in his seventh
winter. Thord let him do so, and Egil mounted behind him. But when they came to
the play-meeting, then the men made up sides for the play. Many small boys had
come there too, and they made up a game for themselves. For this also sides
Egil was matched to play
against a boy named Grim, son of Hegg, of Hegg-stead. Grim was ten or eleven
years old, and strong for his age. But when they played together Egil got the
worst of it. And Grim made all he could of his advantage. Then Egil got angry
and lifted up the bat and struck Grim, whereupon Grim seized him and threw him
down with a heavy fall, and handled him rather roughly, and said he would
thrash him if he did not behave. But when Egil got to his feet, he went out of
the game, and the boys hooted at him.
Egil went to Thord and told him
what had been done. Thord said:
'I will go with you, and we
will be avenged on them.'
He gave into his hands a
halberd that he had been carrying. Such weapons were then customary. They went
where the boys' game was. Grim had now got the ball and was running away with
it, and the other boys after him. Then Egil bounded upon Grim, and drove the
axe into his head, so that it at once pierced his brain. After this Egil and
Thord went away to their own people. The Myramen ran to their weapons, and so
did either party. Oleif Halt, with his following, ran to help the Borgarmen,
who were thus far the larger number, and they parted without doing more. But
hence arose a quarrel between Oleif and Hegg. They fought at Laxfit, by
Grims-river; there seven men fell, but Hegg was wounded to death, and his brother
Kvig fell. But when Egil came home, Skallagrim said little about it; but Bera
said Egil had in him the makings of a freebooter, and that 'twould be well, so
soon as he were old enough, to give him a long-ship. Then Egil made a stave:
counselled my mother,
me should they purchase
galley and good oars
go forth a-roving.
may I high-standing,
noble barque steering,
course for the haven,
down many foemen.'
When Egil was twelve years old,
he was grown so big that there were but few men howso large and strong that he
could not overcome in games. In his twelfth winter he was often at games. Thord
Grani's son was then twenty years old; he was very strong. As the winter wore
on, if often chanced that the two, Egil and Thord, were matched against
Skallagrim. And once in the winter it so befell that there was ball-play at
Borg, southwards in Sandvik. Thord and Egil were set against Skallagrim in the
game; and he became weary before them, so that they had the best of it. But in
the evening after sunset it began to go worse with Egil and his partner.
Skallagrim then became so strong and he caught up Thord and dashed him down so
violently that he was all bruised and at once got his bane. Then he seized
Egil. Now there was a handmaid of Skallagrim's named Thorgerdr Brak, who had
nursed Egil when a child; she was a big woman, strong as a man, and of magic
cunning. Said Brak:
'Dost thou turn they
shape-strength, Skallagrim, against thy son?'
Whereat Skallagrim let Egil
loose, but clutched at her. She broke away and took to her heels with
Skallagrim after her. So went they to the utmost point of Digra-ness. Then she
leapt out from the rock into the water. Skallagrim hurled after her a great
stone, which struck her between the shoulders, and neither ever came up again.
The water there is now called Brakar-sound. But afterwards, in the evening,
when they came home to Borg, Egil was very angry. Skallagrim and everybody else
were set at table, but Egil had not yet come to his place. He went into the
fire-hall, and up to the man who there had the overseeing of work and the
management of moneys for Skallagrim, and was most dear to him. Egil dealt him
his deathblow, then went to his seat. Skallagrim spoke not a word about it then,
and thenceforward the matter was kept quiet. But father and son exchanged no
word good or bad, and so that winter passed.
The next summer after this
Thorolf came out, as was told above. And when he had been in Iceland one
winter, in the spring following he made ready his ship in Brakar-sound. But
when he was quite ready, then one day Egil went to his father, and asked him to
give him an outfit.
'I wish,' said he, 'to go out
Skallagrim asked if he had
spoken at all on that matter with Thorolf. Egil said he had not. Skallagrim
bade him do that first. But when Egil started the question with Thorolf, he
''Tis not likely that I shall
take you abroad with me; if your father thinks he cannot manage you here in his
house, I have no confidence for this, to take you with me to foreign lands; for
it will not do to show there such temper as you do here.'
'Maybe,' said Egil, 'neither of
us will go.'
In the night came on a furious
gale, a south-wester. But when it was dark, and now flood-tide, Egil came where
the ship lay. He went out on to the ship, and outside the tenting; he cut
asunder the cables that were on the seaward side; then, hurrying back to land
by the bridge, he at once shot out the bridge, and cut the cables that were
upon land. Then the ship was driven out into the firth. But when Thorolf's men
were aware that the ship was adrift, they jumped into the boat; but the wind
was far too strong for them to get anything done. The ship drifted over to
Duck-kyle, and on the islands there; but Egil went home to Borg.
And when people got to know of
the trick that Egil had played, the more part blamed it. Egil said he should
before long do Thorolf more harm and mischief if he would not take him away.
But then others mediated between them, and the end was that Thorolf took Egil,
and he went out with him that summer.
When Thorolf came on shipboard,
at once taking the axe which Skallagrim had given into his hands, he cast it
overboard into the deep so that it nevermore came up. Thorolf went his way in
the summer, and his voyage sped well, and they came out to Hordaland. He at
once stood northwards to Sogn. There it had happened in the winter that
Brynjolf had fallen sick and died, and his sons had shared the heritage. Thord
had Aurland, the estate on which his father had dwelt. He had become a
liege-man of the king, and was made a baron. Thord's daughter was named
Rannveig, the mother of Thord and Helgi, this Thord being father if Ingiridr
whom king Olaf had to wife. Helgi was father of Brynjolf, father of Serk, Sogn,
got for his portion another good and valuable homestead. He did not become a
liege-man of the king, wherefore he was called Bjorn Yeoman. He was right
wealthy, and a great man. No sooner did Thorolf come off the sea then he went
at once to Bjorn, and brought him Asgerdr his daughter. There was a joyful
meeting. Asgerdr was a most beautiful and accomplished woman, wise and right skilful.
Thorolf went to see king Eric.
And when they met, Thorolf greeted Eric from Skallagrim, and said that he had
thankfully received the king's gift. He then brought out a good long-ship's
sail, which he said Skallagrim had sent to the king. King Eric received the
gift well, and bade Thorolf be with him for the winter. For this Thorolf
thanked the king, but said: 'I must first go to Thorir; with him I have an
Then Thorolf went to Thorir, as
he had said, and met there a right hearty welcome. Thorir bade him be with him.
This Thorolf said he would accept; 'and there is,' said he, 'one with me who
must have lodging where I am; he is my brother, and he has never before been
away from home, and he needs that I look after him.'
Thorir said that Thorolf had
every right, if he would, to bring more men with him thither. 'Your brother,
too,' said he, 'we think, betters our company if he be at all like you.'
Then Thorolf went to his ship,
and had it drawn up and made snug, whereafter he and Egil went to lord Thorir.
Thorir had a son named Arinbjorn, who was somewhat older than Egil. Arinbjorn
early showed himself a manly fellow and a doughty. With Arinbjorn Egil struck
up a friendship, and was ever his follower. But between the brothers was rather
Thorolf asks Asgerdr to wife.
Skallagrim's son now sounded Thorir as to how he would take the matter should
Thorolf ask in marriage Asgerdr his kinswoman. Thorir welcomed this readily,
saying that he would be his pleader in this suit. Soon after Thorolf went north
to Sogn with a goodly company. He came to Bjorn's house, and was well received
there. Bjorn bade him be with him as long as he would. Thorolf speedily opened
to Bjorn his errand, and made his offer, asking Bjorn's daughter Asgerdr to
wife. This proposal Bjorn took well, his consent was easily won; and it was
settled that the betrothal should be there, and a day was fixed for the
wedding. The feast was to be at Bjorn's in the autumn.
Then Thorolf went back to
Thorir, and told him what had been done in his journey. Thorir was glad that
the match was to be made. But when the time came that Thorolf should go to the
feast, he bade men to go with him. First bade he Thorir and Arinbjorn and their
house-carles, and some rich yeoman; and for the journey there was a large and
But when the appointed day was
near at hand that Thorolf should leave home, and the bridesmen were now come,
then Egil fell sick, so that he could not go. Thorolf and his company had a
large long-ship well equipt, and went on their way as had been agreed.
Of Aulvir and Egil.
was a man named Aulvir, a house-carle of Thorir's, who was manager and bailiff
over his estate. He had the getting in of debts, and was treasurer. Aulvir was
past his youth, but was still quite a hale man. It so happened that Aulvir had
to leave home to get in some rents of Thorir's that had stood over from the
spring. He had a row-boat, on board which went twelve of Thorir's house-carles.
Just then Egil began to recover, and rose from his bed. He thought it was dull
work at home when everybody was gone away. So he spoke with Aulvir, and said he
would like to go with him. But Aulvir thought one good comrade would not
overload them, as there was enough ship-room. So Egil prepared to go. He had
his weapons, sword, halberd, and buckler.
They went their way when they
were ready. They had the wind blowing hard against them, and sharp gale and
troublesome; but they pursued their journey vigorously, taking to their oars.
And their progress was such, that on the evening of a day they came to
Atla-isle, and there put in to land. In this island, not far up from the shore,
was a large farm belonging to king Eric. The overlooker thereof was a man named
Bard. He was called Bard of Atla-isle, and was a good business man and worker;
not of high birth, but much prized by the king and Gunnhilda.
Aulvir and his men drew up
their ship beyond flood-tide mark. They then went to the farm buildings, and
found Bard outside, and told him of their journey, and withal that they would
fain be there for the night. Bard saw that they were very wet, and led them to
a fire-hall that stood apart from the other buildings. There he had a large
fire made for them, at which their clothes were dried. When they had put them
on again, Bard came in. 'Now will we,' said he, 'set you a table here. I know
you will be glad to sleep; you are weary from your wetting.'
Aulvir liked that well. Soon
the table was set, and food given them, bread and butter and large bowls of
curds set forth. Bard said: 'Right sorry am I that there is no ale in the
house, that I might receive you as I would; you will have to make out with what
Aulvir and his folk were very
thirsty, and drank up the curds. Then Bard had oat-drink brought in, and they
drank that. 'I should like,' said Bard, 'to give you better drink if I had
There was no lack of straw in
the room. Then he bade them lie down to sleep.
The slaying of Bard.
Eric and queen Gunnhilda came that same evening to Atla-isle, and Bard had
prepared there a banquet for the king; and there was to be there a sacrifice to
the guardian spirits. Sumptuous was the banquet, and great the drinking within
'Where is Bard?' asked the
king; 'I see him not.'
Someone said: 'Bard is outside
supplying his guests.'
'Who be these guests,' said the
king, 'that he deemeth this more a duty than to be here within waiting on us?'
The man said that some
house-carles of lord Thorir were come thither.
The king said: 'Go after them
at once, and call them in hither.'
And so it was done, with the
message that the king would fain see them.
Whereupon they came. The king
received Aulvir well, and bade him sit in the high-seat facing himself, and his
comrades outside him. They did so, Egil sitting next to Aulvir. Ale was then
served to them to drink. Many toasts went round, and a horn should be drunk to
But as the evening wore on,
many of Aulvir's companions became helpless. Some remained in the room, though
sick, some went out of doors. Bard busily plied them with drink. Then Egil took
the horn which Bard had offered to Aulvir, and drank it off. Bard said that
Egil was very thirsty, and brought him at once the horn again filled, and bade
him drink it off. Egil took the horn, and recited a stave:
of ale thou couldst allege,
at spirits' holy feast.
deceiver thee I find.
guests thou didst beguile,
thus thy churlish greed.
a niggard base art thou,
trick on such to play.'
Bard bade him drink and stop
that jeering. Egil drained every cup that came to him, drinking for Aulvir
likewise. Then Bard went to the queen and told her there was a man there who
put shame on them, for, howsoever much he drank, he still said he was thirsty.
The queen and Bard then mixed the drink with poison, and bare it in. Bard
consecrated the cup, then gave it to the ale-maid. She carried it to Egil, and
bade him drink. Egil then drew his knife and pricked the palm of his hand. He
took the horn, scratched runes thereon, and smeared blood in them. He sang:
we runes around the horn,
all the spell with blood;
words choose I for the cup
from branching horn of beast.
we then, as drink we will,
that cheerful bearer brings,
that health abides in ale,
ale that Bard hath bless'd.'
The horn burst asunder in the
midst, and the drink was spilt on the straw below. Then Aulvir began to be
faint. So Egil stood up, took Aulvir by the hand, and led him to the door. Egil
shifted his cloak to his left side, and under the mantle held his sword. But
when they came to the door, then came Bard after them with a full horn, and
bade them drink a farewell cup. Egil stood in the door. He took the horn and
drank it off; then recited a stave:
is borne to me, for ale
now maketh pale.
ox-horn I let pour
my lips the shower.
blind they fate to see
thou bring'st on thee:
soon from Odin's thane
thou deadly rain.'
With that Egil threw down the
horn, but gripped his sword and drew; it was dark in the room. He thrust Bard
right through the middle with the sword, so that the point went out at the
back. Bard fell dead, the blood welling from the wound. Aulvir fell too, vomiting.
Then Egil dashed out of the room; it was pitch dark outside. Egil at once ran
off from the buildings. But in the entrance-room it was now seen that Bard and
Aulvir were fallen.
Then came the king, and bade
them bring light; whereupon they saw what had happened, that Aulvir lay there
senseless; but Bard was slain, and the floor all streaming with blood. Then the
king asked where was that big man who had drunk most that evening. Men said
that he had gone out.
'Seek him,' said the king, 'and
bring him to me.'
Search was made for him round
the premises, but nowhere was he found. But when they came to the detached
fire-hall, there lay Aulvir's comrades. The king's men asked if Egil had come
there at all. They said that he had run in, taken his weapons, and so out
This was told to the king. The
king bade his men go with all speed and seize every ship or boat on the island.
'But in the morning,' said he,
'when it is light, we must search all the island and slay the man.'
Flight of Egil.
went in the night and sought the places where boats were. But wheresoever he
came to the strand, men were always there before him. He went thus through the
whole night, and found never a boat. But when day dawned, he was standing on a
certain ness. He saw then another island, and between him and it lay a very
wide sound. This was then his counsel: he took helmet, sword, and spear,
breaking off the spear-shaft and casting it out into the sea; but the weapons
he wrapped round in his cloak and made thereof a bundle which he bound on his
back. Then he plunged into the water, nor stayed his swimming till he came to
the island. It was called Sheppey; it was an island of no great size covered
with brushwood. There were cattle on it, both sheep and oxen, belonging to
Atla-isle. But when he came to the island, he wrung his clothes dry.
By this time it was broad daylight, and the sun was risen. King Eric had
Atla-island well searched as soon as it was light; this took some time, the
island being large, and Egil was not found. Then the king made them row to
other islands and seek him. It was evening when twelve men rowed to Sheppey.
They were to look for Egil, and had also to bring from thence some cattle for
slaughter. Egil saw the boat coming to the island; he then lay down and hid
himself in the brushwood before the boat came to land. They left three men
behind with the boat; but nine went up, and they separated into three search
parties, with three in each. But when a rise in the ground was between them and
the boat, then Egil stood up (having before got his weapons ready), and made
straight across for the sea, and then along the shore. They who guarded the
boat were not aware of it till Egil was upon them. He at once smote one with a
death-blow; but another took to his heels, and he had to leap up something of a
bank. Egil followed him with a blow cutting off his foot. The third man leapt
out into the boat, and pushed off with the pole. Egil drew the boat to him with
the rope, and leapt out into it. Few blows were exchanged ere Egil slew him,
and pushed him overboard. Then he took oars and rowed the boat away. He went
all that night and the day after, nor stayed till he came to lord Thorir's.
As for Aulvir and his comrades, the king let them go in peace, as guiltless in
But the men who were in Sheppey were there for many nights, and killed cattle
for food, and made a fire and cooked them, and piled a large fuel-heap on the
side of the island looking towards Atla-isle, and set fire thereto, and let
folk know their plight. When that was seen, men rowed out to them, and brought
to land those who yet lived.
The king was by this time gone away; he went to another banquet.
But of Aulvir there is this to be told, that he reached home before Egil, and
Thorolf and Thorir had come home even before that. Aulvir told the tidings, the
slaying of Bard and the rest that had there befallen, but of Egil's goings
since he knew nothing. Thorolf was much grieved hereat, as also was Arinbjorn;
they thought that Egil would return nevermore. But the next morning Egil came
home. Which when Thorolf knew, he rose up and went out to meet him, and asked
in what way he had escaped, and what tidings had befallen in his journey. Then
Egil recited this stave:
'From Norway king's keeping,
From craft of Gunnhilda,
So I freed me (nor flaunt I
That three, whom but I wot not,
The warrior king's liege-men,
Lie dead, to the high hall
Of Hela downsped.'
Arinbjorn spoke well of this
work, and said to his father that he would be bound to atone Egil with the
Thorir said, 'It will be the common verdict that Bard got his desert in being
slain; yet hath Egil wrought too much after the way of his kin, in looking
little before him and braving a king's wrath, which most men find a heavy
burden. However, I will atone you, Egil, with the king for this time.'
Thorir went to find the king, but Arinbjorn remained at home and declared that
one lot should befall them all. But when Thorir came to the king, he offered
terms for Egil, his own bail, while the king should doom the fine. King Eric
was very wroth, and it was hard to come to speech with him; he said that what
his father had said would prove true—that family would never be trustworthy. He
bade Thorir arrange it thus: 'Though I accept some atonement, Egil shall not be
long harboured in my realm. But for the sake of thy intercession, Thorir, I
will take a money fine for this man.' The king fixed such fine as he thought
fit; Thorir paid it all and went home.
Of Thorolf's and Egil's harrying.
and Egil stayed that winter with Thorir, and were made much of. But in spring
they got ready a large war-ship and gathered men thereto, and in summer they
went the eastern way and harried; there won they much wealth and had many
battles. They held on even to Courland, and made a peace for half a month with
the men of the land and traded with them. But when this was ended, then they
took to harrying, and put in at divers places. One day they put in at the mouth
of a large river, where was an extensive forest upon land. They resolved to go
up the country, dividing their force into companies of twelve. They went
through the wood, and it was not long before they came to peopled parts. There
they plundered and slew men, but the people fled, till at last there was no
resistance. But as the day wore on, Thorolf had the blast sounded to recall his
men down to the shore. Then each turned back from where they were into the
wood. But when Thorolf mustered his force, Egil and his company had not come
down; and the darkness of night was closing in, so that they could not, as they
thought, look for him.
Now Egil and his twelve had gone through a wood and then saw wide plains and
tillage. Hard by them stood a house. For this they made, and when they came
there they ran into the house, but could see no one there. They took all the
loose chattels that they came upon. There were many rooms, so this took them a
long time. But when they came out and away from the house, an armed force was
there between them and the wood, and this attacked them. High palings ran from
the house to the wood; to these Egil bade them keep close, that they might not be
come at from all sides. They did so. Egil went first, then the rest, one behind
the other, so near that none could come between.
The Courlanders attacked them vigorously, but mostly with spears and javelins,
not coming to close quarters. Egil's party going forward along the fence did
not find out till too late that another line of palings ran along on the other
side, the space between narrowing till there was a bend and all progress
barred. The Courlanders pursued after them into this pen, while some set on
them from without, thrusting javelins and swords through the palings, while
others cast clothes on their weapons. Egil's party were wounded, and after that
taken, and all bound, and so brought home to the farmhouse.
The owner of that farm was a powerful and wealthy man; he had a son grown up.
Now they debated what they should do with their prisoners. The goodman said
that he thought this were best counsel, to kill them one on the heels of
another. His son said that the darkness of night was now closing in, and no
sport was thus gotten by their torture; he bade them be let bide till the
morning. So they were thrust into a room and strongly bound. Egil was bound
hand and foot to a post. Then the room was strongly locked, and the Courlanders
went into the dining-hall, ate, drank, and were merry.
Egil strained and worked at the post till he loosed it up from the floor. Then
the post fell, and Egil slipped himself off it. Next he loosed his hands with
his teeth. But when his hands were loose, he loosed therewith the bonds from
his feet. And then he freed his comrades; but when they were all loosed they
searched round for the likeliest place to get out. The room was made with walls
of large wooden beams, but at one end thereof was a smooth planking. At this
they dashed and broke it through. They had now come into another room; this too
had walls of wooden beams. Then they heard men's voices below under their feet.
Searching about they found a trapdoor in the floor, which they opened.
Thereunder was a deep vault; down in it they heard men's voices. Then asked
Egil what men were these. He who answered named himself Aki. Would he like to
come up, asked Egil. Aki answered, they would like it much.
Then Egil and his comrades lowered into the vault the rope with which they had
been bound, and drew up thence three men. Aki said that these were his two
sons, and they were Danes, who had been made prisoners of war last summer.
'I was,' he said, 'well treated through the winter, and had the chief care of
the goodman's property; but the lads were enslaved and had a hard lot. In
spring we made up our minds to run away, but were retaken. Then we were cast
into this vault.'
'You must know all about the plan of this house,' said Egil; 'where have we the
best hope to get out?'
Aki said that there was another plank partition: 'Break you up that, you will
then come into a corn-store, whereout you may go as you will.'
Egil's men did so; they broke up the planking, came into the granary, and
thence out. It was pitch dark.
Then said Egil's comrades that they should hasten to the wood. But Egil said to
Aki, 'If you know the house here, you can show us the way to some plunder.'
Aki said there was no lack of chattels. 'Here is a large loft in which the
goodman sleeps; therein is no stint of weapons.'
Egil bade them go to that loft. But when they came to the staircase head they
saw that the loft was open. A light was inside, and servants, who were making
the beds. Egil bade some stay outside and watch that none came out. Egil ran
into the loft, seized weapons, of which there was no lack. They slew all the
men that were in there, and they armed themselves fully. Aki went to a trapdoor
in the floor and opened it, telling them that they should go down by this to
the store-room below. They got a light and went thither. It was the goodman's
treasury; there were many costly things, and much silver. There the men took
them each a load and carried it out. Egil took under his arm a large mead-cask,
and bare it so.
But when they came to the wood, then Egil stopped, and he said:
'This our going is all wrong, and not warlike. We have stolen the goodman's
property without his knowing thereof. Never ought that shame to be ours. Go we
back to the house, and let him know what hath befallen.'
All spoke against that, saying they would make for the ship.
Egil set down the mead-cask, then ran off, and sped him to the house. But when
he came there, he saw that serving-lads were coming out of the kitchen with
dishes and bearing them to the dining-hall. In the kitchen (he saw) was a large
fire and kettles thereon. Thither he went. Great beams had been brought home
and lighted, as was the custom there, by setting fire to the beam-end and so
burning it lengthwise. Egil seized a beam, carried it to the dining-hall, and
thrust the burning end under the eaves, and so into the birch bark of the roof,
which soon caught fire. Some fagot-wood lay hard by; this Egil brought and
piled before the hall-door. This quickly caught fire. But those who sate
drinking within did not find it out till the flame burst in round the roof.
Then they rushed to the door; but there was no easy way out, both by reason of
the fagot-wood, and because Egil kept the door, and slew most who strove to
pass out either in the doorway or outside.
The goodman asked who had the care of the fire.
Egil answered, 'He has now the care of the fire whom you yester-even had
thought least likely; nor will you wish to bake you hotter than I shall kindle;
you shall have soft bath before soft bed, such as you meant to give to me and
my comrades. Here now is that same Egil whom you bound hand and foot to the
post in that room you shut so carefully. I will repay you your hospitality as
At this the goodman thought to steal out in the dark, but Egil was near, and
dealt him his death-blow, as he did to many others. Brief moment was it ere the
hall so burned that it fell in. Most of those who were within perished.
But Egil went back to the wood, where he found his comrades, and they all went
together to the ship. Egil said he would have the mead-cask which he carried as
his own special prize; it proved to be full of silver. Thorolf and his men were
overjoyed when Egil came down. They put out from land as soon as day dawned;
Aki and his two sons were with Egil's following. They sailed in the summer, now
far spent, to Denmark, where they lay in wait for merchant-ships, and plundered
when they got the chance.
Of the further harrying of Thorolf and Egil.
Gormsson had then taken the kingdom in Denmark, his father Gorm being now dead.
The land was then open to harrying; freebooters often lay off the Danish coast.
Aki knew Denmark well both by sea and land. So Egil inquired of him diligently
where the places were that promised good booty. But when they came to
Eyrar-sound, then Aki said that up on land there was a large trading town named
Lundr; there, he said, was hope of plunder, but 'twas likely that the townsmen
would make resistance.
The question was put before the men whether they should go up or not. Opinions
were much divided, some liking, some letting it; then the matter was referred
to the leaders. Thorolf was rather for going up. Then Egil was asked what
counsel he thought good. He recited a stave:
we high gleaming swords.
deeds well beseem.
up to Lundr:
laggards be none!
sunset shall sound.'
After that they made them ready to go up, and they came to the town. But when
the townsmen were aware of the enemy's coming, they made against them. A wooden
wall was round the town; they set men to guard this. A very fierce battle was
there fought. Egil, with his following, charged fiercely on the gate nor spared
himself. There was a great slaughter, the townsmen falling one upon another. It
is said that Egil first entered the town, the others following. Then those of
the town fled, and great was the slaughter. But Thorolf and his company
plundered the town and took much wealth, and fired the buildings before they
left. Then they went down to their ships.
Of the banquet at earl Arnfid's.
stood northwards with his force past Holland, and they put into a harbour
there, as the wind drove them back. They did not plunder there. A little way up
the country dwelt an earl named Arnfid. But when he heard that freebooters had
come to land there, he sent his men to meet them with this errand, to know
whether they wished for peace or war. Upon the messengers' coming to Thorolf
with their errand, he said that they would not harry there, that there was no need
to harry there or come with warshield, the land being not wealthy. The
messengers went back to the earl, and told him the issue of their errand: but
when the earl knew that he need not gather men for this cause, then he rode
down without any armed force to meet the freebooters. When they met, all went
well at the conference. The earl bade Thorolf to a banquet with him, and as
many of his men as he would. Thorolf promised to go.
On the appointed day the earl had riding-horses sent down to meet them. Thorolf
and Egil went, and they had thirty men with them. When they came to the earl,
he received them well; they were led into the dining-hall. At once beer was
brought in and given them to drink. They sate there till evening.
But before the tables were removed the earl said that they should cast lots to
drink together in pairs, man and woman, so far as numbers would allow, but the
odd ones by themselves. They cast then their lots into the skirt of a cloak,
and the earl drew them out. The earl had a very beautiful daughter then in the
flower of youth; the lot decreed that Egil should sit by her for the evening.
She was going about the floor of the hall amusing herself. Egil stood up and
went to the place in which the earl's daughter had sat during the day. But when
all took their several seats, then the earl's daughter went to her place. She
said in verse:
sittest in my seat, youth?
seldom sure hast given
wolf his warm flesh-banquet.
I will mine own.
carrion course thou heard'st not
hoarse the joying raven,
wentest where sword-edges
warfare madly met.'
Egil took her, and set her down by him. He sang:
bloody brand on-striding
bird of bane hath followed:
hurtling spear hath sounded
the swift Vikings' charge.
wrathfully our battle,
fire o'er foemen's rooftrees;
sleepeth many a warrior
in the city gate.'
They two then drank together for the evening, and were right merry. The banquet
was of the best, on that day and on the morrow. Then the rovers went to their
ships, they and the earl parting in friendship with exchange of gifts.
Thorolf with his force then stood for the Brenn-islands. At that time these
were a great lair of freebooters, because through the islands sailed many
merchant-ships. Aki went home to his farms, and his sons with him. He was a
very wealthy man, owning several farms in Jutland. He and Thorolf parted with
affection, and pledged them to close friendship. But as autumn came on, Thorolf
and his men sailed northward along the Norway coast till they reached the
Firths, then went to lord Thorir.
He received them well, but Arinbjorn his son much better, who asked Egil to be
there for the winter. Egil took this offer with thanks. But when Thorir knew of
Arinbjorn's offer, he called it rather a hasty speech. 'I know not,' said he,
'how king Eric may like that; for after the slaying of Bard he said that he
would not have Egil be here in the land.'
'You, father, can easily manage this with the king,' said Arinbjorn, 'so that
he will not blame Egil's stay. You will ask Thorolf, your niece's husband, to be
here; I and Egil will have one winter home.'
Thorir saw from this talk that Arinbjorn would have his way in this. So father
and son offered Thorolf winter-home there, which he accepted. They were there
through the winter with twelve men.
Two brothers there were named Thorvald Proud and Thorfid Strong, near kinsmen
of Bjorn Yeoman, and brought up with him. Tall men they were and strong, of
much energy and forward daring. They followed Bjorn so long as he went out
roving; but when he settled down in quiet, then these brothers went to Thorolf,
and were with him in his harrying; they were forecastle men in his ship. And
when Egil took command of a ship, then Thorfid was his forecastle man. These
brothers followed Thorolf throughout, and he valued them most of his crew.
They were of his company this winter, and sate next to the two brothers.
Thorolf sate in the high seat over against Thorir, and drank with him; Egil
sate as cup-mate over against Arinbjorn. At all toasts the cup must cross the
Lord Thorir went in the autumn to king Eric. The king received him exceedingly
well. But when they began to talk together, Thorir begged the king not to take
it amiss that he had Egil with him that winter. The king answered this well; he
said that Thorir might get from him what he would, but it should not have been
so had any other man harboured Egil. But when Gunnhilda heard what they were
talking of, then said she: 'This I think, Eric, that 'tis now going again as it
has gone often before; thou lendest easy ear to talk, nor bearest long in mind
the ill that is done thee. And now thou wilt bring forward the sons of
Skallagrim to this, that they will yet again smite down some of thy near kin.
But though thou mayest choose to think Bard's slaying of no account, I think not
The king answered: 'Thou, Gunnhilda, more than others provokest me to
savageness; yet time was when thou wert on better terms with Thorolf than now.
However I will not take back my word about those brothers.'
'Thorolf was well here,' said she, 'before Egil made him bad; but now I reckon
no odds between them.'
Thorir went home when he was ready, and told the brothers the words of the king
and of the queen.
Slaying of Thorvald Proud.
Eyvind Skreyja and Alf were the names of two brothers
of Gunnhilda, sons of Auzur Toti. They were tall and strong, and great traders.
They were then made much of by king Eric and Gunnhilda. Not generally liked
were they; at this time they were young, but fully grown to manhood. It so
befell in the spring that a great sacrifice was fixed to be held in the summer
at Gaular. Here was the most renowned chief temple. Thither flocked numbers
from the firths and from the fells, and from Sogn, and almost all the great
men. King Eric went thither. Then spoke Gunnhilda with her brothers: 'I would
fain that you two should so manage matters in this crowded gathering, that ye
get to slay one of the two sons of Skallagrim, or, better still, both.'
They said it should be done.
Lord Thorir made ready to go thither. He called Arinbjorn to speak with him.
'Now will I,' said he, 'go to the sacrifice, but I will not that Egil go
thither. I know the craft of Gunnhilda, the vehemence of Egil, the power of the
king; no easy task were it to watch these all at once. But Egil will not let
himself be hindered, unless you stay behind. Now Thorolf and the rest of his
company shall go with me; Thorolf shall sacrifice and pray for happiness for
his brother as well as himself.'
Whereupon Arinbjorn told Egil that he meant to stay at home; 'and you shall be
with me,' said he.
Egil agreed that it should be so.
But Thorir and the rest went to sacrifice, and a very great multitude was
there, and there was much drinking. Thorolf went with Thorir wheresoever he
went, and they never were apart day or night. Eyvind told Gunnhilda that he
could get no chance at Thorolf. She bade him then slay some one of Thorolf's
men rather than let everything fail.
It chanced one evening, when the king had gone to rest, as had also Thorir and
Thorolf, but Thorfid and Thorvald still sate up, that the two brothers Eyvind
and Alf came and sat down by them, and were very merry. First they drank as one
drinking-party; but presently it came to this, that each should drink half a
horn, Eyvind and Thorvald being paired together to drink, and Alf and Thorfid.
Now as the evening wore on there was unfair drinking; next followed bandying of
words, then insulting language. Then Eyvind jumped up, drew a sword, and thrust
at Thorvald, dealing him a wound that was his death. Whereupon up jumped on
either side the king's men and Thorir's house-carles. But men were all
weaponless in there, because it was sanctuary. Men went between and parted them
who were most furious; nor did anything more happen that evening.
Eyvind had slain a man on holy ground; he was therefore made accursed, and had
to go abroad at once. The king offered a fine for the man; but Thorolf and
Thorfid said they never had taken man-fine, and would not take this. With that
they parted. Thorir and his company went home. King Eric and Gunnhilda sent
Eyvind south to Denmark to king Harold Gormsson, for he might not now abide on
Norwegian soil. The king received him and his comrades well: Eyvind brought to
Denmark a large war-ship. He then appointed Eyvind to be his coastguard there
against freebooters, for Eyvind was a right good warrior.
In the spring following that winter Thorolf and Egil made them ready to go
again a-freebooting. And when ready, they again stood for the eastern way. But
when they came to Vik, they sailed then south along Jutland, and harried there;
then went to Friesland, where they stayed for a great part of the summer; but
then stood back for Denmark. But when they came to the borderland where Denmark
and Friesland meet, and lay by the land there, so it was that one evening when
they on shipboard were preparing for sleep, two men came to Egil's ship, and
said they had an errand to him. They were brought before him. They said that
Aki the wealthy had sent them thither with this message: 'Eyvind Skreyja is lying
out off Jutland-side, and thinks to waylay you as you come from the south. And
he has gathered such large force as ye cannot withstand if ye encounter it all
at once; but he himself goes with two light vessels, and he is even now here
close by you.'
But when these tidings came before Egil, at once he and his took down their
tenting. He bade them go silently; they did so. They came at dawn to where
Eyvind and his men lay at anchor; they set upon them at once, hurling both
stones and spears. Many of Eyvind's force fell there; but he himself leapt
overboard and got to land by swimming, as did all those of his men who escaped.
But Egil took his ships, cargo, and weapons.
They went back that day to their own company, and met Thorolf. He asked wither
Egil had gone, and where he had gotten those ships with which they came. Egil
said that Eyvind Skreyja had had the ships, but they had taken them from him.
Then sang Egil:
struggle sternly hard
strove off Jutland-side:
did the warrior fight,
of Denmark's realm.
with his wights o'erborne,
from wave-horse high
swim and seek the sand
Eyvind Skreyja leapt.'
Thorolf said: 'Herein ye have so wrought, methinks, that it will not serve us
as our autumn plan to go to Norway.'
Egil said it was quite as well, though they should seek some other place.
Of Athelstan king of the English.
Alfred the Great ruled England, being of his family
the first supreme king over England. That was in the days of Harold Fairhair,
king of Norway. After Alfred, Edward his son was king in England. He was father
of Athelstan the Victorious, who was foster-father of Hacon the Good. It was at
this time of our story that Athelstan took the kingdom after his father. There
were several brothers sons of Edward.
But when Athelstan had taken the kingdom, then those chieftains who had before
lost their power to his forefathers rose in rebellion; now they thought was the
easiest time to claim back their own, when a young king ruled the realm. These
were Britons, Scots, and Irish. King Athelstan therefore gathered him an army,
and gave pay to all such as wished to enrich themselves, both foreigners and
The brothers Thorolf and Egil were standing southwards along Saxony and
Flanders, when they heard that the king of England wanted men, and that there
was in his service hope of much gain. So they resolved to take their force
thither. And they went on that autumn till they came to king Athelstan. He
received them well; he saw plainly that such followers would be a great help.
Full soon did the English king decide to ask them to join him, to take pay
there, and become defenders of his land. They so agreed between them that they
became king Athelstan's men.
England was thoroughly Christian in faith, and had long been so, when these
things happened. King Athelstan was a good Christian; he was called Athelstan
the Faithful. The king asked Thorolf and his brother to consent to take the
first signing with the cross, for this was then a common custom both with
merchants and those who took soldiers' pay in Christian armies, since those who
were 'prime-signed' (as 'twas termed) could hold all intercourse with
Christians and heathens alike, while retaining the faith which was most to
their mind. Thorolf and Egil did this at the king's request, and both let
themselves be prime-signed. They had three hundred men with them who took the
Of Olaf king of Scots.
Olaf the Red was the name of the king in Scotland. He
was Scotch on his father's side, but Danish on his mother's side, and came of
the family of Ragnar Hairy-breeks. He was a powerful prince. Scotland, as
compared with England, was reckoned a third of the realm; Northumberland was
reckoned a fifth part of England; it was the northernmost county, marching with
Scotland on the eastern side of the island. Formerly the Danish kings had held
it. Its chief town is York. It was in Athelstan's dominions; he had set over it
two earls, the one named Alfgeir, the other Gudrek. They were set there as
defenders of the land against the inroads of Scots, Danes, and Norsemen, who
harried the land much, and though they had a strong claim on the land there,
because in Northumberland nearly all the inhabitants were Danish by the
father's or mother's side, and many by both.
Bretland was governed by two brothers, Hring and Adils; they were tributaries
under king Athelstan, and withal had this right, that when they were with the
king in the field, they and their force should be in the van of the battle
before the royal standard. These brothers were right good warriors, but not young
Alfred the Great had deprived all tributary kings of name and power; they were
now called earls, who had before been kings or princes. This was maintained
throughout his lifetime and his son Edward's. But Athelstan came young to the
kingdom, and of him they stood less in awe. Wherefore many now were disloyal
who had before been faithful subjects.
Of the gathering of the host.
Olaf king of Scots, drew together a mighty host, and
marched upon England. When he came to Northumberland, he advanced with shield
of war. On learning this, the earls who ruled there mustered their force and
went against the king. And when they met there was a great battle, whereof the
issue was that king Olaf won the victory, but earl Gudrek fell, and Alfgeir fled
away, as did the greater part of the force that had followed them and escaped
from the field. And now king Olaf found no further resistance, but subdued all
Alfgeir went to king Athelstan, and told him of his defeat. But as soon as king
Athelstan heard that so mighty a host was come into his land, he despatched men
and summoned forces, sending word to his earls and other nobles. And with such
force as he had he at once turned him and marched against the Scots. But when
it was bruited about that Olaf king of Scots had won a victory and subdued
under him a large part of England, he soon had a much larger army than
Athelstan, for many nobles joined him. And on learning this, Hring and Adils,
who had gathered much people, turned to swell king Olaf's army. Thus their
numbers became exceeding great.
All this when Athelstan learned, he summoned to conference his captains and his
counsellors; he inquired of them what were best to do; he told the whole
council point by point what he had ascertained about the doings of the Scots'
king and his numbers. All present were agreed on this, that Alfgeir was most to
blame, and thought it were but his due to lose his earldom. But the plan
resolved on was this, that king Athelstan should go back to the south of England,
and then for himself hold a levy of troops, coming northwards through the whole
land; for they saw that the only way for the needful numbers to be levied in
time was for the king himself to gather the force.
As for the army already assembled, the king set over it as commanders Thorolf
and Egil. They were also to lead that force which the freebooters had brought
to the king. But Alfgeir still held command over his own troops. Further, the
king appointed such captains of companies as he thought fit.
When Egil returned from the council to his fellows, they asked him what tidings
he could tell them of the Scots' king. He sang:
one earl by furious
in flight hath driven,
other slain: a sovereign
in fight is he.
the field fared Gudrek
path to his undoing.
holds, this foe of England,
After this they sent messengers to king Olaf, giving out this as their errand,
that king Athelstan would fain enhazel him a field and offer battle on
Vin-heath by Vin-wood; meanwhile he would have them forbear to harry his land;
but of the twain he should rule England who should conquer in the battle. He
appointed a week hence for the conflict, and whichever first came on the ground
should wait a week for the other. Now this was then the custom, that so soon as
a king had enhazelled a field, it was a shameful act to harry before the battle
was ended. Accordingly king Olaf halted and harried not, but waited till the
appointed day, when he moved his army to Vin-heath.
North of the heath stood a town. There in the town king Olaf quartered him, and
there he had the greatest part of his force, because there was a wide district
around which seemed to him convenient for the bringing in of such provisions as
the army needed. But he sent men of his own up to the heath where the battlefield
was appointed; these were to take camping-ground, and make all ready before the
army came. But when the men came to the place where the field was enhazelled,
there were all the hazel-poles set up to mark the ground where the battle
The place ought to be chosen level, and whereon a large host might be set in
array. And such was this; for in the place where the battle was to be the heath
was level, with a river flowing on one side, on the other a large wood. But
where the distance between the wood and the river was least (though this was a
good long stretch), there king Athelstan's men had pitched, and their tents
quite filled the space between wood and river. They had so pitched that in
every third tent there were no men at all, and in one of every three but few.
Yet when king Olaf's men came to them, they had then numbers swarming before
all the tents, and the others could not get to go inside. Athelstan's men said
that their tents were all full, so full that their people had not nearly enough
room. But the front line of tents stood so high that it could not be seen over
them whether they stood many or few in depth. Olaf's men imagined a vast host
must be there. King Olaf's men pitched north of the hazel-poles, toward which
side the ground sloped a little.
From day to day Athelstan's men said that the king would come, or was come, to
the town that lay south of the heath. Meanwhile forces flocked to them both day
But when the appointed time had expired, then Athelstan's men sent envoys to
king Olaf with these words: 'King Athelstan is ready for battle, and had a
mighty host. But he sends to king Olaf these words, that he would fain they
should not cause so much bloodshed as now looks likely; he begs Olaf rather to
go home to Scotland, and Athelstan will give him as a friendly gift one
shilling of silver from every plough through all his realm, and he wishes that
they should become friends.'
When the messengers came to Olaf he was just beginning to make ready his army,
and purposing to attack. But on the messengers declaring their errand, he
forebore to advance for that day. Then he and his captains sate in council.
Wherein opinions were much divided. Some strongly desired that these terms
should be taken; they said that this journey had already won them great honour,
if they should go home after receiving so much money from Athelstan. But some
were against it, saying that Athelstan would offer much more the second time,
were this refused. And this latter counsel prevailed. Then the messengers
begged king Olaf to give them time to go back to king Athelstan, and try if he
would pay yet more money to ensure peace. They asked a truce of one day for
their journey home, another for deliberation, a third to return to Olaf. The
king granted them this.
The messengers went home, and came back on the third day according to promise;
they now said to king Olaf that Athelstan would give all that he offered
before, and over and above, for distribution among king Olaf's soldiers, a
shilling to every freeborn man, a silver mark to every officer of a company of
twelve men or more, a gold mark to every captain of the king's guard, and five
gold marks to every earl. Then the king laid this offer before his forces. It
was again as before; some opposed this, some desired it. In the end the king
gave a decision: he said he would accept these terms, if this too were added,
that king Athelstan let him have all Northumberland with the tributes and dues
thereto belonging. Again the messengers ask armistice of three days, with this
further, that king Olaf should send his men to hear Athelstan's answer, whether
he would take these terms or no; they say that to their thinking Athelstan will
hardly refuse anything to ensure peace. King Olaf agreed to this and sent his men
to king Athelstan.
Then the messengers ride all together, and find king Athelstan in the town that
was close to the heath on the south. King Olaf's messengers declare before
Athelstan their errand and the proposals for peace. King Athelstan's men told also
with what offers they had gone to king Olaf, adding that this had been the
counsel of wise men, thus to delay the battle so long as the king had not come.
But king Athelstan made a quick decision on this matter, and thus bespake the
messengers: 'Bear ye these my words to king Olaf, that I will give him leave
for this, to go home to Scotland with his forces; only let him restore all the
property that he has wrongfully taken here in the land. Then make we peace
between our lands, neither harrying the other. Further be it provided that king
Olaf shall become my vassal, and hold Scotland for me, and be my under-king. Go
now back,' said he, 'and tell him this.'
At once that same evening the messengers turned back on their way, and came to
king Olaf about midnight; they then waked up the king, and told him straightway
the words of king Athelstan. The king instantly summoned his earls and other
captains; he then caused the messengers to come and declare the issue of their
errand and the words of Athelstan. But when this was made known before the
soldiers, all with one mouth said that this was now before them, to prepare for
battle. The messengers said this too, that Athelstan had a numerous force, but
he had come into the town on that same day when the messengers came there.
Then spoke earl Adils, 'Now, methinks, that has come to pass, O king, which I
said, that ye would find tricksters in the English. We have sat here long time
and waited while they have gathered to them all their forces, whereas their
king can have been nowhere near when we came here. They will have been
assembling a multitude while we were sitting still. Now this is my counsel, O
king, that we two brothers ride at once forward this very night with our troop.
It may be they will have no fear for themselves, now they know that their king
is near with a large army. So we shall make a dash upon them. But if they turn
and fly, they will lose some of their men, and be less bold afterwards for
conflict with us.'
The king thought this good counsel. 'We will here make ready our army,' said
he, 'as soon as it is light, and move to support you.'
This plan they fixed upon, and so ended the council.
Of the fight.
Earl Hring and Adils his brother made ready their
army, and at once in the night moved southwards for the heath. But when day
dawned, Thorolf's sentries saw the army approaching. Then was a war-blast
blown, and men donned their arms selects spirited and that they began to draw
up the force, and they had two divisions. Earl Alfgeir commanded one division,
and the standard was borne before him. In that division were his own followers,
and also what force had been gathered from the countryside. It was a much
larger fours than that which followed Thorolf and Egil.
Thorolf was thus armed. He had a shield ample and stout, a right strong helmet
on his head; he was girded with the sword that he called Long, a weapon large
and good. If his hand he had a halberd, whereof the feather-formed blade was
two ells long, ending in a four-edged spike; the blade was broad above, the
socket both long and thick. The shaft stood just high enough for the hand to
grasp the socket, and was remarkably thick. The socket fitted with iron prong
on the shaft, which was also wound round with iron. Such weapons were called
Egil was armed in the same way as Thorolf. He was girded with the sword that he
called Adder; this he had gotten in Courland; it was a right good weapon.
Neither of the two had shirt of mail.
They set up their standard, which was borne by Thofid the Strong. All their men
had Norwegian shields and Norwegian armour in every point; and in their
division were all the Norsemen who were present. Thorolf's force was drawn up
near the wood, Alfgeir's moved along the river.
Earl Adils and his brother saw that they would not come upon Thorolf unawares,
so they began to draw up their force. They also made two divisions, and had two
standards. Adils was opposed to earl Alfgeir, Hring to the freebooters. The
battle now began; both charged with spirit. Earl Adils pressed on hard and fast
till Alfgeir gave ground; then Adils' men pressed on twice as boldly. Nor was
it long before Alfgeir fled. And this is to be told of him, that he rode away
south over the heath, and a company of men with him. He rode till he came near
the town, where sate the king.
Then spake the earl: 'I deem it not safe for us to enter the town. We got sharp
words of late when we came to the king after defeat by king Olaf; and he will
not think our case bettered by this coming. No need to expect honour where he
Then he rode to the south country, and of his travel 'tis to be told that he
rode night and day till he and his came westwards to Earls-ness. Then the earl
got a ship to take him southwards over the sea; and he came to France, where
half of his kin were. He never after returned to England.
Adils at first pursued the flying foe, but not far; then he turned back to
where the battle was, and made an onset there. This when Thorolf saw, he said
that Egil should turn and encounter him, and bade the standard be borne that
way; his men he bade hold well together and stand close.
'Move we to the wood,' said he, 'and let it cover our back, so that they may
not come at us from all sides.'
They did so; they followed along the wood. Fierce was the battle there. Egil
charged against Adils, and they had a hard fight of it. The odds of numbers
were great, yet more of Adils' men fell than of Egil's.
Then Thorolf became so furious that he cast his shield on his back, and,
grasping his halberd with both hands, bounded forward dealing cut and thrust on
either side. Men sprang away from him both ways, but he slew many. Thus he
cleared the way forward to earl Hring's standard, and then nothing could stop
him. He slew the man who bore the earl's standard, and cut down the
standard-pole. After that he lunged with his halberd at the earl's breast,
driving it right through mail-coat and body, so that it came out at the
shoulders; and he lifted him up on the halberd over his head, and planted the
butt-end in the ground. There on the weapon the earl breathed out his life in
sight of all, both friends and foes. Then Thorolf drew his sword and dealt
blows on either side, his men also charging. Many Britons and Scots fell, but
some turned and fled.
But earl Adils seeing his brother's fall, and the slaughter of many of his
force, and the flight of some, while himself was in hard stress, turned to fly,
and ran to the wood. Into the wood fled he and his company; and then all the
force that had followed the earl took to flight. Thorolf and Egil pursued the
flying foe. Great was then the slaughter; the fugitives were scattered far and
wide over the heath. Earl Adils had lowered his standard; so none could know
his company from others.
And soon the darkness of night began to close in. Thorolf and Egil returned to
their camp; and just then king Athelstan came up with the main army, and they
pitched their tents and made their arrangements. A little after came king Olaf
with his army; they, too, encamped and made their arrangements where their men
had before placed their tents. Then it was told king Olaf that both his earls
Hring and Adils were fallen, and a multitude of his men likewise.
The fall of Thorolf.
King Athelstan had passed the night before in the town
whereof mention was made above, and there he heard rumour that there had been
fighting on the heath. At once he and all the host made ready and marched
northwards to the heath. There they learnt all the tidings clearly, how that
battle had gone. Then the brothers Thorolf and Egil came to meet the king. He
thanked them much for their brave advance, and the victory they had won; he
promised them his hearty friendship. They all remained together for the night.
No sooner did day dawn than Athelstan waked up his army. He held conference
with his captains, and told them how his forces should be arranged. His own
division he first arranged, and in the van thereof he set those companies that
were the smartest.
Then he said that Egil should command these: 'But Thorolf,' said he, 'shall be
with his own men and such others as I add thereto. This force shall be opposed
to that part of the enemy which is loose and not in set array, for the Scots
are ever loose in array; they run to and fro, and dash forward here and there.
Often they prove dangerous if men be not wary, but they are unsteady in the
field if boldly faced.'
Egil answered the king: 'I will not that I and Thorolf be parted in the battle;
rather to me it seems well that we two be placed there where is like to be most
need and hardest fighting.'
Thorolf said, 'Leave we the king to rule where he will place us, serve we him
as he likes best. I will, if you wish it, change places with you.'
Egil said, 'Brother, you will have your way; but this separation I shall often
After this they formed in the divisions as the king had arranged, and the
standards were raised. The king's division stood on the plain towards the
river; Thorolf's division moved on the higher ground beside the wood. King Olaf
drew up his forces when he saw king Athelstan had done so. He also made two
divisions; and his own standard, and the division that himself commanded, he
opposed to king Athelstan and his division. Either had a large army, there was
no difference on the score of numbers. But king Olaf's second division moved
near the wood against the force under Thorolf. The commanders thereof were
Scotch earls, the men mostly Scots; and it was a great multitude.
And now the armies closed, and soon the battle waxed fierce. Thorolf pressed
eagerly forward, causing his standard to be borne onwards along the woodside;
he thought to go so far forward as to turn upon the Scotch king's division
behind their shields. His own men held their shields before them; they trusted
to the wood which was on their right to cover that side. So far in advance went
Thorolf that few of his men were before him. But just when he was least on his
guard, out leapt from the wood earl Adils and his followers. They thrust at
Thorolf at once with many halberds, and there by the wood he fell. But Thorfid,
who bore the standard, drew back to where the men stood thicker. Adils now
attacked them, and a fierce contest was there. The Scots shouted a shout of
victory, as having slain the enemy's chieftain.
This shout when Egil heard, and saw Thorolf's standard going back, he felt sure
that Thorolf himself would not be with it. So he bounded thither over the space
between the two divisions. Full soon learnt he the tidings of what was done,
when he came to his men. Then did he keenly spur them on to the charge, himself
foremost in the van. He had in his hand his sword Adder. Forward Egil pressed,
and hewed on either hand of him, felling many men. Thorfid bore the standard
close after him, behind the standard followed the rest. Right sharp was the
conflict there. Egil went forward till he met earl Adils. Few blows did they
exchange ere earl Adils fell, and many men around him. But after the earl's
death his followers fled. Egil and his force pursued, and slew all whom they
overtook; no need there to beg quarter. Nor stood those Scotch earls long, when
they saw the others their fellows fly; but at once they took to their heels.
Whereupon Egil and his men made for where king Olaf's division was, and coming
on them behind their shields soon wrought great havoc. The division wavered,
and broke up. Many of king Olaf's men then fled, and the Norsemen shouted a
shout of victory.
But when king Athelstan perceived king Olaf's division beginning to break, he
then spurred on his force, and bade his standard advance. A fierce onset was
made, so that king Olaf's force recoiled, and there was a great slaughter. King
Olaf fell there, and the greater part of the force which he had had, for of
those who turned to fly all who were overtaken were slain. Thus king Athelstan
gained a signal victory.
While his men still pursued the fugitives, king
Athelstan left the battle-field, and rode back to the town, nor stayed he for
the night before he came thither. But Egil pursued the flying foe, and followed
them far, slaying every man whom he overtook. At length, sated with pursuit, he
with his followers turned back, and came where the battle had been, and found
there the dead body of his brother Thorolf. He took it up, washed it, and
performed such other offices as were the wont of the time. They dug a grave
there, and laid Thorolf therein with all his weapons and raiment. Then Egil
clasped a gold bracelet on either wrist before he parted from him; this done
they heaped on stones and cast in mould. Then Egil sang a stave:
the doughty champion
on, the earl's bold slayer:
stormy stress of battle
grows on soil of Vin-heath
o'er my noble brother:
we our woe—a sorrow
than death-pang—must bear.'
And again he further sang:
warriors slain round standard
western field I burdened;
with my blue Adder
mid snow of war.
young prince, encountered
in battle thunder:
stood not stour of weapons,
not the ravens' maw.'
Then went Egil and those about him to seek king Athelstan, and at once went
before the king, where he sat at the drinking. There was much noise of
merriment. And when the king saw that Egil was come in, he bade the lower bench
be cleared for them, and that Egil should sit in the high-seat facing the king.
Egil sat down there, and cast his shield before his feet. He had his helm on
his head, and laid his sword across his knees; and now and again he half drew
it, then clashed it back into the sheath. He sat upright, but with head bent
Egil was large-featured, broad of forehead, with large eyebrows, a nose not
long but very thick, lips wide and long, chin exceeding broad, as was all about
the jaws; thick-necked was he, and big-shouldered beyond other men,
hard-featured, and grim when angry. He was well-made, more than commonly tall,
had hair wolf-gray and thick, but became early bald. He was black-eyed and
But as he sat (as was before written), he drew one eye-brow down towards the
cheek, the other up to the roots of the hair. He would not drink now, though
the horn was borne to him, but alternately twitched his brows up and down. King
Athelstan sat in the upper high-seat. He too laid his sword across his knees.
When they had sat there for a time, then the king drew his sword from the
sheath, and took from his arm a gold ring large and good, and placing it upon
the sword-point he stood up, and went across the floor, and reached it over the
fire to Egil. Egil stood up and drew his sword, and went across the floor. He
stuck the sword-point within the round of the ring, and drew it to him; then he
went back to his place. The king sate him again in his high-seat. But when Egil
was set down, he drew the ring on his arm, and then his brows went back to
their place. He now laid down sword and helm, took the horn that they bare to
him, and drank it off. Then sang he:
monarch, god of battle,
the tinkling circlet
his own arm forsaking,
hawk-trod wrist of mine.
bear on arm brand-wielding
of red gold gladly.
such meed of praise.'
Thereafter Egil drank his share, and talked with others. Presently the king
caused to be borne in two chests; two men bare each. Both were full of silver.
The king said: 'These chests, Egil, thou shalt have, and, if thou comest to
Iceland, shalt carry this money to thy father; as payment for a son I send it
to him: but some of the money thou shalt divide among such kinsmen of thyself
and Thorolf as thou thinkest most honourable. But thou shalt take here payment
for a brother with me, land or chattels, which thou wilt. And if thou wilt
abide with me long, then will I give thee honour and dignity such as thyself
Egil took the money, and thanked the king for his gifts and friendly words.
Thenceforward Egil began to be cheerful; and then he sang:
sorrow sadly drooping
my brows close-knitted;
found I one who furrows
forehead could smooth.
cliffs that shaded
face a king hath lifted
gleam of golden armlet:
leaveth my eyes.'
Then those men were healed whose wounds left hop of life. Egil abode with king
Athelstan for the next winter after Thorolf's death, and had very great honour
from the king. With Egil was then all that force which had followed the two
brothers, and come alive out of the battle. Egil now made a poem about king
Athelstan, and in it is this stave:
now this scion royal
three hath laid. To Ella
must obedient bow.
of gold, kin-glorious,
I swear, all humbled
such high monarch yields.'
But this is the burden in the poem:
Athelstan's high sway.'
Then gave Athelstan further to Egil as poet's meed two gold rings, each
weighing a mark, and therewith a costly cloak that the king himself had
But when spring came Egil signified to the king this, that he purposed to go
away in the summer to Norway, and to learn 'how matters stand with Asgerdr, my
late brother Thorolf's wife. A large property is there in all; but I know not
whether there be children of theirs living. I am bound to look after them, if
they live; but I am heir to all, if Thorolf died childless.'
The king answered, 'This will be, Egil, for you to arrange, to go away hence,
if you think you have an errand of duty; but I think 'twere the best way that
you should settle down here with me on such terms as you like to ask.'
Egil thanked the king for his words.
'I will,' he said, 'now first go, as I am in duty bound to do; but it is likely
that I shall return hither to see after this promise so soon as I can.'
The king bade him do so.
Whereupon Egil made him ready to depart with his men; but of these many
remained behind with the king. Egil had one large war-ship, and on board
thereof a hundred men or thereabouts. And when he was ready for his voyage, and
a fair wind blew, he put out to sea. He and king Athelstan parted with great
friendship: the king begged Egil to return as soon as possible. This Egil
promised to do.
Then Egil stood for Norway, and when he came to land sailed with all speed into
the Firths. He heard these tidings, that lord Thorir was dead, and Arinbjorn
had taken inheritance after him, and was made a baron. Egil went to Arinbjorn
and got there a good welcome. Arinbjorn asked him to stay there. Egil accepted
this, had his ship set up, and his crew lodged. But Arinbjorn received Egil and
twelve men; they stayed with him through the winter.
Marriage of Egil.
Bergonund son of Thorgeir Thornfoot had then married
Gunnhilda daughter of Bjorn Yeoman. She had come to keep house with him at
Askr. But Asgerdr, whom Thorolf Skallagrimsson had had to wife, was then with
Arinbjorn, her kinsman. Thorolf and she had a daughter named Thordis, and the
girl was there with her mother. Egil told Asgerdr of Thorolf's death, and
offered her his guardianship. Asgerdr was much grieved at the tidings; she
answered Egil's words well, saying however but little one way or the other.
But, at autumn wore on, Egil began to be very gloomy and drank little, and
often say with his head drooping in his cloak. One time Arinbjorn went to him
and asked what meant his gloom.
'Though now you have had a
great loss in your brother, yet 'tis manly to bear up well; man must overlive
man. Come, what verse are you now repeating? Let me hear.'
Egil said he had just made this
'Unfriendly, who was friend,
goddess seems. Of old
with uplifted brow
I woman's face.
one (whose name I veil)
sooner to the skald
than shyly sinks
in his cloak his head.'
Arinbjorn asked who was the
woman about whom he composed such love-song. 'Have you hidden her name in this
Then Egil recited:
shows not, but hides
saddening thought within.
in my poesy
oft I use to veil.
Odin's warrior wights
surely searching find
war-god's wine of song
poet deep hath plunged.'
'Here,' said Egil, 'will the
old saw be found true. All should be told to a friend. I will tell you that
which you ask, about what woman I compose verse. ''Tis Asgerdr your kinswoman;
and I would fain have your furtherance to secure this match.'
Arinbjorn said that he deemed
it well thought of. 'I will,' said he, 'surely give my good word that this
match may be made.'
Then Egil laid this matter
before Asgerdr, but she referred it to the decision of her father and her kinsman
Arinbjorn. Arinbjorn talked with Asgerdr, and she made the same answer.
Arinbjorn was desirous of this match. After this Arinbjorn and Egil went
together to Bjorn, and then Egil made his suit and asked to wife Asgerdr
Bjorn's daughter. Bjorn took this matter well, and said that Arinbjorn should
chiefly decide this. Arinbjorn greatly desired it; and the end of the matter
was that Egil and Asgerdr were betrothed, and the wedding was to be at
And when the appointed time
came, there was a very grand feast at Egil's marriage. He was then very
cheerful for the remaining part of the winter. In the spring he made ready a
merchant-ship for a voyage to Iceland. Arinbjorn advised him not to settle in
Norway while Gunnhilda's power was so great. 'For she is very wroth with you,'
said Arinbjorn; 'and this has been made much worse by your encounter with
Eyvind near Jutland.'
But when Egil was ready, and a
fair wind blew, he sailed out to sea, and his voyage sped well. He came in the
autumn to Iceland, and stood into Borgar-firth. He had now been out twelve
winters. Skallagrim was an old man by this time. Full glad was he when Egil
came home. Egil went to lodge at Borg, and with him Thofid Strong and many of
their company; and they were there with Skallagrim for the winter. Egil had
immense store of wealth; but it is not told that Egil shared that silver which
king Athelstan had given him either with Skallagrim or others. That winter
Thorfid married Sæunn, Skallagrim's daughter; and in the following spring
Skallagrim gave them a homestead at Long-river-foss, and the land inwards from
Leiru-brook between Long-river and Swan-river, even up to the fell. Daughter of
Thorfid and Sæunn was Thordis wife to Arngeir in Holm, the son of Bersi Godless.
Their son was Bjorn, Hitadale's champion.
Egil abode there with
Skallagrim several winters. He took upon him the management of the property and
farm no less than Skallagrim. Egil became more and more bald. The country-side
began now to be settled far and wide. Hromund, brother of Grim the
Halogalander, settled at this time in Cross-river-lithe with his shipmates.
Hromund was father of Gunnlaug, the father of Thuridr Dylla, mother of Illugi
Egil had now been several
winters at Borg with his father, when one summer a ship from Norway to Iceland
with these tidings from the east, that Bjorn Yeoman was dead. Further, it was
told that all the property owned by Bjorn had been taken up by Bergonund, his
son-in-law, who had moved to his own home all loose chattels, letting out the
lands, and securing to himself all the rents. He had also got possession of all
the farms occupied of late by Bjorn. This when Egil heard, he inquired
carefully whether Bjorn had acted on his own counsel in this matter, or had the
support of others more powerful. It was told him that Onund was become a close
friend of king Eric, but was on even more intimate terms with Gunnhilda.
Egil let the matter rest for
this autumn; but when winter was past and spring came, then Egil bade them draw
out his ship, which had stood in the shed at Long-river-foss. This ship he made
ready for sea, and got a crew thereto. Asgerdr his wife was to go with him, but
Thordis Thorolf's daughter remained behind. Egil sailed out to sea when he was
ready, and of his voyage there is nothing to tell before he came to Norway. He
at once, as soon as he could, went to seek Arinbjorn. Arinbjorn received him
well, and asked Egil to stay with him; this offer he took. So both he and
Asgerdr went thither and several men with them.
Egil very soon spoke with
Arinbjorn about those claims on money that he thought he had there in the land.
Arinbjorn said, 'That matter
seems to me unpromising. Bergonund is hard, ill to deal with, unjust, covetous;
and he has now much support from the king and the queen. Gunnhilda is your
bitter enemy, as you know already, and she will not desire Onund to put the
Egil said, 'The king will let
us get law and justice in this matter, and with your help it seems no great
thing in my eyes to take the law of Bergonund.'
They resolved on this, that
Egil should equip a swift cutter, whereon they embarked some twenty men, and
went south to Hordaland and on to Askr. There they go to the house and find
Onund. Egil declares his business, and demands of Onund s sharing of the
heritage of Bjorn. He says that Bjorn's daughters were by law both alike his
heirs, 'Though methinks,' says Egil, 'Asgerdr will be deemed more nobly born
than your wife Gunnhilda.'
Then says Onund in high-pitched
voice, 'A wondrous bold man are you, Egil, the outlaw of king Eric, who come
hither to his land and think here to attack his men and friends. You are to
know, Egil, that I have overthrown men as good as you for less cause than
methinks this is, when you claim heritage in right of your wife; for this is
well known to all, that she is born of a bondwoman.'
Onund was furious in language
for a time; but when Egil saw that Onund would do no right in this matter, then
he summoned him to court, and referred the matter to the law of the Gula-thing.
Onund said, 'To the Gula-thing
I will come, and my will is that you should not come away thence with a whole
Egil said he would risk coming
to the Thing all the same: 'There let come what come may to end our matter.'
Egil then went away with his
company, and when he came home told Arinbjorn of his journey and of Onund's
answer. Arinbjorn was very angry that Thora his father's sister had been called
a bondwoman. Arinbjorn went to king Eric, and declared this matter before him.'
The king took his words rather
sullenly, and said that Arinbjorn had long advocated Egil's cause: 'He has had
this grace through thee, that I have let him be here in the land; but now shall
I think it too much to bear if thou back him in his assaults on my friends.'
Arinbjorn said, 'Thou wilt let
us get law in this case.'
The king was rather peevish in
this talk, but Arinbjorn could see that the queen was much worse-willed.
Arinbjorn went back and said
that things looked rather unpromising. Then winter wore away, and the time came
when men should go to the Gula-thing. Arinbjorn took to the Thing a numerous
company, among them went Egil.
Suit between Egil and Onund.
Eric was there numerously attended. Bergonund was among his train, as were his
brothers; there was a large following. But when the meeting was to be held
about men's lawsuits, both the parties went where the court was set, to plead
their proofs. Then was Onund full of big words. Now where the court sate was a
level plot, with hazel-poles planted in a ring, and outside were twisted ropes
all around. This was called, 'the precincts.' Within the ring sate twelve
judges of the Firth-folk, twelve of the Sogn-folk, twelve of the Horda-folk.
These three twelves were to judge all the suits. Arinbjorn ruled who should be
judges from the Firth-folk, Thord of Aurland who should be so from the Sogn-folk.
All these were of one party. Arinbjorn had brought thither a long-ship full
equipt, also many small craft and store-ships. King Eric had six or seven
long-ships all well equipt; a great number of landowners were also there.
Egil began his cause thus: he
craved the judges to give him lawful judgement in the suit between him and
Onund. He then set forth what proofs he held of his claim on the property that
had belonged to Bjorn Brynjolf's son. He said that Asgerdr daughter of Bjorn,
own wife of him Egil, was rightful heiress, born noble, of landed gentry, even
of titled family further back. And he craved of the judges this, to adjudge to
Asgerdr half of Bjorn's inheritance, whether land or chattels.
And when he ceased speaking,
then Bergonund took the word and spoke thus: 'Gunnhilda my wife is the daughter
of Bjorn and Alof, the wife whom Bjorn lawfully married. Gunnhilda is rightful
heiress of Bjorn. I for this reason took possession of all the property left by
Bjorn, because I knew that that other daughter of Bjorn had no right to
inherit. Her mother was a captive of war, afterwards taken as concubine,
without her kinsmen's consent, and carried from land to land. But thou, Egil,
thinkest to go on here, as everywhere else, with thy fierceness and wrongful
dealing. This will not avail thee now; for king Eric and queen Gunnhilda have
promised me that I shall have right in every cause within the bounds of their
dominion. I will produce true evidence before the king and the judges that
Thora Lace-hand, Asgerdr's mother, was taken captive from the house of Thorir
her brother, and a second time from Brynjolf's house at Aurland. Then she went
away out of the land with freebooters, and was outlawed from Norway, and in
this outlawry Bjorn and she had born to them this girl Asgerdr. A great wonder
now is this in Egil, that he thinks to make void all the words of king Eric.
First, Egil, thou art here in the land after Eric made thee an outlaw;
secondly—which is worse—though thou hast a bondwoman to thy wife, thou claimest
for her right of heritage. I demand this of the judges, that they adjudge the
inheritance to Gunnhilda, but adjudge Asgerdr to be the bondwoman of the king,
because she was begotten when her father and mother were outlawed by the king.'
Right wroth was Arinbjorn when
he heard Thora Lace-hand called a bondwoman; and he stood up, and would no
longer hold his peace, but looked around on either side, and took the word:
'Evidence we will bring, sir
king, in this matter, and oaths we will add, that this was in the
reconciliation of my father and Bjorn Yeoman expressly provided, that Asgerdr
daughter of Bjorn and Thora was to have right of inheriting after Bjorn her
father; as also this, which thyself, O king, dost know, that thou restoredst
Bjorn to his rights in Norway, and so everything was settled which had before
stood in the way of their reconciliation.'
To these words the king found
no ready answer. Then sang Egil a stave:
born this knave
brooch-decked lady calls.
in selfish greed
dealing Onund loves:
my bride is one
heiress, jewell'd dame.
oaths, great king, accept,
that are meet and true.'
Then Arinbjorn produced
witnesses, twelve men, and all well chosen. These all had heard, being present,
the reconciliation of Thorir and Bjorn, and they offered to the king and judges
to swear to it. The judges were willing to accept their oath if the king
forbade it not.
Then did queen Gunnhilda take
'Great wonder is this, sir
king, that thou lettest this big Egil make such a coil of the whole cause
before thee. Wouldst thou find nought to say against him, though he should
claim at thy hand thy very kingdom? Now though thou wilt give no decision that
may help Onund, yet will not I brook this, that Egil tread under foot our
friends and wrongfully take the property from Onund. Where is Alf my brother?
Go thou, Alf, with thy following, where the judges are, and let them not give
this wrong judgment.'
Then he and his men went
thither, and cut in sunder the precinct-ropes and tore down the poles, and
scattered the judges. Great uproar was there in the Thing; but men there were
Then spake Egil: 'Can Bergonund
hear my words?'
'I hear,' said Onund.
'Then do I challenge thee to
combat, and be our fight here at the Thing. Let him of us twain have this
property, both lands and chattels, who wins the victory. But be thou every
man's dastard if thou darest not.'
Whereupon king Eric made
answer: 'If thou, Egil, art strongly set on fighting, then will we grant thee
Egil replied: 'I will not fight
with king's power and overwhelming force; but before equal numbers I will not
flee, if this be given me. Nor will I then make any distinction of persons,
titled or untitled.'
Then spake Arinbjorn: 'Go we
away, Egil; we shall not here effect to-day anything that will be to our gain.'
And with this Arinbjorn and all
his people turned to depart.
But Egil turned him and cried
aloud: 'This do I protest before thee, Arinbjorn, and thee, Thord, and all men
that now can hear my word, barons and lawmen and all people, that I ban all
those lands that belonged to Bjorn Brynjolfsson, from building and tillage, and
from all gain therefrom to be gotten. I ban them to thee, Bergonund, and to all
others, natives and foreigners, high and low; and anyone who shall herein
offend I denounce as a law-breaker, a peace breaker, and accursed.'
After which Egil went away with
They then went to their ships;
and there was a rise in the ground of some extent to pass over, so that the
ships were not visible from the Thing-field. Egil was very wroth. And when they
came to the ships, Arinbjorn spoke before his people and said:
'All men know what has been the
issue of the Thing here, that we have not got law; but the king is much in
wrath, so that I expect our men will get hard measure from him if he can bring
it about. I will now that every man embark on his ship and go home. Let none
wait for other.'
Then Arinbjorn went on board
his own ship, and to Egil he said: 'Now go you with your comrades on board the
cutter that lies here outside the long-ship, and get you away at once. Travel
by night so much as you may, and not by day, and be on your guard, for the king
will seek to meet with you. Come and find me afterwards, when all this is
ended, whatever may have chanced between you and the king.'
Egil did as Arinbjorn said;
they went aboard the cutter, about thirty men, and rowed with all their might.
The vessel was remarkably fast. Then rowed out of the haven many other ships of
Arinbjorn's people, cutters and row-boats; but the long-ship which Arinbjorn steered
went last, for it was the heaviest under oars. Egil's cutter, which he steered,
soon outstripped the rest. Then Egil sang a stave:
heritage he steals,
Thornfoot. But his threats,
fierce, I boldly meet.
land we sought the law:
loon is he!
robbery of my right
long he shall repay.'
Of king Eric and Egil.
Eric heard the concluding words of Egil that he spake last at the Thing, and
his wrath waxed hot. But all men had gone weaponless to the Thing, therefore
the king attempted no attack. He bade his men hasten to their ships, and they
did as he bade. Then, when they came to the strand, the king summoned his
household Thing, and told them his purpose.
'We must now,' said he, 'untent
our ships and row after Arinbjorn and Egil, and this I will have you know, that
we will take Egil's life if we get the chance, and spare no man who shall stand
up for him.'
After that they went aboard,
made all ready as speedily as might be, and pushed out the ships and rowed to
the place where Arinbjorn's ships had been. These were now all gone. Then the
king bade that they should row after them northwards by the sound. And when he
came to Sogn-sea, then there was Arinbjorn's company rowing in towards
Sheeping-sound, and thither the king turned in after them, and he came up with
Arinbjorn's ship in the inner part of Sheeping-sound. At once the king made for
it, and they exchanged words. The king asked whether Egil was in the ship.
'Egil is not here,' he said;
'that, O king, thou mayest at once see. Here on board on none but those whom
thou knowest; and Egil will not be found down under the benches, though thou
shouldst seek him there.'
The king asked Arinbjorn what
he knew latest of Egil. He said that Egil was on a cutter with thirty men, and
they took their way out to Stone-sound. Then the king told his men to row by
the inner sound, and shape their course so as to meet Egil.
There was a man named Kettle
Hod; he was of king Eric's guard, an Uplander by family. He was pilot on the
king's ship, and steered the same. Kettle was a tall man and a handsome; he was
near of kin to the king. And 'twas generally said that he and the king were
like in appearance.
Now Egil, before going to the
Thing, had had his ship launched and the cargo put on board. And after parting
with Arinbjorn, he and his went their way to Stone-sound, till they came to his
ship, which lay there afloat in the haven with tent overspread. Then they went
up aboard the ship, but the cutter rode beside the rudder of the ship between
the land and the ship, and the oars lay there in the loops.
Next morning, when day had
hardly dawned, the watch were aware that some ships were rowing for them. But
when Egil saw that it was an enemy, he stood up and bade that they should leap
into the cutter. He armed himself at once, as did they all. Egil took up those
chests of silver which king Athelstan gave him, and bore them with him. They
leapt armed into the cutter, and rowed forward between the land and the
long-ship that was advancing nearest to the land; this was king Eric's ship.
But, as it happened suddenly and there was little light, the two ships ran past
each other. And when the stern-castles were opposite, then Egil hurled a spear
and smote in the middle the man who sat steering, Kettle Hod to wit, and at
once he got his bane. Then king Eric called out and bade men row after Egil and
his party, but as their vessels ran past Egil's merchant-ship, the king's men
leapt aboard of that. And those of Egil's men who had been left behind, and not
leapt into the cutter, were all slain who could be caught, but some escaped to
land. Ten men of Egil's followers were lost there.
Some ships rowed after Egil,
but some plundered the merchant-ship. All the booty on board was taken, and the
ship burnt. But those who rowed after Egil pulled hard; two at each oar, and
they could even so take the rowing by turns. For they had no lack of men on
board, while Egil's crew was short, they being now but eighteen on the cutter.
So the distance between them lessened. But inside of the island was a shallow
sound between it and other islands. It was now low water. Egil and his rowers
ran their cutter into that shallow sound, but the long-ships could not float
there; thus pursuers and pursued were parted. The king then turned back
southwards, but Egil went north to seek Arinbjorn. Then sang Egil a stave:
warlike prince, hath wrought
I escaped scot-free)
on our gallant ten.
sped my hand a spear,
springing salmon swift,
rushed and Kettle's ribs
sore with deathful wound.'
Egil came to Arinbjorn, and
told him these tidings. Arinbjorn said that he could expect nothing better in
dealing with king Eric. 'But you shall not want for money, Egil. I will make
good the loss of your ship, and give you another, in which you can well sail to
Iceland.' Asgerdr, Egil's wife, had remained at Arinbjorn's while they went to
the Thing. Arinbjorn gave Egil a good sea-worthy ship, and had it laden with
such things as Egil wished. This ship Egil got ready for sea, and again he had
a crew of about thirty men. Then he and Arinbjorn parted in friendship. And
him, righteous gods,
robbery of my wealth!
him away, be wroth,
Odin, heavenly powers!
of his folk, base king,
Frey and Njord make flee!
him, land-guardians, hate,
holy ground hath scorn'd!'
King Eric slays his brothers.
Fairhair set his sons to rule in Norway when he began to grow old: Eric he made
king above all his other sons. It was when Harold had been king for seventy
years that he gave over the kingdom into the hands of his son Eric. At that
time Gunnhilda bare a son, whom Harold the king sprinkled with water, giving
him his own name; and he added this that he should be king after his father if
he lived long enough. King Harold then settled down in retirement, being mostly
in Rogaland or Hordaland. But three years later king Harold died in Rogaland,
and a mound was raised to his memory by Haugasound.
After the death of the king
there was great strife between his sons, for the men of Vik took Olaf for their
king, but the Thronds Sigurd. But these two, his brothers, Eric slew at
Tunsberg, one year after king Harold's death. All these things happened in one
and the same summer, to wit, king Eric's going with his army eastwards to Vik
to fight with his brothers, and (before that) the strife of Egil and Bergonund
at the Gula-thing, with the other events that have just been related.
Bergonund remained at home on
his estate when the king went to the war, for he thought it unsafe for him to
leave home while Egil was still in the land. Hadd, his brother, was now there
with him. There was a man named Frodi, a kinsman of king Eric, very handsome,
young in years, but a man grown. King Eric left him behind to protect
Bergonund. Frodi was staying at Alrekstead, a royal farm, and had some men
there. A son of Eric and Gunnhilda there was named Rognvald, who was then ten
or eleven years old, and had the makings of a very handsome man. He was with
Frodi when these things happened. But before king Eric rowed forth to this war,
he made Egil an outlaw through all Norway, and free for any man to slay.
Arinbjorn was with the king in the war; but before he left home Egil took his
ship to sea, and made for the outlying fishing station called Vitar, over
against Aldi. It is on the high road of the seas: fishermen were there, and
'twas a good place for hearing tidings. Then he heard that the king had made
him an outlaw. Whereupon Egil sang a stave:
voyage lays on me;
bane of his brothers,
by his bride.
the guilt bears
queen) of my exile:
am I full swiftly
frauds to repay.'
The weather was calm, a
fell-wind blew by night, a sea breeze by day. One evening Egil sailed out to
sea, but the fishermen were then rowing in to land, those, to wit, who had been
set as spies on Egil's movements. They had this to tell, that Egil had put out
and sailed to sea, and was gone. This news they carried to Bergonund. And when
he knew these tidings, then he sent away all those men that he had had before
for protection. Thereafter he rowed in to Alrekstead, and bade Frodi to his
house, for he had a great ale-drinking there. Frodi went with him, taking some
men. They were feasted well there, and they made merry, with no fear of danger.
Rognvald, the king's son, had a pinnace, rowed by six men on either side,
painted all above the sea line. He had with him ten or twelve who constantly
followed him; and when Frodi had left home, then Rognvald took the pinnace and
they rowed out to Herdla twelve in number. A large farm of the king's was
there, whereof the manager was named Skegg-Thorir. Rognvald in his childhood
had been fostered there. Thorir received the king's son joyfully. There too was
no lack of drink.
The slaying of Bergonund and Rognvald the king's son.
sailed out to sea for the night, as was written above. And when morning came
the wind fell and there was a calm. They then lay drifting, letting the ship
ride free for some nights. But when a sea-breeze came on, Egil said to his
shipmen, 'We will now sail to land, for I do not quite know, should the
sea-wind come to blow hard, where we could make land, 'tis a dangerous-looking
coast in most places.' The rowers bade Egil rule their course.
So then they made sail, and
sailed into the waters about Herdla. There they found a good haven, and spread
the tent over their ship, and lay there for the night. They had on the ship a
little boat, into which went Egil with three men. They rowed into Herdla, and
sent a man up into the island to learn tidings; and when he came down to the
ship, he said that there at the farm was Rognvald, the king's son, and his men.
'They sate there a-drinking,' said he. 'I lit on one of the house-carles; he
was ale-mad, and said that here they must not drink less than was drunk at
Bergonund's, though Frodi was feasting there with a party of five. He said that
no more were there than the house-hold, save Frodi and his men.'
Whereupon Egil rowed back to
the ship, and bade the men rise and take their weapons. They did so. The ship
they put out from the shore and anchored. Egil left twelve men to guard the
ship, but himself went on the ship's boat, they being eighteen in all; they
then rowed in along the sound. They so regulated their pace that they came to
Fenhring at eventide, and put into a hidden creek there. Then said Egil: 'Now
will I go up into the island and spy out what I can get to know; but you shall
await me here.'
Egil had his weapons that he
was wont to have, a helm and shield, a sword at his girdle, a halberd in his
hand. He went up into the island and along the border of a wood. He had now
drawn a hood over his helm. He came where there were some lads, and with them
large sheep-dogs. And when they began to exchange words, he asked whence they
were, and why they were there, and had such big dogs. They said: 'You must be a
very silly fellow; have you not heard that a bear goes about the island here, a
great pest? He kills both men and sheep, and a price is set upon his head. We
watch here at Askr every night over our flocks that are penned in the fold. By
why go you at night thus armed?'
He answered: 'I, too, am afraid
of the bear; and few, methinks, now go weaponless. He has long pursued me to-night.
See there now, where he is in the skirt of the wood! Are all asleep at this
The boy said that Bergonund and Frodi would be drinking still; 'they sit at it
'Then tell them,' said Egil,
'where the bear is; but I will hasten home.'
So he went away; but the boy
ran home to the farmhouse, and into the room where they were drinking. All had
gone to sleep save these three, Onund, Frodi, and Hadd. The boy told them where
the bear was. They took their weapons which hung there by them, and at once ran
out and up to the wood.
From the main forest ran out a
spur of wood with scattered bushes. The boy told them where the bear had been
in the bushes. Then they saw that the branches moved, whence they guessed that
the bear would be there. Then Bergonund advised that Hadd and Frodi should run
forward between the shrubs and the main forest, and stop the bear from gaining
the wood. Bergonund ran forward to the bushes. He had helm and shield, a sword
at his girdle, a halberd in his hand. Egil was there before him in the bushes,
but no bear.
And when he saw where Bergonund
was, he unsheathed his sword, and, taking the coil of cord attached to the
hilt, would it round his arm, and so let the sword hang. In his hand he grasped
his halberd, and then ran forward to meet Bergonund. Which when Bergonund saw,
he quickened his pace and cast his shield before him, and ere they met each
hurled his halberd at the other.
Egil opposed the halberd with
shield held aslant, so that the halberd with a cut tore out of the shield and
flew into the ground. But Egil's weapon came full on the middle of the shield,
and went right through it far up the blade, and the weapon was fast in the
shield. Onund's shield was thus cumbersome. Then quickly did Egil grasp his
sword-hilt. Onund also began to draw his sword; but ere it was half drawn Egil
pierced him with a thrust. Onund reeled at the blow; but Egil suddenly snatched
back his sword, and made a cut at Onund, well-nigh taking off his head. Then
Egil took his halberd out of the shield.
Now Hadd and Frodi saw
Bergonund's fall, and ran thither. Egil turned to meet them. At Frodi he threw
his halberd, which, piercing the shield, went into his breast and out at his
back. At once he fell back dead. Then, taking his sword, Egil turned against
Hadd, and they exchanged but few blows ere Hadd fell. Just then the herd-boys
chanced to come up. Egil said to them: 'Watch you here by Onund your master and
his friends, that no beast or bird tear their bodies.'
Egil then went his way, and
before long eleven of his comrades met him, six staying to watch the ship. They
asked him what success he had had. Whereupon he sang:
did we losers sit,
through him who took
greed the gold that once
guard I better knew:
now Bergonund's bane
blade with wounds hath wrought,
hidden earth in veil
Hadd's and Frodi's blood.'
Then Egil said: 'We will now
turn back to the farm, and act in warlike-wise, slaying all the men we can, and
taking all the booty we can come by.'
They went to the farm, rushed
into the house, and slew there fifteen or sixteen men. Some escaped by running
away. They plundered the place, destroying what they could not take with them.
The cattle they drove to the shore and slaughtered, putting on board as much as
the boat would hold; then they rowed out by the sound between the islands. Egil
was now furious, so that there was no speaking with him. He sat at the boat's
And when they got further out
in the firth towards Herdla, then came rowing out towards them Rognvald the
king's son with twelve more on the painted pinnace. They had now learnt that
Egil's ship lay in Herdla-water, and they meant to take to Onund news of Egil's
whereabouts. And when Egil saw the boat, he knew it at once. Straight for it he
steered; and when the boats came together, the beak of the cutter struck the
side of the pinnace's bow, which so heeled over that the water poured in on one
side and the boat filled. Egil leapt aboard, grasping his halberd, and cried to
his men to let no one in the pinnace escape with life. This was easy, for there
was no defence. All were slain as they swam, none escaped. Thirteen there
perished, Rognvald and his comrades. Then Egil and his men rowed to Herdla
island, and Egil sang a stave:
fought, nor feared vengeance;
of son of Bloodaxe,
king, and his queen.
on one pinnace
with twelve his liege-men,
stress of stern battle
them I stirred.'
And when Egil and his men came
to Herdla, at once fully armed they ran up to the farm buildings. But when
Thorir and his household saw that, they at once ran away and saved themselves,
all that could go, men and women. Egil's party plundered the place of all they
could lay hands on; then they rowed out to their ship. Nor had they long to
wait ere a breeze blew off the land. They made ready to sail.
And when all was ready for
sailing, Egil went up into the island. He took in his hand a hazel-pole, and
went to a rocky eminence that looked inward to the mainland. Then he took a
horse's head and fixed it on the pole. After that, in solemn form of curse, he
thus spake: 'Here set I up a curse-pole, and this curse I turn on king Eric and
queen Gunnhilda. (Here he turned the horse's head landwards.) This curse I turn
also on the guardian-spirits who dwell in this land, that they may all wander
astray, nor reach or find their home till they have driven out of the land king
Eric and Gunnhilda.'
This spoken, he planted the
pole down in a rift of the rock, and let it stand there. The horse's head he
turned inwards to the mainland; but on the pole he cut runes, expressing the
whole form of curse.
After this Egil went aboard the
ship. They made sail, and sailed out to sea. Soon the breeze freshened, and
blew strong from a good quarter; so the ship ran on apace. Then sang Egil:
hard and unceasing
sharp storm the sea-way
ship's stern doth plow.
icy gust ruthless
sea-swan doth buffet
bowsprit and beak.'
Their voyage sped well; from
the main they came into Borgar-firth, brought their ship into the haven,
carried their baggage on shore. Egil then went home to Borg; but his crew found
them lodging. Skallagrim was now old and weak with age. Egil took the
management of the property and care of the house.
Death of Skallagrim.
was a man named Thorgeir. He had to wife Thordis Yngvar's daughter, Egil's
mother's sister. Thorgeir dwelt on Swan-ness at Lambstead. He had come out to
Iceland with Yngvar. He was wealthy and much honoured of men. Thorgeir and his
wife had a son Thord, who was dwelling at Lambstead after his father, when Egil
now came back to Iceland.
It chanced in the autumn,
shortly before winter, that Thord rode in to Borg to find Egil his kinsman; and
he bade him to a banquet. He had had ale brewed out at his home. Egil promised
to go, and a day was fixed about a week thence. So when the time came, Egil
prepared to go, and with him Asgerdr his wife; they were a company of ten or
twelve in all.
But just when Egil was ready,
Skallagrim went out with him, and embracing him before he mounted said: 'You
are late, methinks, Egil, in paying to me that money which king Athelstan sent
me. What do you mean to do with that money?'
Egil answered, 'Are you very
short of money, father? I did not know it. I shall at once let you have silver,
when I know you need it; but I know that you still have in your keeping one or
two chests full of silver.'
'I suppose,' said Skallagrim,
'you think that we have made our division of the movable property. You must now
be content if I do what I like with that money I have in keeping.'
Egil answered: 'You cannot
think you need to ask any leave from me in this; for you will choose to have it
your own way, whatever I may say.'
Then Egil rode away till he
came to Lambstead, where he was made heartily welcome; he was to be there three
nights. That same evening that Egil left home, Skallagrim had a horse saddled.
He then rode out just when others were going to bed. When he went away, he bore
before him on his knees a very large chest; but under his arm he carried a
brazen kettle. It has been since held for certain that he let down one or both
into Krum's bog-hole, and dropped a large stone slab atop of them. Skallagrim
came home about midnight, and then went to his place and lay down in his
clothes. But in the morning, when it was light and people were dressed, there
sat Skallagrim forward on the seat's edge, already dead, and so stiff that they
could not straighten him nor move him, though they tried all they could.
Then a man was put on
horseback, who galloped off as hard as he might to Lambstead. At once he sought
Egil, and told him these tidings. Then Egil took his weapons and clothes and
rode home, reaching Borg by eventide. And at once on dismounting he went in,
and to the passage that was round the hall, with doors leading from the passage
to the seats inside. Egil went on to the chief seat, and took Skallagrim by the
shoulders, and forced him backwards, and laid him down in the seat, and
rendered then the services to the dead. Then Egil bade them take digging tools
and break open the wall on the south side. When this was done, then Egil
supported the head and others the feet of Skallagrim; and so they bore him
athwart the house out through the breach in the wall just made. Then they bore
him immediately down to Nausta-ness. There for the night a tent was set over
the body; but in the morning with flood-tide Skallagrim was put on a boat and
rowed out to Digra-ness. There Egil had a mound raised on the point of the
ness. Therein was laid Skallagrim, with his horse, his weapons, and his smithy
tools. It is not told that any valuables were laid in the mound beside him.
Egil took the heritage, lands
and chattels. Thenceforward he ruled the house. With Egil there was Thordis,
daughter of Thorolf and Asgerdr.
Egil's voyage to England.
Eric ruled over Norway one year after the death of his father king Harold,
before Hacon Athelstan's foster-son, another son of Harold, came out of the
west from England; and in that same summer Egil Skallagrimsson went to Iceland.
Hacon went northwards to Throndheim. He was there accepted as king. He and Eric
were for the winter both king in Norway. But in the following spring each
gathered an army. Hacon had by far the larger numbers; the reason of this was
that he made it law in the land that every man should own his patrimony, where
king Harold had enslaved all, rich and poor alike. Eric saw no other choice but
to flee the land; so he went abroad with Gunnhilda his wife and their children.
Lord Arinbjorn was king Eric's foster-brother, and foster-father of his son.
Dear to the king was he above all his barons; the king had set him as ruler
over all the Firth-folk. Arinbjorn was with the king when he left the land;
they first went westwards over the main to the Orkneys. There Eric gave his
daughter Ragnhildr in marriage to earl Arnfinn. After that he went south with
his force along the coast of Scotland, and harried there; thence still south to
England, and harried there. And when king Athelstan heard of this, he gathered
force and went against Eric. But when they met, terms were proposed, and the
terms were that king Athelstan gave to Eric the government of Northumberland;
and he was to be for king Athelstan defender of the land against the Scots and
Irish. Athelstan had made Scotland tributary under him after the death of king
Olaf, but that people were constantly disloyal to him. The story goes that
Gunnhilda had a spell worked, this spell being that Egil Skallagrimsson should
find no rest in Iceland till she had seen him. But in that summer when Hacon
and Eric had met and contended for Norway, all travel to any land from Norway
was forbidden; so in that summer there came to Iceland from Norway neither ship
nor tidings. Egil Skallagrimsson abode at his home.
But during the second winter
that he was living at Borg after Skallagrim's death Egil became melancholy, and
this was more marked as the winter wore on. And when summer came, Egil let it
be known that he meant to make ready his ship for a voyage out in the summer.
He then got a crew. He purposed to sail to England. They were thirty men on the
ship. Asgerdr remained behind, and took charge of the house. Egil's purpose was
to seek king Athelstan and look after the promise that he had made to Egil at
their last parting.
It was late ere Egil was ready,
and when he put to sea, the winds delayed him. Autumn then came on, and rough
weather set in. They sailed past the north coast of the Orkneys. Egil would not
put in there, for he thought king Eric's power would be supreme all over the
islands. Then they sailed southwards past Scotland, and had great storms and
cross winds. Weathering the Scotch coast they held on southwards along England;
but on the evening of a day, as darkness came on, it blew a gale. Before they
were aware, breakers were both seaward and ahead. There was nothing for it but
to make for land, and this they did. Under sail they ran ashore, and came to land
at Humber-mouth. All the men were saved, and most of the cargo, but as for the
ship, that was broken to pieces.
When they found men to speak
with, they learnt these tidings, which Egil thought good, that with king
Athelstan all was well and with his kingdom: but other tidings were there which
Egil thought dangerous, to wit, that king Eric Bloodaxe was there and
Gunnhilda, and they had the government of the province, and Eric was but a
short way up the country in the town of York. This also Egil learnt, that lord
Arinbjorn was there with the king, and in great friendship with him.
And when Egil got to know these
tidings, he resolved what to do. He thought he had little hope of escape,
though he should try to conceal himself and to go disguised as long as he might
till he were clear of Eric's dominions. For he was at that time easily known by
such as should see him. He thought also it were a mean man's fate to be
captured in such flight. So he took a bold heart, and resolved that at once, in
that very night when they came there, he would get him a horse and ride to the
town. He came there in the evening, and rode at once into the town. He had now
a hood drawn over his helm, and was fully armed.
Egil inquired where in the town
Arinbjorn was housed. It was told him. Thither he rode to the house. When he
came to the hall-door, he dismounted from his horse, and found a man to speak
to. It was told him that Arinbjorn sat at meat.
Egil said: 'I would fain, good
fellow, you should go into the hall and ask Arinbjorn whether he will rather
speak without or within to Egil Skallagrimsson.'
The man said: ''Tis but little
trouble for me to do this errand.'
He went into the hall, and
spoke quite loud: 'There is a man come here out before the door,' said he, 'big
as a giant, and he begged me go in and ask whether thou wouldst rather without
or within speak to Egil Skallagrimsson.'
Arinbjorn said: 'Go and beg him
to bide without, nor shall he need to bide long.'
He did as Arinbjorn told him,
went out and said what had been said to him.
Arinbjorn bade take up the
tables; then went he out and all his house-carles with him.
And when Arinbjorn met Egil, he
greeted him well, and asked why he was come there.
Egil in few words told him
clearly of his journey: 'And now you shall see what counsel I ought to take, if
you will give me any help.'
'Have you,' said Arinbjorn,
'before you came to this house met any men in the town who are likely to have
'None,' said Egil.
'Let men then take their
weapons,' said Arinbjorn.
They did so. But when all were
armed, then went they to the king's house. And when they came to the hall, then
Arinbjorn knocked at the door, asking them to open, and saying who was there.
The door-keepers at once opened the door. The king was sitting at table.
Arinbjorn then bade that they
should go in twelve in number, naming for this Egil and ten others. 'Now shall
you, Egil, bring the king your head and clasp his foot, but I will be your
Then they went in. Arinbjorn
went before the king and saluted him. The king received him, and asked what he
Arinbjorn said: 'I lead hither
one who has come a long way to seek thee in thy place, and to be reconciled to
thee. Great is this honour to thee, my lord, when thine enemies travel of their
own free will from other lands, and deem they cannot endure thy wrath though
thou be nowhere near. Now show thyself princely to this man. Let him get of
thee good terms, seeing that he hath so magnified thine honour, as thou now
mayst see, by braving many seas and dangers to come hither from his own home.
No compulsion drove him to this journey, nought but goodwill to thee.'
Then the king looked round, and
saw over men's heads where Egil stood. The king knew him at once, and, darting
a keen glance at him, said: 'How wert thou so bold, Egil, that thou daredst to
come before me? Thy last parting from me was such that of life thou couldst
have from me no hope.'
Then went Egil up to the table,
and clasped the foot of the king. He then sang:
cross-winds far cruising
came on my wave-horse,
soon to see.
wielder of wound-flash,
dauntless in daring,
strong strand of Harold's
lineage I meet.'
King Eric said: 'I need not to
count the crimes on thy hands, for they are so many and great that each one
might well warrant that thou go not hence alive. Thou hast nothing else to
expect but that here thou must die. This thou mightest know before, that thou
wouldst get no terms from me.'
Gunnhilda said: 'Why shall not
Egil be slain at once? Rememberest thou no more, O king, what Egil hath done to
thee—slain thy friends and kin, ay, even thine own son to boot, and cursed
thyself? Where ever was it known that a king was thus dealt with?'
Arinbjorn said: 'If Egil have
spoken evil of the king, for that he can now atone in words of praise that
shall live for all time.'
Gunnhilda said: 'We will hear
none of his praise. O king, bid Egil be led out and beheaded. I will neither
hear his words nor see him.'
Then said Arinbjorn: 'The king
will not let himself be egged on to all thy dastardly work. He will not have
Egil slain by night, for night-slaying is murder.'
The king said: 'So shall it be,
Arinbjorn, as thou demandest. Egil shall live this night. Take thou him home
with thee, and bring him to me in the morning.'
Arinbjorn thanked the king for
his words: 'We hope, my lord, that henceforth Egil's cause will take a better
turn. And though Egil has done great wrong against thee, yet look thou on this,
that he has suffered much from thee and thy kin. King Harold thy father took
the life of Thorolf, a man of renown, Egil's father's brother, for the slander
of bad men, for no crime at all. And thou, O king, didst break the law in
Egil's case for the sake of Bergonund; nay further thou didst wish to doom his
death, and didst slay his men, and plunder all his goods, and withal didst make
him an outlaw and drive him from the land. And Egil is one who will stand no
teasing. But in every cause under judgment one must look on the act with its
reasons. I will now have Egil in keeping for the night.'
Then Arinbjorn and Egil went
back to the house, and when they came in they two went into a small upper room
and talked over this matter. Arinbjorn said: 'The king just now was very wroth,
yet methought his mood rather softened before the end, and fortune will now
decide what may be the upshot. I know that Gunnhilda will set all her mind on
marring your cause. Now I would fain that we take this counsel: that you be
awake through the night, and compose a song of praise about king Eric. I should
think it had best be a poem of twenty stanzas, and you might recite it
to-morrow when we come before the king. Thus did Bragi my kinsman, when he was
under the wrath of Bjorn king of Sweden; he composed a poem of praise about him
in one night, and for it received his head. Now may we also have the same luck
with the king, that you may make your peace with him, if you can offer him the
poem of praise.'
Egil said: 'I shall try this
counsel that you wish, but 'twas the last thing I ever meant, to sing king
Arinbjorn bade him try.
Then Arinbjorn went away, and
had food and drink carried to the upper room. Egil was there alone for the
night. Arinbjorn went to his men, and they sate over drink till midnight. Then
Arinbjorn and his men went to the sleeping chambers, but before undressing he
went up to the room to Egil, and asked how he was getting on with the poem.
Egil said that nothing was
done. 'Here,' said he, 'has sate a swallow by the window and twittered all
night, so that I have never got rest for that same.'
Whereupon Arinbjorn went away
and out by the door leading up to the house-roof, and he sate by the window of
the upper room where the bird had before sate. He saw that something of a shape
witch-possest moved away from the roof. Arinbjorn sate there by the window all
night till dawn. But after Arinbjorn had come there, Egil composed all the
poem, and got it so by heart that he could recite it in the morning when he met
Arinbjorn. They watched for a fit time to go before the king.
Egil recites the poem.
Eric went to table according to his wont, and much people were with him. And
when Arinbjorn knew this, then went he with all his followers fully armed to the
king's palace while the king sate at table. Arinbjorn craved entrance into the
hall; it was granted. He and Egil went in with half of his followers, but the
other half stood without before the door. Arinbjorn saluted the king; the king
received him well. Arinbjorn spoke: 'Here now is come Egil. He has not sought
to run away in the night. Nor would we fain know, my lord, what his lot is to
be. I hope thou wilt let him get good from my words, for I think it a matter of
great moment to me that Egil gain terms from thee. I have so acted (as was
right) that neither in word nor deed have I spared aught whereby thy honour
should be made greater than before. I have also abandoned all my possessions,
kinsmen, and friends that I had in Norway, and followed thee when all other
barons deserted thee; and herein do I what is meet, for thou hast often done
great good to me.'
Then spoke Gunnhilda: 'Cease,
Arinbjorn, nor prate so at length of this. Thou hast done much good to king
Eric, and this he hath fully rewarded. Thou owest far more duty to king Eric
than to Egil. It is not for thee to ask that Egil go unpunished hence from king
Eric's presence, seeing what crimes he hath wrought.'
Then said Arinbjorn: 'If thou,
O king, and thou Gunnhilda, if ye two have resolved that Egil shall here get no
terms, then is this the manly course, to give him respite and leave to go for a
week, that he may look out for himself; of his own free will any way he came
hither to seek you, and therefore hoped for peace. Thereafter, this done, let
your dealings together end as they may.'
Gunnhilda said, 'Well can I see
by this, Arinbjorn, that thou art more faithful to Egil than to king Eric. If
Egil is to ride hence for a week, then will he in this time be come to king Athelstan.
But king Eric cannot now hide this from himself, that every king is now
stronger than is he, whereas a little while ago it had been deemed incredible
that king Eric would not have the will and energy to avenge his wrongs on such
a one as Egil.'
Said Arinbjorn: 'No one will
call Eric a greater man for slaying a yeoman's son, a foreigner, who has freely
come into his power. But if the king wishes to achieve greatness hereby, then
will I help him in this, so that these tidings shall be thought more worthy of
record; for I and Egil will now back each other, so that we must both be met at
once. Thou wilt then, O king, dearly buy the life of Egil, when we be all laid
dead on the field, I and my followers. Far other treatment should I have
expected of thee, than that thou wouldst prefer seeing me laid dead on the
earth to granting me the boon I crave of one man's life.'
Then answered the king: 'A
wondrous eager champion art thou, Arinbjorn, in this thy helping of Egil. Loth
were I to do thee scathe, if it comes to this; if thou wilt rather give away
thine own life than that he be slain. But sufficient are the charges against
Egil, whatever I cause to be done with him.'
And when the king had said
this, then Egil advanced before him and began the poem, and recited in a loud
voice, and at once won silence.
'Westward I sailed the wave,
Within me Odin gave
The sea of song I bear
(So 'tis my wont to fare):
I launched my floating oak
When loosening ice-floes broke,
My mind a galleon fraught
With load of minstrel thought.
'A prince doth hold me guest,
Praise be his due confess'd:
Of Odin's mead let draught
In England now be quaff'd.
Laud bear I to the king,
Loudly his honour sing;
Silence I crave around,
My song of praise is found.
'Sire, mark the tale I tell,
Such heed beseems thee well;
Better I chaunt my strain,
If stillness hush'd I gain.
The monarch's wars in word
Widely have peoples heard,
But Odin saw alone
Bodies before him strown.
'Swell'd of swords the sound
Smiting bucklers round,
Fiercely waxed the fray,
Forward the king made way.
Struck the ear (while blood
Streamed from glaives in flood)
Iron hailstorm's song,
Heavy, loud and long.
'Lances, a woven fence,
Well-ordered bristle dense;
On royal ships in line
Exulting spearmen shine.
Soon dark with bloody stain
Seethed there an angry main,
With war-fleet's thundering sound,
With wounds and din around.
'Of men many a rank
Mid showering darts sank:
Glory and fame
Gat Eric's name.
'More may yet be told,
An men silence hold:
Further feats and glory,
Fame hath noised in story.
Warriors' wounds were rife,
Where the chief waged strife;
Shivered swords with stroke
On blue shield-rims broke.
'Breast-plates ringing crashed,
Burning helm-fire flashed,
Biting point of glaive
Bloody wound did grave.
Odin's oaks (they say)
In that iron-play
Baldric's crystal blade
Bowed and prostrate laid.
'Spears crossing dashed,
Glory and fame
Gat Eric's name.
'Red blade the king did wield,
Ravens flocked o'er the field.
Dripping spears flew madly,
Darts with aim full deadly.
Scotland's scourge let feed
Wolf, the Ogress' steed:
For erne of downtrod dead
Dainty meal was spread.
O'er corse-strown lanes,
Found flesh-fowl's bill
Of blood its fill.
While deep the wound
He delves, around
Grim raven's beak
'Axe furnished feast
For Ogress' beast:
Eric on the wave
To wolves flesh-banquet gave.
'Javelins flying sped,
Peace affrighted fled;
Bows were bent amain,
Wolves were battle-fain:
Spears in shivers split,
Sword-teeth keenly bit;
Archers' strings loud sang,
Arrows forward sprang.
'He back his buckler flings
From arm beset with rings,
Spiller of foemen's blood.
(Witness true I bear),
East o'er billows came
Eric's sounding name.
'Bent the king his yew,
Bees wound-bearing flew:
Eric on the wave
To wolves flesh-banquet gave.
'Yet to make more plain
I to men were fain
High-soul'd mood of king,
But must swiftly sing.
Weapons when he takes,
The battle-goddess wakes,
On ships' shielded side
Streams the battle-tide.
'Gems from wrist he gives,
Glittering armlets rives:
Loves not hoarding miser.
Frodi's flour of gold
Gladdens rovers bold;
Prince bestoweth scorning
'Foemen might not stand
For his deathful brand;
Yew-bow loudly sang,
Sword-blades meeting rang.
Lances aye were cast,
Still he the land held fast,
Proud Eric prince renowned;
And praise his feats hath crowned.
'Monarch, at thy will
Judge my minstrel skill:
Silence thus to find
Sweetly cheered my mind.
Moved my mouth with word
From my heart's ground stirred,
Draught of Odin's wave
Due to warrior brave.
'Silence I have broken,
A sovereign's glory spoken:
Words I knew well-fitting
Praise from heart I bring,
Praise to honoured king:
Plain I sang and clear
Song that all could hear.'
Egil's life is given him.
King Eric sate upright while Egil recited the poem,
and looked keenly at him. And when the song of praise was ended, then spake the
king: 'Right well was the poem recited; and now, Arinbjorn, I have resolved
about the cause between me and Egil, how it shall go. Thou hast pleaded Egil's
cause with great eagerness, since thou offerest to risk a conflict with me. Now
shall I for thy sake do what thou hast asked, letting Egil go from my land safe
and unhurt. But thou, Egil, so order thy going that, after leaving my presence
and this hall, thou never come before my eyes, nor my sons' eyes, nor be ever
in the way of myself or my people. But I give thee now thy head this time for
this reason, that thou camest freely into my power. I will do no dastardly deed
on thee; yet know thou this for sure, that this is no reconciliation with me or
my sons or any of our kin who wish to wreak their vengeance.'
Then sang Egil:
am I in nowise,
in features loathly,
head in pardon
high king to take.
can boast that ever
gift he won him,
a lordly sovereign's
Arinbjorn thanked the king with
many fair words for the honour and friendship that he had shown him. Then they
two, Arinbjorn and Egil, went back to Arinbjorn's house. After that Arinbjorn
bade horses be made ready for his people. He rode away with Egil, and a hundred
fully armed men with him. Arinbjorn rode with that force till they came to king
Athelstan, where they were well received. The king asked Egil to remain with
him, and inquired how it had gone between him and king Eric. Whereupon Egil
his eyes black-browed
Eric, raven's friend,
Wise help therein
loyal kin lent.
head, throne of helmet,
erst, from rough rainstorm
rescue I knew.'
But at the parting of Arinbjorn
and Egil, Egil gave Arinbjorn those two gold rings that king Athelstan had
given him, whereof each weighed a mark. And Arinbjorn gave Egil the sword
called Dragvandill. This had been given to Arinbjorn by Thorolf Skallagrimsson;
but before that Skallagrim had received it from Thorolf his brother; but to
Thorolf the sword was given by Grim Shaggy-skin, son of Kettle Hæing. Kettle
Hæing had owned the sword and used it in his single combats, and no sword was
there more biting. Egil and Arinbjorn parted with much affection. Arinbjorn
went home to king Eric at York; but Egil's comrades and shipmates had good peace
there, and disposed of their cargo under Arinbjorn's protection. But as winter
wore on they moved south to England and joined Egil.
Egil goes to Norway.
There was a baron in Norway named Eric Allwise. He
married Thora, daughter of lord Thorir, sister of Arinbjorn. He owned property
eastwards in Vik. He was a very wealthy man, much honoured, of prophetic
foresight. Son of Eric and Thora was Thorstein; he was brought up with
Arinbjorn, and was now fully grown, though quite young. He had gone westwards
to England with Arinbjorn.
But in that same summer when Egil had come to England these tidings were heard
from Norway, that Eric Allwise was dead, but the king's stewards had taken his
inheritance, and claimed it for the king. These tidings when Arinbjorn and
Thorstein heard, they resolved that Thorstein should go east and see after the
So when spring came on and men made ready their ships who meant to travel from
land to land, then Thorstein went south to London, and there found king
Athelstan. He produced tokens and a message from Arinbjorn to the king and also
to Egil, that he might be his advocate with the king, so that king Athelstan
might send a message from himself to king Hacon, his foster-son, advising that
Thorstein should get his inheritance and possessions in Norway. King Athelstan
was easily persuaded to this, because Arinbjorn was known to him for good.
Then came Egil also to speak with king Athelstan, and told him his intention.
'I wish this summer,' said he, 'to go eastwards to Norway and see after the
property of which king Eric and Bergonund robbed me. Atli the Short,
Bergonund's brother, is now in possession. I know that, if a message of yours
be added, I shall get law in this matter.'
The king said that Egil should rule his own goings. 'But best, methinks, were
it,' he said, 'for thee to be with me and be made defender of my land and
command my army. I will promote thee to great honour.'
Egil answered: 'This offer I deem most desirable to take. I will say yea to it
and not nay. Yet have I first to go to Iceland, and see after my wife and the
property that I have there.'
King Athelstan gave then to Egil a good merchant-ship and a cargo therewith;
there was aboard for lading wheat and honey, and much money's worth in other
wares. And when Egil made ready his ship for sea, then Thorstein Eric's son
settled to go with him, he of whom mention was made before, who was afterwards
called Thora's son. And when they were ready they sailed, king Athelstan and
Egil parting with much friendship.
Egil and his company had a prosperous voyage; they came to Norway eastwards in
Vik, and sailed their ship right into Osloar-firth. Up on land there Thorstein
had estates, and also inwards as far as Raumarik. And when Thorstein landed
there, he then preferred his claim to his father's property before the stewards
who were settled on his farm. Many lent help to Thorstein in this matter: a
meeting was held about it: Thorstein had there many kinsmen of renown. The end
was that it was referred to the king's decision, Thorstein meanwhile taking to
him the safe-keeping of his father's possessions.
For winter lodgment Egil went to Thorstein's with eleven more. Thither to
Thorstein's house was moved the wheat and honey; a merry time of it they had
that winter. Thorstein kept house in grand style, for provisions were in
Egil and Thorstein go before the king.
King Hacon Athelstan's foster-son then ruled Norway,
as was told before. That winter the king held court in the north in Throndheim.
But as the winter wore on, Thorstein started on his journey and Egil with him,
and they had about thirty men. When ready they first went to Upland, thence
northwards by the Dovre-fell to Throndheim, where they came before king Hacon.
They declared their errand with the king. Thorstein explained his cause, and
produced witnesses that he was rightful owner of all that inheritance which he
claimed. The king received this matter well, and let Thorstein obtain his
possessions, and therewith he was made a baron of the king even as his father
Egil also went before king Hacon and declared his errand, giving therewith king
Athelstan's message and tokens. Egil claimed property that had belonged to
Bjorn Yeoman, lands and chattels. Half of this property he claimed for himself
and Asgerdr his wife; and he offered witness and oaths to his cause. He said,
too, that he had set all this before king Eric, adding that he had then not got
law, owing to king Eric's power and the prompting of Gunnhilda. Egil set forth
the whole cause which had been tried at the Gula-thing. He then begged the king
to grant him law in this matter.
King Hacon answered: 'This have I heard, that my brother Eric and with him
Gunnhilda both assert that thou, Egil, hast cast a stone beyond thy strength in
thy dealings with them. Now, methinks, though I and Eric have not the luck to
agree, yet thou mightest be well content should I do nothing in this cause.'
Egil said: 'Thou mayest not, O king, be silent about causes so great, for all
men here in the land, natives or foreigners, must hearken to thy bidding or
banning. I have heard that thou establishest here in the land law and right for
everyone. Now I know that thou wilt let me get these even as other men.
Methinks I am of birth and have strength of kinsfolk enough here in the land to
win right against Atli the Short. But as for the cause between me and king
Eric, there is this to say to thee, that I went before him, and that we so
parted that he bade me go in peace whither I would. I will offer thee, my lord,
my following and service. I know that there will be here with thee men who can
in no wise be thought of more martial appearance than I am. My foreboding is
that it will not be long ere thou and king Eric meet, if ye both live. And I shall
be surprised if thou come not then to think that Gunnhilda has borne too many
The king said: 'Thou shalt not, Egil, become my liege-man. Thy kin have hewn
far too many gaps in our house for it to be well that thou shouldst settle here
in this land. Go thou out to Iceland, and dwell there on thy father's
inheritance. No harm will there touch thee from our kin; but in this land 'tis
to be looked for that through all thy days our kin will be the more powerful.
Yet for the sake of king Athelstan, my foster-father, thou shalt have peace
here in the land, and shalt get law and land-right, for I know that he holds
thee right dear.'
Egil thanked the king for his words, and prayed that the king would give him
sure tokens to Thord in Aurland, or to other barons in Sogn and Hordaland. The
king said that this should be done.
Egil slays Ljot the Pale.
Thorstein and Egil made ready for their journey so
soon as they had ended their errand. They then went their way back, and when
they came south over the Dovre-fell, then said Egil that he would go down to
Raumsdale, and after that south by way of the sounds. 'I will,' said he,
'finish my business in Sogn and Hordaland, for I would fain in the summer take
my ship out to Iceland.' Thorstein bade him settle his journey as he would. So
Thorstein and Egil separated.
Thorstein went south by the dales all the way till he came to his estates.
There he produced the tokens of the king and his message before the stewards,
that they should give up all that property which they had taken and Thorstein
claimed. No one spoke against it, and he then took all his property.
Egil went his way, they being twelve in all. They came on to Raumsdale, there
got them conveyance, and then went south to Mæri. Nothing is told of their
journey before they came to the island called Hod, and went to pass the night
at a farm named Bindheim. This was a well-to-do homestead, in which dwelt a
baron named Fridgeir. He was young in years, and had but lately inherited his
father's property. His mother was named Gyda; she was a sister of lord
Arinbjorn, a woman of a noble presence and wealthy. She managed the house for
her son Fridgeir: they lived in grand style. There Egil and his company found
good welcome. In the evening Egil sat next to Fridgeir, and his comrades
outside him. There was much drink and sumptuous viands. Gyda, the
house-mistress, in the evening had some talk with Egil. She inquired about
Arinbjorn, her brother, and other of her kinsmen and friends who had gone to
England with Arinbjorn. Egil answered her inquiries. She asked what tidings had
befallen in Egil's journey. He told her plainly. Then he sang:
on me glowered
gruesome wrath a king:
cuckoo faints and fails not
vulture flapping near.
good from Arinbjorn,
oft, and peace I gat.
falls not whom true friends
forward on his way.'
Egil was very cheerful that evening, but Fridgeir and his household were rather
silent. Egil saw there a maiden fair and well dressed; he was told that she was
Fridgeir's sister. The maiden was sad and wept constantly that evening, which
they thought strange. They were there for the night, but in the morning the
wind was blowing hard, and there was no putting to sea. They need a boat to
take them from the island. Then went Fridgeir and with him Gyda to Egil, and
offered that he and his comrades should stay there till it was good travelling
weather, and should have thence such help for the journey as they needed. This
Egil accepted. They stayed there weather-bound for three nights, most
hospitably entertained. After that the weather became calm.
Then Egil and his men rose up early in the morning and made ready; then went to
meat, and ale was given them to drink, and they sat awhile. Then they took
their clothes. Egil stood up and thanked the master and mistress of the house
for their entertainment; then they went out. The master and his mother went out
into the path with them. Gyda then went to speak with her son Fridgeir, and
talked low with him, Egil standing the while and waiting for them.
Egil said to the maiden: 'Why weep you, maiden? I never see you cheerful.'
She could not answer, but wept the more. Fridgeir now said to his mother aloud:
'I will not now ask this. They are even now ready for their journey.'
Then Gyda went to Egil and said: 'I will tell you, Egil, how things stand here
with us. There is a man named Ljot the Pale. He is a Berserk and a duellist; he
is hated. He came here and asked my daughter to wife; but we answered at once,
refusing the match. Whereupon he challenged my son Fridgeir to wager of battle;
and he has to go to-morrow to this combat on the island called Vors. Now I
wished, Egil, that you should go to the combat with Fridgeir. It would soon be
shown if Arinbjorn were here in the land, that we should not endure the
overbearing of such a fellow as is Ljot.'
Egil said: ''Tis but my bounden duty, lady, for the sake of Arinbjorn thy
kinsman that I go, if Fridgeir thinks this any help to him.'
'Herein you do well,' said Gyda. 'So we will go back into the hall, and be all
together for the whole day.'
Then Egil and the rest went into the hall and drank. They sate there for the
day. But in the evening came those friends of Fridgeir who had appointed to go
with him, and there was a numerous company for the night, and a great banquet.
On the morrow Fridgeir made ready to go, and many with him, Egil being one of
the party. It was now good travelling weather.
They now start, and soon come to the island. There was a fair plain near the
sea, which was to be the place of combat. The ground was marked out by stones
lying round in a ring. Soon came thither Ljot and his party. Then he made him
ready for the combat. He had shield and sword. Ljot was a man of vast size and
strong. And as he came forward on the field to the ground of combat, a fit of
Berserk fury seized him; he began to bellow hideously, and bit his shield.
Fridgeir was not a tall man; he was slenderly built, comely in face, not
strong. He had not been used to combats. But when Egil saw Ljot, then he sang a
fits not young Fridgeir
fight with this warrior,
gnawer of shield-rim,
his gods who doth curse.
better may meet him,
rescue the maiden;
fearsome he stareth,
"fey" are his eyes.'
Ljot saw where Egil stood, and heard his words. He said: 'Come thou hither, big
man, to the holm, and fight with me, if thou hast a wish that way. That is a
far more even match than that I should fight with Fridgeir, for I shall deem me
no whit the greater man though I lay him low on earth.'
Then sang Egil:
asketh but little,
were I to baulk him.
wight, my hand pliant
play on his mail.
busk we for combat;
quarter expect thou:
After this Egil made him ready for combat with Ljot. Egil had the shield that
he was wont to have, was girded with the sword which he called Adder, but in
his hand he had Dragvandill. He went in over the boundary that marked the
battle-ground, but Ljot was then not ready. Egil shook his sword and sang:
we with hilt-wands flashing,
we shield with falchion,
we moony targets,
red sword in blood.
from life be sundered,
stern play shall lay him,
eagles, to your prey.'
Then Ljot came forward on the field and declared the law of combat, that he
should ever after bear the name of dastard who should draw back outside the
boundary stones that were set up in a ring round the field of combat. This
done, they closed, and Egil dealt a blow at Ljot, which Ljot parried with his
shield, but Egil then dealt blow upon blow so fast that Ljot got no chance for
a blow in return. He drew back to get room for a stroke, but Egil pressed as
quickly after him, dealing blows with all his vigour. Ljot went out beyond the
boundary stones far into the field. So ended the first bout. Then Ljot begged
for a rest. Egil let it be so. They stopped therefore and rested. And Egil
goeth yon champion,
craven fear crouches
strongly fights spearmen
strokes who delayeth.
beat by a bald-head
bragging pest flies.'
These were the laws of wager of battle in those times, that when one man
challenged another on any claim, and the challenger gained the victory, then he
should have as prize of victory that which he had claimed in his challenge. But
if he were vanquished, then should he ransom himself for such price as should
be fixed. But if he were slain on the field, then had he forfeited all his
possessions, and he who slew him in the combat should take his inheritance.
This was also law, that if a foreigner died who had no heir in the land, then
that inheritance fell to the king's treasury.
And now Egil bade Ljot be ready.
'I will,' he said, 'that we now try to the uttermost this combat.'
Ljot sprang swiftly to his feet. Egil bounded at him and dealt at once a blow
at him. He pressed him so close, that he was driven back, and the shield
shifted from before him. Then smote Egil at Ljot, and the blow came on him
above the knee, taking off his leg. Ljot then fell and soon expired. Then Egil
went to where Fridgeir and his party stood. He was heartily thanked for this
work. Then sang Egil:
lies the wolf-feeder,
worker of mischief:
leg by skald sever'd
Fridgeir in peace.
the free gold-giver
none I seek me,
I deem the spear-din,
with such pale foe.'
Ljot's death was little mourned, for he had been a turbulent bully. He was a
Swede by birth, and had no kin there in the land. He had come thither and
amassed him wealth by duels. He had slain many worthy landowners, whom he had
first challenged to wager of battle for their lands and heritages; he had now
become very wealthy both in lands and chattels.
Egil went home with Fridgeir from the field of combat. He stayed there but a
short time before going south to Mæri. Egil and Fridgeir parted with much
affection. Egil charged Fridgeir with the securing of those lands that had
belonged to Ljot. Egil went on his way and came to the Firths, whence he went
into Sogn to seek Thord in Aurland. Thord received him well; he declared his errand
and the message of king Hacon. These words of Egil were taken well by Thord,
who promised him his help in this matter. Egil remained there with Thord far
into the spring.
Of Egil's journeyings.
Egil went on southwards to Hordaland, taking for this
journey a rowing vessel, and thereon thirty men. They came on a day to Askr on
Fenhring island. Egil went up to the house with twenty men, while ten guarded
Atli the Short was there with some men. Egil bade him be called out and told
that Egil Skallagrimsson had an errand with him. Atli took his weapons, as did
all the fighting men that were there, and then they went out.
Egil spoke: 'I am told, Atli, that you hold in keeping that property which of
right belongs to me and my wife Asgerdr. You will belike have heard it talked
of ere now how I claimed the inheritance of Bjorn Yeoman, which Bergonund your
brother kept from me. I am now come to look after that property, lands and
chattels, and to beg you to give it up and pay it into my hands.'
Said Atli: 'Long have we heard, Egil, that you are a most unjust man, but now I
shall come to prove it, if you mean to claim at my hands this property, which
king Eric adjudged to Bergonund my brother. King Eric had then power to bid and
ban in this land. I was thinking now, Egil, that you would be come here for
this end, to offer me a fine for my brothers whose lives you took, and that you
would pay atonement for the pillage committed by you here at Askr. I would make
answer to this proposal, if you should plead this errand; but here to this
other I can make none.'
'I shall then,' said Egil, 'offer you, as I offered Onund, that Gula-thing laws
decide our cause. Your brothers I declare to have fallen without claim for fine
and through their own wrong deeds, because they had first plundered me of law
and land-right, and taken my property by force of arms. I have the king's leave
herein to try the law with you in this cause. I summon you to the Gula-thing,
there to have lawful decision on this matter.'
'To the Gula-thing,' said Atli, 'I will come, and we can there speak of this
Hereupon Egil with his comrades went away. He went north to Sogn, then into
Aurland to Thord, his wife's kinsman, and there he stayed till the Gula-thing.
And when men came to the Thing, then came Egil thither. Atli the Short was also
there. They began to declare their cause, and pleaded it before those who were
to judge. Egil made his demand of money due, but Atli offered against it as a
lawful defence the oath of twelve men that he, Atli, had in keeping no money
that belonged to Egil. And when Atli went before the court with his twelve who
would swear, then went Egil to meet him, and said that he would not accept
Atli's oaths for his own property. 'I will offer you other law, that we do
battle here at the Thing, and he shall have the property who wins the victory.'
This was also law, that Egil proposed, and ancient custom, that any man had a
right to challenge another to wager of battle, whether he were defendant in a
cause or prosecutor.
Atli said that he would not refuse this to do battle with Egil. 'For,' said he,
'you propose what I ought to have proposed, seeing that I have enough loss to
avenge on you. You have done to death my two brothers, and far shall I be from
upholding the right if I yield to you mine own possessions unlawfully rather
than fight with you when you offer me this choice.'
So then Atli and Egil joined hands and pledged them to do battle, the victor to
own the lands for which they had been disputing.
After this they arrayed them for combat. Egil came forward with helm on head,
and shield before him, and halberd in hand, but his sword Dragvandill he
suspended from his right arm. It was the custom with those who fought in single
combats so to arrange that the sword should need no drawing during the fight,
but be attached to the arm, to be ready at once when the combatant willed. Atli
had the same arming as Egil. He was experienced in single combats, was a strong
man, and of a good courage. To the field was led forth a bull, large and
old—'sacrificial beast' such was termed—to be slain by him who won the victory.
Sometimes there was one such ox, sometimes each combatant had his own led
And when they were ready for the combat, then ran they each at the other, and
first they threw their halberds, neither of which stood fast in the foeman's
shield, but both struck in the ground. Then took they both to their swords, and
went at it with a will, blow upon blow. Atli gave no ground. They smote fast
and hard, and full soon their shields were becoming useless. And when Atli's
shield was of no use, then he cast it from him, and, grasping his sword with
both hands, dealt blows as quickly as possible. Egil fetched him a blow on the
shoulder, but the sword bit not. He dealt another, and a third. It was now easy
to find parts in Atli that he could strike, since he had no cover; and Egil
brandished and brought down his sword with all his might, yet it bit not,
strike he where he might. Then Egil saw that nothing would be done this way,
for his shield was now rendered useless. So Egil let drop both sword and
shield, and bounding on Atli, gripped him with his hands. Then the difference
of strength was seen, and Atli fell right back, but Egil went down prone upon
him and bit through his throat. There Atli died.
Egil leapt up at once and ran to where the victim stood; with one hand he
gripped his lips, with the other his horn, and gave him such a wrench, that his
feet slipped up and his neck was broken; after which Egil went where his
comrades stood, and then he sang:
bared blue Dragvandill,
bit not the buckler,
the Short so blunted
edge by his spells.
my strength I grappled,
the wordy foeman;
tooth I bade bite him,
of swords at need.'
Then Egil got possession of all those lands for which he had contended and
claimed as rightfully coming to his wife Asgerdr from her father. Nothing is
told of further tidings at that Thing. Egil then went first into Sogn and
arranged about those lands that he now got into his own power. He remained
there for a great part of the spring. Afterwards he went with his comrades
eastwards to Vik, then to seek Thorstein, and was there for awhile.
Egil comes out to Iceland.
In the summer Egil prepared his ship, and, when all
was ready, at once set sail for Iceland. His voyage sped well. He came to
Borgar-firth and brought in his ship just below his own house. He had his cargo
conveyed home, and set up his ship. Egil stayed in his home that winter. He had
now brought out very great wealth, and was a very rich man. He had a large and
lofty house. Egil was by no means meddlesome with other men's matters, nor
generally presuming when here in Iceland; nor did any try to encroach on what
was his. Egil remained at home now for years not a few. Egil and Asgerdr had children
thus named: Bodvar a son, and another son Gunnar; Thorgerdr a daughter, and
Bera. Their youngest was Thorstein. All Egil's children were of good promise
and intelligence. Thorgerdr was the eldest of the children, Bera the next.
Egil goes abroad.
Egil heard tidings from east over the seas that Eric
Bloodaxe had fallen in the west while freebooting; but Gunnhilda and her sons
and Eric's had gone to Denmark, and all those that had followed Eric to England
had left that country. This, too, he heard, that Arinbjorn was now come to
Norway. He had taken again the grants and possessions that he had before, and
had gotten great favour with the king. Then Egil thought it desirable again to
go to Norway. Besides this came the tidings that king Athelstan was dead. His
brother Edmund now ruled England.
So Egil made ready his ship, and got him a crew. Aunund Sjoni was among them,
son of Ani of Anabrekka. Aunund was tall, and the strongest of those men who
were then in the country-side; nay, some doubted whether he were not
shape-strong. Aunund had often been on voyages from land to land. He was
somewhat older than Egil; there had long been friendship between the two.
And when Egil was ready he put out to sea, and their voyage sped well; they
came to Mid-Norway. And when they sighted land, they steered for the Firths.
They soon got tidings from land, and it was told them that Arinbjorn was at
home on his estate.
Egil put his ship into the haven nearest to Arinbjorn's house; then went he to
seek Arinbjorn, and a most joyful meeting was theirs. Arinbjorn offered
quarters to Egil and such of his men as he liked to bring. This Egil accepted,
and had his ship set up on rollers; but his crew found them quarters. Egil and
eleven with him went to Arinbjorn's. Egil had caused to be made a long ship's
sail, elaborately worked; this he gave to Arinbjorn, and yet other gifts of
value. Egil was there for the winter, treated with much honour.
In the winter Egil went southwards to Sogn to collect his land-rents, staying there
some time. After that he came north again to the Firths. Arinbjorn held a great
Yule-feast, to which he bade his friends and the neighbouring landowners. There
was there much company and good cheer. Arinbjorn gave Egil as a Yule-gift a
trailing robe made of silk, and richly broidered with gold, studded with gold
buttons in front all down to the hem. Arinbjorn had had the robe made to fit
Egil's stature. Arinbjorn gave also to Egil at Yule a complete suit newly made;
it was cut of English cloth of many colours. Friendly gifts of many kinds gave
Arinbjorn at Yule to those who were his guests, for Arinbjorn was beyond all
men open-handed and noble.
Then Egil composed a stave:
gave to poet
shall I find me
of better faith.
well his honours:
his like the ages
may look in vain.'
Egil after Yule-tide was taken with much sadness that
he spake not a word. And when Arinbjorn perceived this he began to talk with
Egil, and asked what this sadness meant. 'I wish,' said he, 'you would let me
know whether you are sick, or anything ails you, that I may find a remedy.'
Egil said: 'Sickness of body I have none; but I have much anxiety about this,
how I shall get that property which I won when I slew Ljot the Pale northwards
in Mæra. I am told that the king's stewards have taken up all that property,
and claimed ownership thereof for the king. Now I would fain have your help in
the recovery of this.'
Arinbjorn: 'I do not think your claim to the ownership of that property is
against the law of the land; yet methinks the property is now come into strong
keeping. The king's treasury hath a wide entrance, but a narrow exit. We have
urged many arduous claims of money against powerful persons, but we were in
more confidence with the king than now; for the friendship between me and king
Hacon is shallow; yet must I act after the old saw: He must tend the oak who is
to dwell beneath it.'
'Yet,' said Egil, 'my mind is that, if we have law to show, we should try.
Maybe the king will grant us right in this, for I am told that the king is
just, and keeps well to the laws which he has made here in the land. I am
rather minded to go seek the king and try the matter with him.'
Arinbjorn said that he did not desire this. 'I think, Egil, that these things
will be hard to reconcile, your eagerness and daring, and the king's temper and
power. For I deem him to be no friend of yours, and for good reason as he
thinks. I would rather that we let this matter drop, and did not take it up.
But if you wish it, Egil, I will rather myself go to the king and moot the
Egil said that he thanked him heartily, and would choose it to be so.
Hacon was then in Rogaland, but at times in Hordaland; there was no difficulty
in finding him. And not long after this talk Arinbjorn made ready for his
journey. It was then publicly known that he purposed to seek the king. He
manned with his house-carles a twenty-oared galley that he had. Egil was to
stay at home; Arinbjorn would not have him go. Arinbjorn started when ready,
and his journey went well; he found king Hacon, and was well received.
And when he had been there a little while, he declared his errand before the
king, and said that Egil Skallagrimsson was come there in the land, and thought
he had a claim to all that property that had belonged to Ljot the Pale. 'We are
told, O king, that Egil pleads but law in this; but your stewards have taken up
the property, and claimed ownership for you. I would pray you, my lord, that
Egil may get law herein.'
The king was slow to speak, but at length answered: 'I know not, Arinbjorn, why
thou comest with such pleading for Egil. He came once before me, and I told him
that I would not have him sojourn here in the land, for reasons which ye
already know. Now Egil must not set up such claim before me ad he did before my
brother Eric. And to thee, Arinbjorn, I have this to say, that thou mayest be
here in the land only so long as thou preferrest not foreigners before me and
my word; for I know that thy heart is with Harold son of Eric, thy foster-son;
and this is thy best choice, to go to those brothers and be with them; for I
strongly suspect that men like thee will be ill to trust to, if I and Eric's
sons ever have to try conclusions.'
And when the king had so spoken, Arinbjorn saw that it would not do to plead
this cause any further with him; so he prepared to return home. The king was
rather sullen and gloomy towards Arinbjorn after he knew his errand; but
Arinbjorn was not in the mood to humble himself before the king about this
matter. And so they parted.
Arinbjorn went home and told Egil the issue of his errand. 'I will not,' said
he, 'again plead such a cause to the king.'
Egil at this report frowned much; he thought he had lost much wealth, and
wrongfully. A few days after, early one morning when Arinbjorn was in his
chamber and few men were present, he had Egil called thither; and when he came,
then Arinbjorn had a chest opened, and weighed out forty marks of silver,
adding these words: 'This money I pay you, Egil, for those lands which belonged
to Ljot the Pale. I deem it just that you should have this reward from me and
my kinsman Fridgeir for saving his life from Ljot; for I know that you did this
for love of me. I therefore am bound not to let you be cheated of your lawful
right in this matter.'
Egil took the money, and thanked Arinbjorn. Then Egil again became quite
Of Arinbjorn's harrying.
Arinbjorn stayed at home on his estate that winter,
but in the next spring he let it be known that he meant to go a-freebooting.
Arinbjorn had good choice of ships. He made ready in the spring three
war-ships, all large, and he had three hundred men. His house-carles he had on
his own ship, which was excellently equipt; he had also with him many landowners'
sons. Egil settled to go with him; he steered a ship, and with him went many of
the comrades whom he brought from Iceland. But the merchant-ship which he
brought from Iceland he caused to be moved eastwards to Vik, getting some men
there to dispose of the cargo.
But Arinbjorn and Egil with the war-ships held a southward course along the
coast; then took their force still southwards to Saxland, where they harried in
the summer and got wealth. As autumn came on they came back northward harrying,
and lay off Friesland. One night when the weather was calm they went up a large
river-mouth, where was bad harbourage, and the ebb of the tide was great. There
up on land were wide flats with woods hard by. The fields were soaked because
there had been much rain. They resolved to go up there, and left behind a third
of their force to guard the ships. They followed up the river, keeping between
it and the woods. Soon they came to a hamlet where dwelt several peasants. The
people ran out of the hamlet into the fields, such as could do so, when they
perceived the enemy, but the freebooters pursued them. Then they came to a
second village, and a third; all the people fled before them. The land was
level, flat fields everywhere, intersected by dykes full of water. By these the
corn-lands or meadows were enclosed; in some places large stakes were set, and
over the dyke, where men should go, were bridges and planks laid. The country
folk fled to the forest. But when the freebooters had gone far into the settled
parts, the Frisians gathered them in the woods, and when they had assembled
three hundred men, they went against the freebooters resolved to give them
battle. There was then some hard fighting; but the end was that the Frisians
fled and the freebooters pursued the fugitives. The peasants that escaped were
scattered far and wide, and so were their pursuers. Thus it happened that on
either side few kept together.
Egil was hotly pursuing, and a few with him, after a numerous company that
fled. The Frisians came to a dyke, over which they went, and then drew away the
bridge. Then came up Egil and his men on the other bank. Egil at once went at
the dyke and leapt it, but it was no leap for other men, and no one tried it.
But when the Frisians saw that but one man was following, they turned back and
attacked him, but he defended himself well, and used the dyke to cover him
behind so that they could not attack him on all sides. Eleven men set on him,
but the end of their encounter was that he slew them all. After that Egil pushed
out the bridge over the dyke, and crossed it back again. He then saw that all
his people had turned back to the ships. He was then near the wood, and he now
went along the wood towards the ships so that he had the choice of the wood if
he needed its shelter. The freebooters had brought down to the shore much booty
and cattle. And when they came to the ships, some slaughtered the cattle, some
carried out the plunder to the ships, some stood higher up and formed a
shield-burgh; for the Frisians were come down in great force and were shooting
at them, being also in battle array. And when Egil came down and saw how
matters stood, he ran at full speed right at the throng. His halberd he held
before him grasped in both hands, and slung his shield behind his back. He
thrust forward his halberd, and all before him started aside, and so gat he a
passage right through their ranks. Thus he dashed down to his men, who looked
on him as recovered from the dead.
Then they went on ship-board, and loosed from land. They sailed then to
Denmark. And when they came to Lima-firth and lay at Hals, Arinbjorn held a
meeting of his men, and laid before them his plans. 'Now will I,' said he, 'go
seek Eric's sons with such force as will follow me. I have now learnt that the
brothers are in Denmark here, and maintain a large following, and spend the
summers in harrying, but for the winters abide here in Denmark. I now give
leave to all to go to Norway who would rather do that than follow me. For you,
Egil, methinks, the best counsel is that, as soon as we part, you return to
Norway, and then on with all speed to Iceland.'
Then the men separated to their several ships. Those who wished to go back to
Norway joined Egil, but by far the larger part of the force followed Arinbjorn.
Arinbjorn and Egil parted in love and friendship. Arinbjorn went to seek Eric's
sons, and joined the company of Harold Gray-fell his foster-son, and was with
him henceforth so long as they both lived.
Egil went northwards to Vik, and into Osloar-firth. There was his merchant ship
which he had caused to be moved thither in the spring. There were also his
cargo and the men who had gone with the ship. Thorstein Thora's son came to
seek Egil, and asked him and such men as he would bring to stay with him that
winter. Egil accepted the offer, had his ship set up and the cargo safely
bestowed. Of his followers some got quarters there, some went to their several
homes in the north. Egil in a company of ten or twelve went to Thorstein's, and
remained there for the winter an honoured guest.
Mission to Vermaland.
King Harold Fairhair had subdued Vermaland eastwards
as far as Lake Wener. Vermaland had first been cleared and tilled by Olaf
Tree-cutter, father of Halfdan Whitebone, who first of his family was king in
Norway; and from him on the father's side was king Harold descended, and all
his forefathers had ruled over Vermaland and taken tribute therefrom, and set
men in charge over the land. But when Harold was grown old, then was an earl
named Arnvid governor of Vermaland. It happened there, as elsewhere, that the
tribute was worse paid now than when Harold was in the vigour of life. So also
was it when Harold's sons strove for the rule in Norway, the outlying tributary
lands were little looked after. But when Hacon sat in peace, then enquired he
after all the empire that his father Harold had had. King Hacon had sent
eastwards to Vermaland a company of twelve men. These had received the tribute
from the earl. But as they were going back to Eida-wood, robbers set upon them
and slew them all. The same hap befell yet other messengers sent by king Hacon
eastwards to Vermaland; the men were slain, and no money was brought back. Then
was it said by some that earl Arnvid belike set men of his own to slay the
king's men, while he kept the tribute for himself. Whereupon king Hacon sent
yet a third company.
He was then in Throndheim; the messengers were to go to Vik and seek Thorstein
Thora's son with these words, that he should go eastwards to Vermaland and
gather in the tribute for the king, or else he must leave the land. For the
king had heard that Arinbjorn Thorstein's mother's brother was gone southwards
to Denmark and was with Eric's sons, and further that they had a large
following and spent the summer in harrying. King Hacon mistrusted the loyalty
of all this company, expecting as he did hostilities from Eric's sons if they
had but strength to raise rebellion against him. And to Arinbjorn's kinsmen and
friends he showed great dislike, putting some to death, driving some from the
land, or laying on them other hard conditions. And so it was that before
Thorstein the king put this choice.
The man who bore this message was named Kol; he was a man of all lands; he had
been long in Denmark and in Sweden, and knew all about ways and men there. In
Norway too he had travelled widely. And when he brought this proposal to
Thorstein Thora's son, then Thorstein told Egil upon what errand these men
came, and asked how he should answer them; he said that it seemed a hard thing
for him to lose his possessions and be driven out of the land.
Egil said: 'It is to me quite clear what this message means; the king will have
you out of the land like others of Arinbjorn's kin, for I call sending a man of
your nobleness on such errand a sending to certain death. My advice is that you
call the king's messengers to conference with you, and I will be present at
your talk, and we will see what come of it.'
Thorstein did as he bade; he held conference with them. The messengers told all
the truth of their errand and of the king's message, that Thorstein must go on
this mission or else be outlawed.
Egil said: 'I see clearly about your errand, that if Thorstein refuses to go,
then you will have to go and gather the in the tribute.' The messengers said that
he guessed rightly. Said Egil: 'Thorstein shall not go on this journey; for he
is in nowise bound thereto, a man of his renown, to go on such mean missions.
Thorstein will do that whereto he is bound, to wit, attend the king within the
land or without, if the king demands it. Also, if ye want to have some men from
hence for this journey, this will be granted you, and all such furtherance of
your journey as ye may name to Thorstein.'
Then the messengers talked among themselves, and agreed that they would accept
these terms, if Egil would go with them on the journey. 'The king,' they said,
'bears him great ill-will, and he will think our journey a right good one if we
bring it about that Egil be slain. He can then drive Thorstein out of the land
if he pleases.' So they told Thorstein that they would be content if Egil went
and Thorstein stayed at home.
'So shall it be,' said Egil. 'I will release Thorstein from this journey. But
how many men think ye that ye need to take from hence?'
'We are eight,' said they; 'we would fain have four men go from hence; then are
Egil said it should be so. Aunund Sjoni and some of Egil's company had gone out
to sea, to look after their ship and another cargo which they had given into
safe keeping in the autumn, and they had not yet returned. Egil thought this a
great pity, but the king's men were impatient to be gone, and would not wait.
Journey to Vermaland.
with three comrades made him ready for the journey. They had horses and sledges,
and so had the king's men. There was then deep snow, and all the roads were
effaced. They betook them to their journey when they were ready, and sledged up
the land; and when they came eastwards near Eida, it happened one night that so
much fresh snow fell that they could not see the way. On the morrow they
traveled slowly, because there were snowdrifts directly one left the track. And
as the day wore on they stopped to bait their horses; this was near a wooded
ridge. Then spoke the king's men with Egil: 'Here now the roads divide; forward
below the ridge dwells a landowner named Arnold, our friend; we with our party
will go and lodge there. But you shall go yonder up the ridge, and when you
come over it you will soon have before you a large house where you are sure of
lodging. A wealthy man dwells there, Armod Beard by name. But to-morrow early
we will again join company and go on the next evening to Eida-wood. There
dwells a worthy landowner named Thorfinn.'
Upon this they separated, Egil
and his men going up the ridge. But of the king's men this is to be told, that
no sooner were they and Egil out of sight of each other, than they took their
snow-shoes (which they had brought with them) and put them on; then they
retraced their way as fast as they could. Night and day they travelled, and
turned toward Upland, thence north by the Dovre-fell, nor stayed they till they
came before king Hacon, and told him of their journey, how it had sped.
Egil and his comrades crossed
the ridge that evening. To be brief, so soon as they left the main road and got
upon the ridge, they found deep snow, steep rocks, tangled copsewood. Now and
again in the snow the horses so plunged and lay that they had to be pulled up
out of it, and over rocks and crags was a hard struggle. Much ado had they with
the horses; but the walking for the men was of the heaviest, and sorely wearied
were they when they came off the ridge and saw before them a large house, for
which they made.
And when they came to the enclosure,
they saw men standing outside, Armod and some of his household. They exchanged
words and asked each other's tidings, and when Armod knew that they were
messengers of the king, he offered them lodging. This they accepted. Armod's
house-carles took their horses and harness; but the master bade Egil go into
the hall, and they did so.
Armod made Egil sit in the high
seat on the lower bench, and his comrades outside him. They spoke much of what
a toilsome way they had come that evening, but the house-carles thought it a
great marvel that they had won through it at all; it was, they said, no road
for man even were it free of snow.
Then said Armod: 'Think ye not
this were the best hospitality, that a table should be set for you and supper given
you now, and then you should sleep? This will best rest you.'
'We should like this right
well,' said Egil.
So Armod had a table set for
them, whereon were placed large bowls full of curds. Then said Armod that he
was sorry he had no beer to give them. Egil and his men were very thirsty from
weariness; they took up the bowls and drank the curds eagerly, Egil drinking
far the most. No other food was brought.
The household was numerous. The
mistress sat on the cross-bench, and beside her the other women. The master's
daughter, ten or eleven years old, was running about the hall-floor. The
mistress called her to her side, and spoke in her ear. Then the girl went out
to where Egil sat, and recited a verse:
thee with this message
mother doth send me,
bear word that Egil
wary and wait.
temper thy stomach,"
sayeth our lady,
fare far more worthy
feed we our guests."'
Armod struck the girl, and bade
her hold her tongue: 'You are always,' said he, 'saying what least suits.'
The girl went away; but Egil
threw down the curd-bowl, which was now nearly empty. The bowls were then
removed from them.
And now the household took
their seats, and tables were set all round the hall, and food served; dishes of
meat were brought in and set before Egil and the rest. After this ale was borne
in, beer of the strongest. Soon they began to drink bumpers, each man was to
drink off the horn; and especial care was taken that Egil and his companions
should drink hard. Egil drank without shirking a drop for a long while, but
when his companions were become helpless, then he drank for them what they
could not. So matters went on till the tables were removed, and by then all in
the room were well drunk.
But before each cup that he
drank Armod said: 'I drink to you, Egil,' and the house-carles drank to Egil's
companions with the same preface. A man was appointed to bear every cup to
Egil's party, and he urged them to drink it off quick. Egil told his companions
to drink no more, but himself drank for them what they could not avoid.
Egil soon found that it would
not do for him to go on so. Wherefore he stood up, went across the floor to
where Armod sat, took him with his hands by the shoulders, and forced him back
against the inner posts, and spat in his face. There was an outcry and uproar,
but Egil went back to his place, sate him down, and bade them serve him drink.
Armod leapt up and ran out;
Egil continued to drink for a while, as did some others in the hall; but there
was little merriment. Soon Egil and his men stood up, and took their weapons
from the wall where they had hung them up; they then went to the granary in
which their horse were, and laid themselves down in the straw, and slept
through the night.
Parting of Egil and Armod.
Egil rose up in the morning as soon as it was day. He
and his made them ready, and when ready went at once to the house to seek
Armod. And when they came to the apartments where slept Armod and his wife and
daughter, then Egil burst open the door and approached Armod's bed. He then
drew his sword, but with the other hand grasped the beard of Armod, and forced
him forward to the edge of the bed. But Armod's wife and daughter leapt up and
prayed Egil not to slay Armod. Egil said he would spare him for their sakes;
'For,' said he, 'this is but meet; yet has he deserved to die.'
After this Egil cut off his beard close to his chin, and put out one of his
eyes. Then he went out to his companions.
They went on their way and came a day-meal-time to the house of Thorfinn. He
dwelt by Eida-wood. Of him they craved a day-meal and to bait their horses.
Thorfinn granted this, and Egil with his men went into the hall. Egil asked if
Thorfinn had seen anything of the rest of his party.
'We appointed,' he said, 'to meet here.'
Thorfinn said: 'Here passed six men together a little before day; and they were
Then said a house-carle: 'I was driving a sledge in the night to fetch wood,
and I came upon six men on the road; they were house-carles of Armod; but that
was long before day. Now I am not sure whether these will be the same as the
six of whom you spoke.'
Thorfinn said that the six men whom he had met had passed after the house-carle
came back with the load of wood.
While they sat at meat Egil saw that a woman lay sick on the daïs at the ends
of the hall. He asked who was that woman in such sad case. Thorfinn said she
was named Helga, and was his daughter; she had long been ill; her complaint was
a pining sickness; she got no sleep at night, and was as one possessed.
'Has anything,' asked Egil, 'been tried for her ailment?'
'Runes have been graven,' said Thorfinn; 'a landowner's son hard by did this;
and she is since much worse than before. But can you, Egil, do anything for
Egil said: 'Maybe no harm will be done by my taking it in hand.'
And when Egil had finished his meal, he went where the woman lay and spoke with
her. Then he bade them lift her from her place and lay clean clothes under her,
and they did so. Next he searched the bed in which she had lain, and there he
found a piece of whalebone whereon were runes. Egil read them, then cut the
runes and scraped them off into the fire. He burned the whole piece of
whalebone, and had the bed-clothes that she had used hung out to air. Then Egil
none should grave ever
knows not to read them;
dark spell full many
meaning may miss.
spell-words writ wrongly
whale-bone were graven:
to leek-tending maiden,
sorrow and pain.'
Egil then graved runes, and laid them under the bolster of the bed where the
woman lay. She seemed as if she waked out of sleep, and said she now felt well,
but she was weak. But her father and mother were overjoyed. And Thorfinn
offered to Egil all the furtherance that he might think needful.
Egil comes to landowner Alf.
Egil said to his comrades that he would go on his way
and abide no longer. Thorfinn had a son named Helgi, a valiant man. Father and
son offered Egil their company through the wood. They said they knew for a fact
that Armod Beard had put six men into the wood to lie in wait for them, and it
was likely that there would be more ambushed in the wood in case the first
should fail. There were with Thorfinn four that offered to go. Then Egil sang a
four with me follow,
findest not six men
us bloody sword-blows
barter in fight.
if he with eight go,
twelve black-browed Egil
battle will dare.'
Thorfinn and his men decided to go into the wood with Egil: thus they were
eight in all. And when they came where the ambush was set, they saw men there.
But these house-carles of Armod who were in ambush, on seeing that the
travellers were eight in number, thought they were overmatched, and hid them
away in the wood. And when Egil's party came where the liers-in-wait had been,
they saw that all was not peaceful. And now Egil said that Thorfinn and his men
should go back, but they offered to go further. However Egil would not have it,
and bade them go home; so they did so and turned back.
But Egil and his men went on forward, being now four. And as the day wore on
they perceived that there were six men in the wood, and they were pretty sure
that these also were house-carles of Armod. Up leapt the liers-in-wait and made
at them, and they met their charge: and the encounter ended in Egil's saying
two and the rest running back into the wood.
Then Egil's company went on their way, and nothing more happened till they got
out of the wood and found lodging near the wood with a landowner named Alf, who
was called Alf the wealthy. He was an old man, wealthy in money, of a strange
temper, so that he could keep but few in his household. A good reception Egil
found there, and with him Alf was talkative. Egil asked many questions, and Alf
told him what he asked. They spoke much about the earl and the king of Norway's
messengers, who had before gone eastward to gather the tribute. Alf in his talk
was no friend to the earl.
Egil gathers tribute.
Egil made him ready early next morning to continue
his journey, as did his comrades, but at parting Egil gave Alf a fur cloak. Alf
took the gift with thanks, saying, 'A good mantle have I here.' And he bade
Egil visit him on the way back. They parted friends; and Egil going on his way
came on the evening of a day to earl Arnvid's court, where he found a good
reception. He and his comrades were placed next to the sitter in the seat
opposite the earl.
When Egil had been there for a night, he declared his errand with the earl, and
the message of the king from Norway, and said that he wished to have all that
tribute from Vermaland that had been owing since Arnvid had been set over the
land. The earl said that he had paid out of hand all the tribute, and delivered
it into the hands of the king's messengers. 'But I know not,' he said, 'what
they have since done with it, whether they brought it to the king or ran away
with it out of the land. However, as ye bear sure tokens that the king has sent
you, I will pay all the tribute to which he has a right, and deliver it into
your hands: but I will not be answerable afterwards for how you fare with it.'
Egil and his men remained there for awhile. But before Egil went away the earl
paid them the tribute. Part was in silver, part in gray fur.
And when Egil's party were ready they started to return. At their parting Egil
said to the earl: 'Now we will bear to the king this tribute which we have
received. But know, earl, that this is much less money than the king deems to
be his due here; and that too without counting that, as he thinks, thou
oughtest to pay atonement for the messengers whom common rumour says thou didst
cause to be slain.' The earl said that that was not true. With this they
Now when Egil was gone, the earl called to him his two brothers, each of whom
was named Ulf, and spoke thus: 'That big fellow Egil, who was here for awhile,
will, I expect, do us an ill turn when he comes to the king. We may by this
mark how he will bear our matter before the king, that he threw in our face
such a charge, the taking the life of the king's men. Now must ye two go after
their party and slay them all, and let none bear this slander before the king.
Methinks the wisest plan were to lie in wait for them in Eida-wood. Take with
you so many men as to make sure that not one of them escape, while ye get no
less of men from them.'
Then did the brothers make them ready for their journey, and they took thirty
men. They went to the wood, of which they knew every path: then they watched
for Egil's coming. There were two roads through the wood. One led over a
certain ridge, and there was a steep cliff, and only a path for one; this was
the shorter road. The other led round the edge of the ridge, over wide bogs,
across which hewn wood was laid, there too making a causeway for but one to
pass. And they lay in wait fifteen in either place.
Egil and his band slay twenty-five men.
Egil went till he came to Alf's, and was there for
the night in good quarters. Next morning he rose before day and made ready for
his journey. And while they sat over their morning meal, Alf the master came
in. He said: 'You are making a start betimes, Egil; but my counsel would be
that you hurry not your journey, but rather look before you, for I think there
be liers-in-wait for you in the wood. I have no men to give you as escort who
would be any strength to you: but this I offer, that ye tarry here with me till
I can report to you that the wood is safe.' Egil said: 'That will be mere
nonsense. I will go on my way as I before meant to do.'
So he and his men made ready to go, while Alf tried to stop them, and bade them
come back, if they saw that the way was trodden: 'None,' he said, 'have passed
the wood from the east since you, Egil, went eastward, except these, who, as I
suspect, have gone wishing to encounter you.' Egil said, 'How many will they
be, think you, if it is as you say? We have not lost the game, though there be
some odds against us.' Alf said: 'I with my house-carles had gone to the wood,
and we came on men's footprints; the trail led into the wood, and there must
have been many in all. But if you do not believe this that I say, go and see
for yourself the trail, and then turn back, if it seems as I tell you.' Egil
went his way, and when they came where the road entered the wood, they saw
there the tracks both of men and horses. Egil's comrades then advised that they
should turn back. 'We will go on,' said Egil: 'methinks 'tis no wonder that men
have gone through Eida-wood, for it is a public road.' So they went on, and the
footmarks continued, being of a numerous company. And when they came there
where the roads forked, then the trail also forked, and was equally strong
Then said Egil: 'Now I think that maybe Alf has told the truth. We will now
make us ready as expecting an encounter.' So then Egil and his men doffed their
cloaks and all their loose clothing, and laid these on the sledge. Egil had
brought in his sledge a very long cord of bast, for it is the wont of those who
take long sledging journeys to have with them some spare cord in case the
harness need mending. Egil took a large flat stone, and laid it before his
breast and stomach. Then he bent thereon the cord, and wound it round and round
him, and so encased him right up to the shoulders.
Eida-wood is of this kind: there is reaching to the cultivated land on either
side dense forest, but in the middle is a wide space of shrubs and thin copse,
with some parts quite bare of wood. Egil and his company turned by the shorter
way, which lay over the ridge. They all had shields and helms, and weapons both
to cut and thrust. Egil walked first. And when they came to the ridge, there
was wood at the foot of it, but above on the rock it was bare. But when they
came up to the rock, then seven men leapt out of the wood and up to the cliff
after them, and shot at them. Egil and his men turned and stood abreast across
the path. Then came other men against them from above on the crag's brow, and
cast stones at them, and this was by far the greater danger. Then said Egil,
'Now must you step back and close to the cliff, and cover yourselves as best ye
may; but I will try to win the summit.' They did so. And when Egil got past the
rock out on the top, there were in front eight men, who all at once set upon
him. Of their exchange of blows nought is there to tell: the end was that Egil
slew them all. Then he went forward to the verge of the summit and hurled over
stones, that none could withstand; and thereafter three of the Vermians fell,
but four gat them into the wood sore wounded and bruised.
Then Egil and his men took their horses and went on their way till they came
over the ridge. But the Vermians who had escaped brought news of this to their
fellows, who were by the bog. They then advanced by the lower road and so beset
the way in front of Egil. Ulf said to his comrades: 'We must now go cunningly
to work with them, and so manage that none get away. This,' said he, 'is the
nature of the ground: the road skirts the ridge, close to the foot of which
runs the bog, while a rocky brow is above, and the passage lies between these
and is no broader than a footpath. Now some of us shall go forward round the
brow to withstand them if they advance; but some shall hide here in the wood,
and leap out at their back when they have got on before us. And take we such
heed that none escape.' They did as Ulf bade: Ulf went forward round the brow
and ten men with him.
Egil and his men went on their way knowing nought of this plan till they came
into the narrow path. Then out leapt men behind them, and drove at them with
weapons. They faced about and defended themselves. Now also dashed at them
those who were in front of the rocky brow; and when Egil saw that, he turned to
meet them. Quick were the blows exchanged between them; and Egil smote down
some in the narrow pass, but some turned back to where there was more level
space. Egil dashed after them. There fell Ulf. And in the end Egil slew there
single-handed eleven men. Then he went where his comrades were keeping the pass
before eight men: there were some wounded on either side. But when Egil came,
then at once the Vermians fled to the wood hard by. Five escaped, all sore
wounded, but three fell there. Egil had many wounds, but none serious.
They then continued their journey. He bound his comrades' wounds, none of which
were mortal. They sat in the sledge, and drove for the rest of the day.
But the Vermians who escaped took their horses, and dragged themselves from the
wood eastwards to inhabited parts. There they got their wounds bound. Procuring
companions, they made their way to the earl, and told him of their
misadventure. They told how both the Ulfs had fallen, twenty-five men were
dead, and but five escaped with life, and they all wounded and bruised. The
earl then asked what were the tidings of Egil and his comrades. They answered:
'We know not for sure how much they were wounded; but full boldly did they set
on us when we were eight and they four; then we fled. Five reached the wood,
but three perished; yet, for all we could see, Egil and his men were as fresh
The earl said that their journey had been as bad as could be. 'I could have
been content we should have great loss of life, had ye but slain these
Northmen; but now when they come west from the wood and tell these tidings to
Norway's king, then may we expect from him the very hardest terms.'
Egil comes to Thorfinn's. The harrying of king Hacon.
Egil traveled on till he came westward out of the
wood. They made for Thorfinn's that evening, where they were well received:
their wounds were bound up, and they stayed there several nights. Helga, the
master's daughter, was now on her feet, and whole of her ailment. For this she
and all the family thanked Egil. He and his rested there themselves and their
The man who had graved the runes for Helga dwelt not far off. It now came out
that he had asked her to wife, but Thorfinn would not give her. Then this
landowner's son would fain beguile her, but she would not consent. So he
thought to grave for her love-runes, but he did not understand them aright, and
graved that wherefrom she took her sickness.
And when Egil was ready to depart, Thorfinn and his son escorted them on the
road: they being thus ten or twelve in company. They went with them all that
day as a guard against Armod and his house-carles. But when the tidings were
heard how Egil's band had fought against overwhelming odds in the wood and
conquered, then Armod thought it hopeless to raise shield against Egil:
wherefore he with all his men sat at home. Egil and Thorfinn exchanged gifts at
parting, and pledged themselves to friendship. Then Egil and his men went their
way, and no tidings are told of their journey before they came to Thorstein's.
There their wounds were healed. Egil stayed there till spring. But Thorstein
sent messengers to king Hacon to bring him the tribute for which Egil had gone
to Vermaland. Who, when they came before the king, told him the tidings of what
had been done in Egil's journey, and brought him the tribute. The king was now
sure that what he had before suspected was true, namely, that earl Arnvid had
caused the slaying of the two companies of messengers sent eastwards by him.
The king said that Thorstein should have leave to dwell in the land, and should
be reconciled to him. Then the messengers returned home; and on coming to Thorstein's
told him that the king was well pleased with this Vermaland journey, and that
Thorstein was now to have reconciliation and friendship with the king.
King Hacon in the summer went eastwards to Vik: whence he journeyed still
eastwards to Vermaland with a large force. Earl Arnvid fled away; but the king
took large fines from those landowners whom he thought guilty against him
according to the report of those who went after the tribute. He set over the
land another earl, taking hostages of him and of the landowners. In this
expedition Hacon went far and wide about western Gautland and subdued it, as is
told in his Saga, and is found in the poems composed about him. It is also told
that he went to Denmark, and harried there far and wide. Then was it that with
two ships he disabled twelve ships of the Danes, and gave to Tryggva, son of
his brother Olaf, the name of king and the rule over Vik eastwards.
Egil in the summer made ready his merchant-ship and got thereto a crew. But the
long-ship that he had brought from Denmark in the autumn he gave to Thorstein
at parting. Thorstein gave Egil good gifts, and they pledged them to close
friendship. Egil sent messengers to Thord, his wife's kinsman, at Aurland, and
gave him charge to arrange for those lands that Egil owned in Sogn and
Hordaland, bidding him sell them if there were a buyer. And when Egil was ready
for his voyage, they sailed out along the bay, and then northwards along the
Norway coast, and afterwards out into the main. They had a fairly good breeze,
and came from the main into Borgar-firth; and Egil steered his ship up the
firth to the haven close to his own house. He had his cargo conveyed home, and
his ship set up on wooden props. Egil went home to his house: fain were folk to
see him; and there he stayed for that winter.
Of the marriages of Egil's daughters.
By the time that Egil came out to Iceland from this
journey, the whole district was settled. All the original land-takers were
dead, but their sons or sons' sons were living, and dwelt there in the
district. There was a man named Grim, son of Sverting; he dwelt at Moss-fell
below the heath; rich was he and of good family; his sister was Rannveig whom
Thorod, the priest in Olvos, had to wife; their son was Skapti the lawman. Grim
was also afterwards lawman. He asked to wife Thordis daughter of Thorolf Egil's
brother, and stepdaughter of Egil. Egil loved Thordis no whit less than his own
children. She was a very beautiful woman. And since Egil knew that Grim was a
wealthy man and the match was a good one, it was so settled, and Thordis was
given to Grim. Then Egil paid over to her her father's heritage, and she went
home with Grim, and the pair dwelt long at Moss-fell.
There was a man named Olaf, son of Hauskuld Dale-koll's son and Melkorka
daughter of Myrkjartan king of the Irish. Olaf dwelt at Hjardarholt in
Lax-river-dale, westward in Broad-firth dales. Olaf was very wealthy, the
handsomest man in Iceland of his time, of a noble character. He asked to wife
Thorgerdr, Egil's daughter. Thorgerdr was comely, tall above woman's wont,
wise, rather proud-spirited, but in daily life gentle. Egil was well acquainted
with Olaf, and knew that the match was a worthy one, wherefore Thorgerdr was
given to Olaf. She went home with him to Hjardarholt.
Auzur, Eyvind's son, brother of Thorod in Olvos, had to wife Egil's daughter
Death of Bodvar: Egil's poem thereon.
Bodvar Egil's son was just now growing up; he
was a youth of great promise, handsome, tall and strong as had been Egil or
Thorolf at his age. Egil loved him dearly, and Bodvar was very fond of his
father. One summer it happened that there was a ship in White-river, and a
great fair was held there. Egil had there bought much wood, which he was having
conveyed home by water: for this his house-carles went, taking with them an
eight-oared boat belonging to Egil. It chanced one time that Bodvar begged to
go with them, and they allowed him so to do. So he went into the field with the
house-carles. They were six in all on the eight-oared boat. And when they had
to go out again, high-water was late in the day, and, as they must needs wait
for the turn of tide, they did not start till late in the evening. Then came on
a violent south-west gale, against which ran the stream of the ebb. This made a
rough sea in the firth, as can often happen. The end was that the boat sank
under them, and all were lost. The next day the bodies were cast up: Bodvar's
body came on shore at Einars-ness, but some came in on the south shore of the
firth, whither also the boat was driven, being found far in near Reykjarhamar.
Egil heard these tidings that same day, and at once rode to seek the bodies: he
found Bodvar's, took it up and set it on his knees, and rode with it out to
Digra-ness, to Skallagrim's mound. Then he had the mound opened, and laid
Bodvar down there by Skallagrim. After which the mound was closed again; this
task was not finished till about nightfall. Egil then rode home to Borg, and,
when he came home, he went at once to the locked bed-closet in which he was
wont to sleep. He lay down, and shut himself in, none daring to crave speech of
It is said that when they laid Bodvar in earth Egil was thus dressed: his hose
were tight-fitting to his legs, he wore a red kirtle of fustian, closely-fitting,
and laced at the sides: but they say that his muscles so swelled with his
exertion that the kirtle was rent off him, as were also the hose.
On the next day Egil still did not open the bed-closet: he had no meat or
drink: there he lay for that day and the following night, no man daring to
speak with him. But on the third morning, as soon as it was light, Asgerdr had
a man set on horseback, who rode as hard as he could westwards to Hjardarholt,
and told Thorgerdr all these tidings; it was about nones when he got there. He
said also that Asgerdr had sent her word to come without delay southwards to
Borg. Thorgerdr at once bade them saddle her a horse, and two men attended her.
They rode that evening and through the night till they came to Borg. Thorgerdr
went at once into the hall. Asgerdr greeted her, and asked whether they had
eaten supper. Thorgerdr said aloud, 'No supper have I had, and none will I have
till I sup with Freyja. I can do no better than does my father: I will not
overlive my father and brother.' She then went to the bed-closet and called,
'Father, open the door! I will that we both travel the same road.' Egil undid
the lock. Thorgerdr stepped up into the bed-closet, and locked the door again,
and lay down on another bed that was there.
Then said Egil, 'You do well, daughter, in that you will follow your father.
Great love have you shown to me. What hope is there that I shall wish to live
with this grief?' After this they were silent awhile. Then Egil spoke: 'What is
it now, daughter? You are chewing something, are you not?' 'I am chewing
samphire,' said she, 'because I think it will do me harm. Otherwise I think I
may live too long.' 'Is samphire bad for man?' said Egil. 'Very bad,' said she;
'will you eat some?' 'Why should I not?' said he. A little while after she
called and bade them give her drink. Water was brought to her. Then said Egil,
'This comes of eating samphire, one ever thirsts the more.' 'Would you like a
drink, father?' said she. He took and swallowed the liquid in a deep draught:
it was in a horn. Then said Thorgerdr: 'Now are we deceived; this is milk.'
Whereat Egil bit a sherd out of the horn, all that his teeth gripped, and cast
the horn down.
Then spoke Thorgerdr: 'What counsel shall we take now? This our purpose is
defeated. Now I would fain, father, that we should lengthen our lives, so that
you may compose a funeral poem on Bodvar, and I will grave it on a wooden
roller; after that we can die, if we like. Hardly, I think, can Thorstein your
son compose a poem on Bodvar; but it were unseemly that he should not have
funeral rites. Though I do not think that we two shall sit at the drinking when
the funeral feast is held.' Egil said that it was not to be expected that he
could now compose, though he were to attempt it. 'However, I will try this,'
Egil had had another son named Gunnar, who had died a short time before.
So then Egil began the poem, and this is the beginning.
SONA-TORREK (SONS' LOSS).
doth it task me
tongue to move,
my throat to utter
breath of song.
prize of Odin,
now I may not,
draught drawn not lightly
deep thought's dwelling.
it flows but hardly;
within my breast
stream of song—
boon to mortals
from Odin's kin,
Giant-land of yore.
who so blameless
him in life,
boat was whelmed.
from giant's wound—
upon the grave-gate
my sire and son.
now my kindred
near to their end,
gay or gladsome
he who beareth
I may tell;
mourn the loss.
store hath memory
wood to bloom leafy
words of song.
woful the breach,
the wave in-brake
the fenced hold
my father's kin.
as I wot,
open doth stand
gap of son rent
the greedy surge.
Ran, the sea-queen,
stand of beloved ones
and all bare.
hath the billow
cord of my kin,
of mine own twisting
stout and strong.
if sword could venge
times would wait
I strong to slay,
him and his sea-brood
would I go.
I in no wise
as I ween,
that may strive
the stout ships' Bane.
to eyes of all
now 'tis seen
the old man's lot
is and lone.
hath the main
is the tale,
deaths of kin:
he the shelter
shield of my house
him from life
heaven's glad realm.
surely I know,
my son was waxing
stuff and the strength
a stout-limbed wight:
he reached but ripeness
raise his shield,
Odin laid hand
his liegeman true.
thwart my rede:
in mine household
my power and rule
prop and the stay.
to my mind
loss doth come,
I brotherless bide
I bethink me,
thickens the fight
with much searching
soul doth muse:
staunch stands by me
stress of fight,
want doth weaken
war's dread hour;
friends all fail.
place to his sire
a proverb true)
ne'er so kind)
brother can stand
all our ice-fields,
now I find
deeds men love,
death to their kin,
seeking his own
the happier bees' home
passed my son,
good wife's child
his glorious kin.
minstrel mead the lord,
me a heavy hand
my drooping brow,
of sight and thought.
fire of sickness
from my home
off a son
who was heedful,
do I mind me,
the Friend of men
the home of gods
his father's stem,
my true wife born
branch so fair.
bare I goodwill
the great spear-lord,
trusty and true
trowed for friend:
the giver of conquest,
faith and friendship
in my need.
victim and worship
god once honoured,
give no more.
the friend of Mimir
me hath bestowed
boot for bale,
all boons I tell.
he, the wolf-tamer,
fill my soul:
wit to know well
force him to face me
foeman in fight.
am I beset;
Hela, the sister
Odin's fell captive,
shall I gladly
right good welcome
Egil began to cheer up as the
composing of the poem went on; and when the poem was complete, he brought it
before Asgerdr and Thorgerdr and his family. He rose from his bed, and took his
place in the high-seat. This poem he called 'Loss of Sons.' And now Egil had
the funeral feast of his son held after ancient custom. But when Thorgerdr went
home, Egil enriched her with good gifts.
Hacon's wars and death. Poem on Arinbjorn.
Long time did Egil dwell at Borg, and became an
old man. But it is not told that he had lawsuits with any here in the land; nor
is there a word of single combats, or war and slaughter of his after he settled
down here in Iceland. They say that Egil never went abroad out of Iceland after
the events already related. And for this the main cause was that Egil might not
be in Norway, by reason of the charges which (as has been told before) the
kings there deemed they had against him. He kept house in munificent style, for
there was no lack of money, and his disposition led him to munificence.
King Hacon, Athelstan's foster-son, long ruled over Norway; but in the latter
part of his life Eric's sons came to Norway and strove with him for the
kingdom; and they had battles together, wherein Hacon ever won the victory. The
last battle was fought in Hordaland, on Stord-island, at Fitjar: there king
Hacon won the victory, but also got his death-wound. After that Egil's sons
took the kingdom in Norway.
Lord Arinbjorn was with Harold Eric's son, and was made his counsellor, and had
of him great honours. He was commander of his forces and defender of the land.
A great warrior was Arinbjorn, and a victorious. He was governor of the Firth
folk. Egil Skallagrimsson heard these tidings of the change of kings in Norway,
and therewith how Arinbjorn had returned to his estates in Norway, and was
there in great honour. Then Egil composed a poem about Arinbjorn, whereof this
is the beginning:
ARINBJORN'S EPIC, OR A PART THEREOF.
praise I find,
stint my words
king's true deeds,
am I of scorn,
willing speak I
I of monarchs
many have sought,
bore, prince royal
hood of daring
dark locks drawn
lord right noble
rode to seek.
sate in might
The monarch strong,
With helm of terror
High-throned and dread;
A king unbending
With bloody blade
Within York city
Wielded he power.
Might none behold,
Nor brook undaunted
Great Eric's brow:
As fiery serpent
His flashing eyes
Shot starry radiance
Stern and keen.
I to this ruler
Of fishful seas
My bolster-mate's ransom
Made bold to bear,
Of Odin's goblet
Each listening ear-mouth
beauteous in seeming
My bardic fee
To ranks of heroes
In royal hall:
When I my hood-knoll
Wolf-gray of hue
For mead of Odin
From monarch gat.
I took it,
The pit-holes black
Of my beetling brows;
Yea and that mouth
That for me bare
The poem of praise
To princely knees.
And tongue likewise,
Ears' sounding chambers
And sheltering eaves.
And better deemed I
Than brightest gold
The gift then given
By glorious king.
a staunch stay
Stood by my side,
One man worth many
Of meaner wights,
Mine own true friend
Whom trusty I found,
In counsels bold.
Alone us saved—
Foremost of champions—
From fury of king;
Friend of the monarch
He framed no lies
Within that palace
Of warlike prince.
the stay of our house
Still spake he truth,
(While much he honoured
Of the son of Kveldulf,
Whom fair-haired king
Slew for a slander,
But honoured slain.
were it if he
wrought me good,
gifts had cast
the wasteful tract
the wild sea-mew,
the surge rough-ridden
to my friend
Were I fairly called,
An untrue steward
Of Odin's cup;
Of praise unworthy,
If I for such good
Gave nought again.
The bard to climb
With feet poetic
The frowning steep,
And set forth open
In sight of all
The laud and honour
Of high-born chief.
shall my voice-plane
Shape into song
Virtues full many
Of valiant friend.
Ready on tongue
Twofold they lie,
Yea, threefold praises
Of Thorir's son.
tell I forth
What far is known,
In ears of all;
How generous of mood
Men deem this lord,
Bjorn of the hearth-fire
The birchwood's bane.
With wond'ring praise,
How to all guests
Good gifts he gives:
For Bjorn of the hearth-stone
Is blest with store
Freely and fully
By Frey and Njord.
him, high scion
Of Hroald's tree,
Fulness of riches
Flowing hath come;
And friends ride thither
In thronging crowd
By all wide ways
'Neath windy heaven.
Around his brow
A coronal fair,
As a king, he wore.
Beloved of gods,
Beloved of men,
The warrior's friend,
The weakling's aid.
mark he hitteth
That most men miss;
Though money they gather,
This many lack:
For few be the bounteous
And far between,
Nor easily shafted
Are all men's spears.
of the mansion
When guested and rested
In generous wise,
None with hard jest,
None with rude jeer,
None with his axe-hand
Is he of the Firths,
A foe to the gold-drops
Of Draupnir born.
. . . . .
Riches he squanders,
Of avarice thievish
An enemy still.
. . . . .
'Long course of life
His lot hath been,
By battles broken,
Bereft of peace.
. . . . .
'Early waked I,
Word I gathered,
Toiled each morning
With speech-moulding tongue.
A proud pile built I
Of praise long-lasting
To stand unbroken
In Bragi's town.'
Of Einar Helgi's son and Egil.
There was a man named Einar. He
was the son of Helgi, the son of Ottar, the song of Bjorn Easterling, who took
land in Broad-firth. Einar was brother of Osvif the seer. Einar at an early age
was tall and strong, and most doughty. He began to compose poetry when quite
young, and was eager for learning. One summer at the Thing Einar went to the
booth of Egil Skallagrimsson, and they began to talk, and soon their talk took
this turn that they spoke of poetry. In this converse both of them found
pleasure. After this Einar often went to talk with Egil, and a great friendship
was struck up between them.
Einar had not long returned to
Iceland from foreign travel. Egil asked Einar much of tidings from the east,
and about his friends, and withal about those that he deemed his enemies. He
asked also much about men of rank. Einar in turn asked Egil about the events
that had happened in his travels, and about his exploits. This talk pleased
Egil, and was kept up briskly. Einar asked Egil on what occasion his prowess
had been most hardly tried; this he begged him to say. Egil then sang:
with eight I battled,
faced I twice,
for wolf a meal,
the bane of all.
shook by sword-strokes
fast and furious;
my ashen spear.'
Egil and Einar pledged them to
friendship on parting. Einar was long abroad from Iceland with men of rank.
Einar was open-handed, and often short of money, but noble-hearted and manly.
He was in the body-guard of earl Hacon Sigurd's son. At that time there was in
Norway much war, the battles between earl Hacon and Eric's sons; and now one,
now the other, was driven from the land. King Harold, Eric's son, fell south in
Denmark, at Hals in Lima-firth; this was by treachery. He was then fighting
with Harold Knut's son, who was called Gold-Harold, and earl Hacon was there.
There fell also with king Harold lord Arinbjorn, of whom much has already been
told. And when Egil heard of the fall of Arinbjorn, then he sang:
spent and gone. Where seek
lavish donors now?
beyond the sea,
on my high hawk-perch
down the silver shower.'
Einar Helgi's son the poet was
nicknamed Skala-glam. He composed a poem about earl Hacon, which is called
'Dearth of Gold'; and for a long time the earl would not hear the poem because
he was wroth with Einar. Then Einar sang:
made I on a chief
o'er land enthroned;
others slept, I wrought,
I much repent.
the earl to seek
I came, nor thought
brave free-handed prince
worse would fare.'
And further he sang:
we that earl whose sword
banquet for the wolf:
Sigvald's ship well-oared,
my sword I lend.
of wound-snake, he
not my succour scorn:
to his sea-borne barque
buckler now will bear.'
The earl did not wish Einar to
go away; so he granted a hearing to the poem, and thereafter gave Einar a
shield, which was a most costly work. It was inscribed with old tales; and
between the writing were overlaid spangles of gold with precious stones set
therein. Einar went to Iceland and lodged with his brother Osvif: but in autumn
he rode east and came to Borg, and was guest there. Egil was just then not at
home, having gone to the northern part of the district, but was expected home.
Einar waited for him three nights: longer than three nights it was not the
custom to stay on a friendly visit. Then Einar made him ready to go; but when
ready he went to Egil's place in the hall, and there he hung up that precious
shield, and told the house-carles that he left it a gift for Egil. Then he rode
But on that same day Egil came
home. And when he came in to his place, then he saw the shield, and asked whose
was that costly work. It was told him that Einar Skala-glam had come there, and
had left the shield as a gift for him. Then said Egil: 'The wretched man, to
give it! He means that I should bide awake and compose poetry about his shield.
Now, bring my horse. I must ride after him and slay him.' He was told that Einar
had ridden away early in the morning. 'He will,' they said, 'by this be come
westwards to the dales.' Soon after Egil composed a poem, whereof this is the
shield, the ship's bright guard,
show the praise ''tis time,
to my hand is given
skilful guidance lent
ye who list my lay)
reins of minstrel lore.'
Egil and Einar remained friends
so long as they both lived. But about the shield's fortune at last this is
told, that Egil took it with him to the wedding when he went north to Broadmoor
with Thorkettle Gunnvald's son and Red-Bjorn's sons Trefill and Helgi. There
the shield was spoilt by falling into a tub of sour whey. After this Egil had
the outer ornaments taken off: and there were twelve ounces of gold in the
Of Thorstein Egil's son.
Thorstein Egil's son when he
grew up was a most handsome man, white-haired, bright-faced. Tall he was and
strong, yet not so much so as his father. Thorstein was wise, gentle, quite of
temper, calm above other men. Egil loved him little; nor was Thorstein
affectionate with his father; but Asgerdr and Thorstein loved each other
dearly. Egil was now beginning to age much.
One summer Thorstein rode to
the Thing, but Egil sat at home. Before Thorstein left home he and Asgerdr
managed to take from Egil's chest without his knowledge the silken robe given
him by Arinbjorn, and Thorstein took it to the Thing. But when he wore it at
the Thing it trailed behind him, and became soiled at the hem as they were
going to the hill of laws. And when he came home, Asgerdr put the robe in the
chest where it was before. Long after, when Egil opened his chest, he found
that the robe was spoilt, and questioned Asgerdr how that had come about. She
told him the truth. Then Egil sang:
who from me inherits
hold no worthy heir.
son deceives me living,
I call his deed.
might he, wave-horse-rider,
but awhile, till me
shroud of piled stones.'
Thorstein married Jofridr,
daughter of Gunnar son of Hlif: her mother was Helga daughter of Olaf Feilan,
sister of Thord Gellir. Jofridr had before been wife of Thorod the son of
Soon after this Asgerdr died.
After her death Egil gave up his housekeeping to Thorstein, and went south to
Moss-fell to Grim, his son-in-law, for he loved Thordis his step-daughter most
of all who were then living. One summer a ship came out and put into Loam Bay,
steered by a man named Thormod. He was a Norwegian, a house-carle of Thorstein
Thora's son. He was to take with him a shield, which Thorstein had sent to Egil
Skallagrimsson: it was a valuable treasure. Thormod brought Egil the shield,
and he received it with thanks. In the following winter Egil composed a poem
about the gift of the shield: it is called Buckler-poem, and this is the
to the stream of lay
long-haired Odin flowing,
of a king, and bid
folk due silence keep.
thee, sea-raven's ruler,
from the eagle's beak
oft shall shower of song
Horda's shore be heard.'
Thorstein Egil's son dwelt at
Borg. He had two illegitimate sons, Hrifla and Hrafn. But after his marriage he
and Jofridr had ten children. Helga the fair was their daughter, she about whom
quarrelled Skald-Hrafn and Gunnlaug Wormstongue. Grim was their eldest son, the
second Skuli, the third Thorgeir, the fourth Kollsvein, the fifth Hjorleif, the
sixth Hall, the seventh Egil, the eighth Thord. The other daughter was Thora,
who was married to Thormod Kleppjarn's son. From Thorstein's children sprang a
large progeny, and many great men. They are called Myra-men, all those that
sprang from Skallagrim.
Of Aunund Sjoni and Steinar his son.
Aunund Sjoni dwelt at Anabrekka, while
Egil dwelt at Borg. Aunund married Thorgerdr daughter
of Thorbjorn the Stout, of Snæfell-strand: the children of Aunund and his wife
were a son Steinar, and a daughter Dalla. And when Aunund grew old and his
sight was dim, then he gave up the housekeeping to Steinar his son. Father and
son had much wealth.
Steinar was above other men
tall and strong, ill-favoured, with a stoop, long in the legs, short in the
body. He was a very quarrelsome man, vehement, overbearing, and obstinate, a
most headstrong fellow. And when Thorstein Egil's son came to dwell at Borg,
there was at once a coolness between him and Steinar. South of Hafs-brook lies
a moor called Stack-moor. In winter this is under water, but in spring, when
the ice breaks up, such good grazing for cattle is there, that it was deemed
equal to stacked hay. Hafs-brook by old custom marked the boundary; but in
spring Steinar's cattle encroached much on Stack-moor, when driven out to
Hafs-brook, and Thorstein's house-carles complained of it. Steinar took no
notice of this; and so matters went on for the first summer without anything
happening. But in the second spring Steinar continued to take the pasturage;
wherefore Thorstein spoke with him about it, but quietly, asking him to control
the grazing of his kine, as had been the old usage. Steinar said the cattle
should go where they would. He spoke on the whole matter with obstinacy, and he
and Thorstein had words about it. Thorstein then had the cattle turned back to
the moor beyond Hafs-brook. This when Steinar knew, he charged Grani his thrall
to sit by the cattle on Stack-moor, and he sat there every day. This was in the
latter part of the summer: all the pasture south of Hafs-brook had been grazed by
Now it happened one day that
Thorstein had mounted a knoll to look round. He saw where Steinar's cattle were
moving. Out he went on to the moor: it was late in the day. He saw that the
cattle had now come far out on the fenny hollow. Thorstein ran out on the moor.
And when Grani saw that, he drove the cattle away apace till they came to the
milking-shed. Thorstein followed, and he and Grani met in the gate. Thorstein
slew him there: and it has been called since Grani's gate: it is in the wall of
the enclosure. Thorstein pulled down the wall over Grani, and so covered his
body. Then he went home to Borg, but the women who came to the milking-shed
found Grani where he lay. After that they carried him home to the house, and
told Steinar these tidings. Steinar buried him up on the hillside, and soon got
another thrall to go with the cattle, who name is not told. Thorstein made as
though he knew nothing about the pasture for the remainder of the summer.
It now happened that Steinar in
the early part of the winter went out to Snæfell-strand and stayed there
awhile. There he saw a thrall named Thrand, who was tall and strong above other
men. Steinar, wishing to buy him, bid a large sum: but his owner valued him at
three marks of silver, which was twice the price of a common thrall, and at
this sum the bargain was made. Steinar took Thrand home with him, and when they
came home, then spoke Steinar with Thrand: 'Now stand matters so that I will
have work of you. But as all the work is already arranged, I will put on you a
task of but little trouble: you shall sit by my cattle. I make a great point of
their being well kept at pasture. I would have you go by no man's rule but your
own, take them wherever the pasture on the moor is best. I am no judge of a
man's look if you have not courage and strength enough to hold your own against
any house-carle of Thorstein's.'
Steinar delivered into Thrand's
hand a large axe. whose blade was an ell long, it was keen as a razor. 'This I
think of you, Thrand,' said Steinar, 'that you would not regard the priesthood
of Thorstein if ye two were face to face.' Thrand answered: 'No duty do I, as I
deem, owe to Thorstein; and methinks I understand what work you have laid
before me. You think you risk little where I am; and I believe I shall come
well out of it if I and Thorstein try our strength together.'
After this Thrand took charge
of the cattle. He understood, ere he had been long there, whither Steinar had
had his cattle taken, and he sat by them on Stack-moor. When Thorstein was
aware of this, he sent a house-carle to seek Thrand, bidding him tell Thrand
the boundary between his land and Steinar's. When the house-carle came to
Thrand, he told him his errand, and bade him take the cattle otherwither,
saying that the land on which they were belonged to Thorstein Egil's son.
Thrand said, 'I care not a jot who owns the land; I shall take the cattle where
I think the pasture is best.' Then they parted: the house-carle went home and
told him the thrall's answer. Thorstein let the matter rest, and Thrand took to
sitting by the cattle night and day.
Slaying of Thrand.
One morning Thorstein rose with
the sun, and went up on the hill. He saw where Steinar's cattle were. Then went
Thorstein out on the moor till he came to the cattle. There stands a wood-clad
rock by Hafs-brook: upon this Thrand was lying asleep, having put off his
shoes. Thorstein mounted the rock: he had in his hand a small axe, and no other
weapon. With the shaft of the axe he poked Thrand, and bade him wake. Up he
jumped swiftly and suddenly, gripped his axe with both hands and raised it
aloft, and asked Thorstein what he wanted. He replied, 'I wish to tell you that
this land is mine; yours is the pasture beyond the brook. It is no wonder if
you do not yet know the landmarks here.' Said Thrand, 'It makes no odds to me
who owns the land: I shall let the cattle be where they please.' ''Tis likely,'
said Thorstein, 'that I shall wish myself, and not Steinar's thralls, to rule
my own land.' Said Thrand, 'You are a far more foolish man, Thorstein, than I
judged you to be, if you will take night-quarters under my axe, and for this
risk your honours. Methinks, from what I see, I have twice your strength; nor
lack I courage: better weaponed am I also than you.' Thorstein replied: 'That
risk I shall run, if you do not as I say about the pasture. I hope that our
good fortune may differ much, as does the justice of our cause.' Thrand said:
'Now shall you see, Thorstein, whether I at all fear your threats.' And with
that Thrand sat down and tied on his shoe. But Thorstein raised his axe
swiftly, and smote on Thrand's neck so that his head fell forward on his
breast. Then Thorstein heaped some stones over him and covered his body, which
done, he went home to Borg.
On that day Steinar's cattle
were late in coming home; and when there seemed no hope of their coming,
Steinar took his horse and saddled it, and fully armed himself. He then rode to
Borg. And when he came there he found men to speak to, and asked where
Thorstein was. It was told him that he was sitting within. Then Steinar asked
that he should come out; he had (he said) an errand with him. Which when
Thorstein heard, he took his weapons and went out to the door. Then he asked
Steinar what was his errand. 'Have you slain Thrand my thrall?' said Steinar.
'Truly I have,' said Thorstein; 'you need not put that upon any other man.'
'Then I see,' said Steinar, 'that you mean to guard your land with the strong
hand, since you have slain my two thralls: yet methinks this is no great
exploit. Now will I offer you in this a far better choice, if you wish to guard
your land by force: I shall not trust other men with the driving of my cattle,
but be you sure of this, the cattle shall be on your land both night and day.'
'So it is,' said Thorstein, 'that I slew last summer your thrall, whom you set
to feed cattle on my land, but afterwards let you have the feed as you would up
to the winter. Now have I slain another thrall of yours, for the same fault as
the former. Again you shall have the feed from now through the summer, as you
will. But next summer, if you feed on my land, and set men to drive your cattle
thither, then will I go on slaying for you every man that tends them, though it
be yourself. I will act this every summer while you hold to the manner of
grazing that you have begun.'
Then Steinar rode away and home
to Brekka. And a little while after Steinar rode up to Stafar-holt, where Einar
then dwelt. He was a priest. Steinar asked his help, and offered him money.
Einar said, 'You will gain little by my help, unless more men of honour back
you in this cause.' After that Steinar rode up to Reykjar-dale to see
Tongue-Odd, and asked his help and offered him money. Odd took the money, and
promised his help; he was to strengthen Steinar to take the law of Thorstein.
Then Steinar rode home.
But in the spring Odd and Einar
went with Steinar on the journey of summons, taking a large company. Steinar
summoned Thorstein for thrall-slaying, and claimed lesser outlawry as the
penalty of each slaying. For this was the law, when thralls of anyone were
slain, and the fine for the thrall was not brought to the owner before the
third sunrise. But two charges of lesser outlawry were equivalent to one of
full outlawry. Thorstein brought no counter-summons on any charge.
And soon after he sent men
southwards to Ness, who came to Grim as Moss-fell and there told these tidings.
Egil did not show much interest about it, but he quietly learned by the
questions what had passed between Thorstein and Steinar, as also about those
who had strengthened Steinar in this cause. Then the messengers went home, and
Thorstein appeared well pleased with their journey.
Thorstein Egil's son took a
numerous company to the spring-tide Thing: he came there one night before other
men, and they roofed their booths, he and the Thingmen who had booths there.
And when they had made all arrangements, then Thorstein bade his Thingmen set
to work, and they built there large booth-walls. Then he had roofed in a far
larger booth than the other that were there. In this booth were no men.
Steinar rode to the Thing also
with a numerous company, as did Tongue-Odd, and Einar from Stafar-holt; they
roofed their booths. The Thing was a very full one. Men pleaded their causes.
Thorstein offered no atonement for himself, but to those who advised atonement
made answer, that he meant to abide by judgment. He said that he thought the
cause which Steinar came, about the slaying of his thralls, was little worth;
Steinar's thralls, he argued, had done enough to deserve death. Steinar was
high and mighty about his cause: he had, as he thought, charges good in law,
and helpers strong enough to win his rights. So he was most impetuous in his
That day men went to the
Thing-brink and spoke their pleadings; but in the evening the judges were to go
out to try suits. Thorstein was there with his train; he had there chief
authority as to the rules of the Thing, for so it had been while Egil held
priesthood and headship. Both parties were fully armed.
And now it was seen from the
Thing that a troop of men was riding down along Cleave-river with gleaming
shields. And when they rode into the Thing, there rode foremost a man in a blue
mantle. He had on his head a gilded helm, by his side a gold-decked shield, in
his hand a barbed spear whose socket was overlaid with gold, and a sword at his
girdle. Thither had come Egil Skallagrim's son with eighty men, all
well-weaponed, as if arrayed for battle. A choice company it was: Egil had
brought with him the best landowners' sons from the southern Nesses, those whom
he thought the most warlike. With this troop Egil rode to the booth which
Thorstein had had roofed, a booth hitherto empty. They dismounted. And when
Thorstein perceived his father's coming, he with all his troop went to meet
him, and bade him welcome. Egil and his force had their travelling gear carried
into the booth, and their horses turned out to pasture. This done, Egil and
Thorstein with the whole troop went up to the Thing-brink, and sat them down
where they were wont to sit.
Then Egil stood up and spoke
with loud voice: 'Is Aunund Sjoni here on the Thing-brink?' Aunund replied that
he was there. And he said, 'I am glad, Egil, that you are come. This will set
right all the dispute here between these men.' 'Is it by your counsel,' said
Egil, 'that your son Steinar brings a charge against my son Thorstein, and has
gathered much people to this end, to make Thorstein an outcast?' 'Of this I am
not the cause,' said Aunund, 'that they are quarrelling. I have spend many a
word and begged Steinar to be reconciled with Thorstein; for in any case I
would have spared your son Thorstein disgrace: and good cause for this is the
loving friendship of old that has been between us two, Egil, since we grew up
here as next-door neighbours.' 'It will soon be clear,' said Egil, 'whether you
speak this as truth or vain words; though I think this latter can hardly be. I
remember the day when either of us had deemed it incredible that one should be
accusing the other, or that we should not control our sons from going on with
such folly as I hear this is like to prove. To me this seems right counsel,
while we both live and are so nearly concerned with their quarrel, that we take
this cause into our own hands and quash it, and let not Tongue-Odd and Einar
match our sons together like fighting horses. Let them henceforth find some
other way than this of making money.'
Then stood up Aunund and spoke:
'Rightly say you, Egil; and it ill-beseems us to be at a Thing where our sons
quarrel. Never shall that shame be ours, that we lacked the manhood to
reconcile them. Now, Steinar, I will that you give this cause into my hands,
and let me deal with it as I please.'
'I am not sure,' said Steinar,
'that I will so abandon my cause; for I have already sought me the help of
great men. I will now only bring my cause to such an issue as shall content Odd
and Einar.' Then Odd and Steinar talked together. Odd said, 'I will give you,
Steinar, the help that I promised towards getting law, or for such issue of the
cause as you may consent to accept. You will be mainly answerable for how your
cause goes, if Egil is to be judge therein.'
Whereupon Aunund said: 'I need
not leave this matter to the tongue of Odd. Of him I have had neither good or
bad; but Egil has done to me much that is very good. I trust him far more than
others; and I shall have my way in this. It will be for your advantage not to
have all of us on your hands. I have hitherto ruled for us both, and will do so
still.' Steinar said, 'You are right eager about this cause, father; but I
think we shall oft rue this.'
After this Steinar made over
the cause to Aunund to prosecute or compromise according to law. And no sooner
had Aunund the management of this cause, than he went to seek the father and
son, Thorstein and Egil. Then said Aunund: 'Now I will, Egil, that you alone
shape and shear in this matter as you will, for I trust you best to deal with
this my cause as with all others.'
Then Thorstein and Aunund took
hands, and named them witnesses, declaring withal that Egil Skallagrimsson
should along judge this cause, as he would, without appeal, then and there at
the Thing. And so ended this suit.
Now men went home to their
booths. Thorstein had three oxen led to Egil's booth and slaughtered for the
And when Tongue-Odd and Steinar
came home to their booth, Odd said: 'Now have you, Steinar, and your father
ruled the issue of your suit. I now declare myself free of debt to you,
Steinar, in regard of that help which I promised you; for it was agreed between
us that I should help you in carrying through your suit, or to such issue as
should content you; free am I, I say, whatever may be the terms adjudged you by
Egil.' Steinar said that Odd had helped him well and manfully, and their
friendship should be closer than before. 'I pronounce you,' he said, 'free of
debt to me in regard of that whereto you were bound.'
In the evening the judges went
out; but nothing happened that needs to be told.
Of Egil and Aunund Sjoni.
The next day Egil
Skallagrimsson went to the Thing-brink, and with him Thorstein and all their
party. Thither came also Aunund and Steinar, Tongue-Odd and Einar, and company.
And when the law pleadings were finished, then stood up Egil and spoke thus:
'Are Steinar and Aunund, father and son, present, so that they can hear my words?'
Aunund answered that they were.
'Then will I,' said Egil,
'deliver my judgment between Steinar and Thorstein. I begin the cause with
this: Grim my father came to this island, and took to him here all the land of
Myrar and the district round about, and chose him a homestead at Borg, and
assigned a parcel of land thereto, but gave to his friends choice of land
outside that same, in which they have since settled. To Ani he gave a homestead
at Anabrekka, where Aunund and Steinar have hitherto dwelt. We all know this,
Steinar, what are the landmarks between Borg and Anabrekka, that the chief one
is Hafs-brook. Now therefore not from ignorance, Steinar, did you act in
grazing on Thorstein's land, for you, Steinar, and you, Aunund, might know that
Ani received the land of my father Grim: but you encroached on his land,
thinking that he would be so degenerate as tamely to submit to your robbery.
But Thorstein slew two thralls of yours. Now it is evident to all that these
died for their ill-deeds, and are therefore unatonable, nay, even had they been
free men, yet had they been unatonable, no fine could have been claimed for
them. But as for you, Steinar, seeing that you devised to rob my son Thorstein
of his property which he took with my authority, and I took by inheritance
after my father, you shall therefore lose your land at Anabrekka, and have no
payment for the same. And further, you shall have neither homestead nor
lodgment here in the district south of Long-river. And you must quit Anabrekka
before flitting days are past; else may you, immediately after flitting days,
be slain with impunity by any who wish to help Thorstein, if you refuse to go
away or break any of these terms that I have pronounced for you.'
But when Egil sat down, then Thorstein
named witnesses to his decision.
Then spoke Aunund Sjoni:
''Twill be said, Egil, that this judgment which you have given and pronounced
is very crooked. And what I have to say is this: hitherto I have done all I
could to prevent strife, but henceforth I shall not spare to do what I can to
harm Thorstein.' 'This I forebode,' said Egil, 'that the longer our quarrel
lasts, the worse will be the fortune of you and your son. I thought you must
have known, Aunund, that I have held mine own before men quite as great as are
you and your son. But for Odd and Einar, who have so eagerly thrust themselves
into this cause, they have reaped therefrom due honour.'
Thorgeir Blund was there at the
Thing, Egil's sister's son; he had given Thorstein much help in this suit. He
begged father and son to give him some land out there on the Moors. Hitherto he
had dwelt south of White-river below Blunds-water. Egil received the request
well, and persuaded Thorstein to let him come thither. So they settled Thorgeir
at Anabrekka, but Steinar moved house beyond Long-river and settled down at
Leiru-brook. But Egil rode home southwards to Ness, father and son parting on
There was a man with Thorstein
named Iri, fleet of foot and keen of sight above others; he was a foreigner, a
freedman of Thorstein's, but he still had the care of his flocks, and
especially to gather the wethers up to the fell in spring, and in autumn down
to the fold. Now, after flitting days, Thorstein bade gather the wethers that
had been left behind in spring, meaning to have them driven to the fell. Iri
was there in the sheepfold, but Thorstein and his house-carles rode up to the
fell, being eight in all. Thorstein was having a fence made across
Grisar-tongue, between Long-water and Cleave-river; at which many of his men
were employed in the spring. After inspecting his house-carles' work here,
Thorstein rode homewards. Now as he came over against the Thing-field, Iri came
running to meet them, and said that he wished to speak to Thorstein alone.
Thorstein bade his companions ride on while they spoke together. Iri said he
had gone up to Einkunnir that day, and looked to the sheep. 'But I saw,' said
he, 'in the wood above the winter road the gleam of twelve spears and some
shields.' Then Thorstein said in a loud voice, so that his companions could
hear: 'Why can he be in such a hurry to see me that I may not ride on my way
home? However Aulvald will think it strange that I refuse him the visit if he
is sick.' Iri then ran up to the fell as fast as he could. Thorstein said to
his companions: 'I think we must lengthen our way, for we must first ride south
to Aulvaldstead. Aulvald send me word I am to go to him. And he will think it
no more than a fair return for the ox that he gave me last autumn that I should
go and see him, if he deems the matter important.' Whereupon Thorstein with his
company rode south by the moor above Stangar-holt, and so on south to
Gufa-river, and down along the river by the riding-path. And when they came
down below the lake, they saw south of the river man cattle and a man with
them. He was a house-carle of Aulvald's. Thorstein asked whether all was well
there. He said that all was well, and that Aulvald was in the copse cutting
wood. 'Then tell him,' said Thorstein, 'if he has an urgent errand with me, to
come to Borg, for I will now ride home.' And so he did. It was afterwards
learnt that Steinar, with eleven more, had lain in ambush at Einkunnir that
same day. Thorstein made as though he had heard nought of it, and things
Thorstein goes to a feast.
There was a man named Thorgeir,
a kinsman and friend of Thorstein: he dwelt then at Swan-ness. Thorgeir was
wont to have a harvest feast every autumn. He went to Thorstein Egil's son and
asked him to his house. Thorstein promised to come, and Thorgeir went home. But
on the appointed day Thorstein made him ready to go: it wanted then four weeks
of winter. With Thorstein went an Easterling, his guest, and two house-carles.
There was a son of Thorstein named Grim, who was then ten years old; he too
went with Thorstein, thus they were five in all. And they rode out to Foss,
there they crossed Long-river, then out, as the road lay, to Aurrida-river. On
the outer bank of that river Steinar was at work, and Aunund, and their
house-carles. And when they perceived Thorstein they ran to their weapons, then
pursued his party. On seeing Steinar's pursuit, these rode outside Long-holt.
There is a hillock, high and bare of wood. Thorstein's party dismounted there,
and climbed the hillock. Thorstein bade the boy Grim go into the wood, and not
be present at the encounter. As soon as Steinar and his company came to the
hillock they set upon Thorstein's party, and there was a fight. There were in
Steinar's band six grown men in all, and a seventh was Steinar's son, ten years
old. This encounter was seen by those who were on the meadows from other farms,
and they ran to part them. But by the time they were parted both Thorstein's
house-carles had lost their lives, one house-carle of Steinar's had fallen, and
several were wounded.
After they were parted
Thorstein sought for Grim. And they found him sore wounded, while Steinar's son
lay there by him dead. And when Thorstein leapt on his horse, then Steinar
called after him, 'You run now, Thorstein the white.' Thorstein answered, 'You
shall run further ere a week be out.'
Then Thorstein with his company
rode out over the moor, taking with them the boy Grim. And when they came to
the holt that is there, the boy died; and they buried him there in the holt,
called since Grimsholt. And the place where they fought is called
Thorstein rode to Swan-ness
that evening, as he had intended, and sat there at the feast three nights,
after which he made him ready to go home. Men offered to go with him, but he
would not; so he and his Easterling friend rode two together.
That same day Steinar,
expecting that Thorstein would be riding home, rode out along the shore. But
when he came to the dunes below Lamba-stead he lay in wait there. He had the
sword named Skrymir, an excellent weapon. He stood there on the sandhill with
drawn sword and eyes turned one way, for he saw Thorstein riding out on the
sand. Lambi, who dwelt at Lamba-stead, saw what Steinar was doing. He left the
house and went down the back, and, when he came to Steinar, he gripped him
behind between the shoulders. Steinar tried to shake him off, but Lambi held
fast, and so they went from the sandhill on to the level, and just then
Thorstein and his friend rode by on the path below. Steinar had ridden thither
on his stallion, which was now galloping inwards along the seashore. Thorstein
and his friend saw this, and wondered, for they had perceived nothing of
Steinar's coming. Then Steinar turned to regain the bank (for he saw not that
Thorstein had ridden by). And as they came on the edge of the bank, Lambi
suddenly threw Steinar from the sandhill down on to the flat sand, and himself
ran home. As soon as he could get to his feet Steinar ran after Lambi. But when
Lambi reached his house-door, he dashed in and slammed the door after him,
Steinar aiming a blow after him so that the sword stuck in the wood of the
door. There they parted, and Steinar went home.
But when Thorstein came home,
he sent next day a house-carle out to Leiru-brook to bid Steinar move house
beyond Borgar-hraun, else would he take advantage of this against Steinar when
he had more power on his side, 'and you will then,' said he, 'have no choice of
migration.' So Steinar prepared to go out to Snæfells-strand, and there he set
up his household at a place called Ellida. And thus ended the dealings between
him and Thorstein Egil's son.
Thorgeir Blund dwelt at
Anabrekka. He proved a bad neighbour to Thorstein in every way that he could do
so. On one occasion, when Egil and Thorstein met, they talked much about
Thorgeir Blund their kinsman, and they both agreed about him. Then Egil sang:
my word erewhile
of his fruitful acres:
did I hope to help
heir of Geir and Kettle.
though he promised fair,
sister's son hath failed me.
now (whereat I wonder)
him not from ill.'
Thorgeir Blund left Anabrekka,
and went south to Floka-dale; for Thorstein saw he could not get on with him,
and yet wished to be forbearing. Thorstein was a man with no trickery, just,
and never aggressive on others, but he held his own if others attacked him. But
it proved disastrous to most to match their force with him.
Odd was then head-man in
Borgar-firth, south of White-river. He was temple-priest, and ruled over that
temple, to which all paid tribute within Skards-heath.
Death of Egil Skallagrim's son.
Egil Skallagrim's son now grew
old, and in his old age became heavy in movement, and dull both in hearing and
sight; he became also stiff in the legs. Egil was at Moss-fell with Grim and
Thordis. It happened one day that as Egil went out along the house-wall he
stumbled and fell. Some women saw this, and laughed, saying: 'You are now quite
gone, Egil, if you fall when alone.' Then said the master Grim, 'Women jeered
at us less when we were younger.' Egil then sang:
haltered horse I waver,
I weakly fall:
my failing leg-bones,
fount of hearing dry.'
Egil became quite blind. And it
was so that one day, when the weather was cold, Egil went to the fire to warm
himself. Whereupon the cook said that it was a great wonder, so mighty a man as
Egil had been, that he should lie in their way so that they could not do their
work. 'Be you civil,' said Egil, 'though I bask by the fire, and let us bear
and forbear about place.' 'Stand you up,' said she, 'and go to your seat, and
let us do our work.' Egil stood up, and went to his place and sang:
near the blaze I wander,
of the fire-maid pardon,
for a seat. Such sorrow
sightless eyes I bear.
England's mighty monarch
whilom greatly honoured:
princes once with pleasure
poet's accents heard.'
Again, once when Egil went to
the fire to warm himself, a man asked him whether his feet were cold, and
warned him not to put them too near the fire. 'That shall be so,' said Egil;
'but 'tis not easy steering my feet now that I cannot see; a very dismal thing
is blindness.' Then Egil sang:
think it long,
worn with eld
kings' courts exiled.
twain have I,
In the later days of Hacon the
Great Egil Skallagrim's son was in his ninth decade of years, and save for his
blindness was a hale and hearty man. One summer, when men made ready to go to
the Thing, Egil asked Grim that he might ride with him to the Thing. Grim was
slow to grant this. And when Grim and Thordis talked together, Grim told her
what Egil had asked. 'I would like you,' said he, 'to find out what lies under
this request.' Thordis then went to talk with Egil her uncle: it was Egil's
chief pleasure to talk to her. And when she met him she asked: 'Is it true,
uncle, that you wish to ride to the Thing? I want you to tell me what plan you
have in this?' 'I will tell you,' said he, 'what I have thought of. I mean to
take with me to the Thing two chests that king Athelstan gave me, each of which
is full of English silver. I mean to have these chests carried to the Hill of
Laws just when it is most crowded. Then I mean to sow broadcast the silver, and
I shall be surprized if all share it fairly between them. Kicks, I fancy, there
will be and blows; nay, it may end in a general fight of all the assembled
Thing.' Thordis said: 'A famous plan, methinks, is this, and it will be
remembered so long as Iceland is inhabited.'
After this Thordis went to
speak with Grim and told him Egil's plan. 'That shall never be,' said he, 'that
he carry this out, such monstrous folly.' And when Egil came to speak with Grim
of their going to the Thing, Grim talked him out of it all; and Egil sat at
home during the Thing. But he did not like it, and he wore a frowning look.
At Moss-fell were the
summer-sheds of the milch kine, and during the Thing-time Thordis was at the
sheds. It chanced one evening, when the household at Moss-fell were preparing
to go to bed, that Egil called to him two thralls of Grim's. He bade them bring
him a horse. 'I will go to the warm bath, and you shall go with me,' said he.
And when Egil was ready, he went out, and he had with him his chests of silver.
He mounted the horse. They then went down through the home paddock and under
the slope there, as men saw afterwards. But in the morning, when men rose, they
saw Egil wandering about in the holt east of the farm, and leading the horse
after him. They went to him, and brought him home. But neither thralls nor
chests ever came back again, and many are the guesses as to where Egil hid his
money. East of the farm at Moss-fell is a gill coming down from the fell: and
it is noteworthy that in rapid thaws there was a great rush of water there, but
after the water has fallen there have been found in the gill English pennies.
Some guess that Egil must have hidden his money there. Below the farm enclosure
at Moss-fell are bogs wide and very deep. Many feel sure that 'tis there Egil
hid his money. And south of the river are hot springs, and hard by there large
earthholes, and some men guess that Egil must have hidden his money there, because
out that way cairn-fires were often seen to hover. Egil said that he had slain
Grim's thralls, also that he had hidden the chests, but where he had hidden
them he told no man.
In the autumn following Egil
fell sick of the sickness whereof he died. When he was dead, then Grim had Egil
dressed in goodly raiment, and carried down to Tjalda-ness; there a sepulchral
mound was made, and in it was Egil laid with his weapons and his raiment.
Grim takes the Christian faith.
Grim of Moss-fell was baptized
when Christianity was established by law in Iceland. He had a church built
there, and 'tis common report that Thordis had Egil moved to the church. And
this proof there is thereof, that later on, when a church was built at Moss-fell,
and that church which Grim had built at Bush-bridge taken down, the churchyard
was dug over, and under the altar-place were found human bones. They were much
larger than the bones of other men. From the tales of old people it is thought
pretty sure that these were Egil's bones. Skapti the priest, Thorarin's son, a
wise man, was there at the time. He took then the skull of Egil, and set it on
the churchyard fence. The skull was wondrous large, but still more out of the
common way was its heaviness. It was all wave-marked on the surface like a
shell. Skapti then wished to try the thickness of the skull. He took a
good-sized hand-axe, and brandishing it aloft in one hand, brought down the
back of it with force on the skull to break it. But where the blow fell the
bone whitened, but neither was dinted nor cracked. Whence it might be gathered
that this skull could not easily be harmed by the blows of weak men while skin
and flesh were on it. The bones of Egil were laid in the outer part of the
churchyard at Moss-fell.
Of Thorstein's descendants.
Thorstein Egil's son received
baptism when Christianity came to Iceland, and he had a church built at Borg.
He was true to the faith, and a good man. He lived to be old, and died in his
bed; he was buried at Borg by the church which he had built.
From Thorstein have come
numerous descendants; many great men, many poets: they are of the stock of the
Myra-men, as are all who sprang from Skallagrim. It long held good of that kin
that the men were tall, and great warriors, some too were of prophetic sight.
They were of two distinct types: for in that stock have been born the
handsomest men in Iceland—such were Thorstein Egil's son, and Kjartan Olaf's
son, sister's son of Thorstein, and Hall Gudmund's son, also Helga the fair,
Thorstein's daughter (about whom Gunnlaug Worms-tongue and Skald-raven
quarrelled). But the more part of the Myra-men were very ill-favoured.
Of the brothers, sons of
Thorstein, Thorgeir was the strongest, Skuli was the tallest. He dwelt at Borg
after the days of Thorstein his father. Skuli was long time out freebooting. He
was forecastleman of earl Eric on the Iron Ram when king Olaf Tryggvason fell.
Skuli was in seven battles, and was deemed a great warrior and a brave. He
afterwards came out to Iceland, settled in the house at Borg, and dwelt there
till old age; many have been his descendants. And so ends this story.