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
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 detail.
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 once.
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.
(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 exceptions.
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
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 Borgar-firth.'
[viii] The preface to
Thordarson's edition says:
'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
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
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
(1) 'Now hath the lord
of earth slain falls the land under the descendent of Ella
forward in fight of rule head-stem three princes.'
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 of mine.'
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 his fill
The stag the
moon on Monan's rill.'
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 intelligible.
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
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,
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.
And 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
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
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
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
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
CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE OF
THE CHIEF EVENTS IN THE
SAGA OR CONNECTED WITH
Birth of Harold Fairhair.
" 860. Harold Fairhair
comes to the throne.
" 870. He becomes sole
king of Norway.
" 870 (circa). Thorolf,
being about twenty-four years old, goes to Harold.
" 872. Battle of
" 877. Death of Thorolf.
" 878. Skallagrim
emigrates to Iceland.
" 886 (circa). Thorolf
" 898-901 (circa). Egil
" 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
to Bjarmaland, but this probably was in 918.
" 906. Bjorn's second
" 906-15. Egil's
childhood and boyhood in Iceland.
" 914. Thorolf returns
" 915. Thorolf goes to
Norway with Egil; twelve years pass
" 916-23. Freebootings
of Thorolf and Egil.
" 923. Thorolf marries
Asgerdr. Slaying of Bard.
" 924. Fight with Eyvind
Skreyja. Thorolf and Egil go to England.
" 925. Battle of
Vinheath, where Thorolf falls.
" 926. Egil goes to
Norway. Marries Asgerdr next winter.
" 927. Returns to
Iceland; is there several years, during which
his oldest daughter is born.
" 933. He goes to
Norway. Harold Fairhair dies. Egil has a suit with
returns to Iceland. Skallagrim dies this winter.
" 935. Hacon now king in
Norway. Eric is in Northumberland.
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
" 950 (circa). Eric
falls in battle. Arinbjorn is back in Norway;
goes to him.
[xviii] A.D. 951. They harry eastwards; Arinbjorn then joins
sons. Egil next winter goes to Vermaland.
" 952-60. Marriages of
Egil's step-daughter and daughters.
" 960. Bodvar's
" 961. Hacon's death.
" 962. Epic poem on
" 967 (circa).
973 (circa). Asgerdr dies. Egil retires to Mossfell.
Thorstein lives at Borg.
" 975-8. Dispute between
Thorstein and Steinar.
" 975. Earl Hacon
becomes king. In his 'early days' Egil is past eighty.
" 983-8. Egil's death.
" 1000. Grim and
Thorstein are baptized.
" 1143. Skapti priest.
Egil's bones found.
Of Kveldulf and his sons.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.'
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.'
messengers went back to the king, and told him how their
errand had sped; but Kveldulf sat at home on his estates.
Battle of king Harold and 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.'
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.'
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 liege-lord.'
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.'
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 in honours.
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 agree.'
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 Throndheim.
Thorolf resolves to serve the king.
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.
answeredst thou?' said Thorolf.
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.'
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.'
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.'
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.
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 man.
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.
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
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
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 age.
his son Brynjolf had long held the office of going to the
Finns, and collecting the Finns' tribute.
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.
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
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
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 thee.'
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.'
Thorolf was made of the king's household, and one of his
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.
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.
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.
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
Battle in Hafr's Firth.
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.
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.
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 all men.'
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.
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 affection.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.'
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.'
'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.'
they left talking altogether.
Thorolf in Finmark.
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.
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.
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.
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 affection.
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 for him.
Hildirida's sons talk with Harold.
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
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
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 the
'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 furs.'
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
Thorolf again in Finmark.
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 his thrall.'
King Harold and Harek.
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
'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.
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
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 his mind.'
'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
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
'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
Hildirida's sons in Finmark and at Harold's court.
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 his farm.
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 gainsay.
Thorolf's ship is taken.
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 Sweden.'
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 happened.
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
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 otherwise.'
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
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.
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.
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 against them.'
Upon this Aulvir Hnuf went to the room, and had Thorolf
called to speak with him, and told him what terms the king
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
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 outlet.
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 did
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
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
'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 spare him.'
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 wealthy man.
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 lived.
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
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
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.
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
Norns!) is dead:
my warrior son.
weak limbs from fray:
Though keen my spirit spurs,
No speedy vengeance mine.'
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 king.
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
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
said he was too old to travel: 'I shall sit at home,' said
go, Grim?' said Aulvir.
'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
that he would not need to do so: 'We will do all the
speaking for thee as well as we can.'
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.
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.
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.'
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.'
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.'
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.
looked round, and saw that a man stood at Aulvir's back
taller than the others by a head, and bald.
Skallagrim,' asked the king, 'that tall man?'
Grim said he
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
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 Thorolf.'
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:
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
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.'
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.
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.
quite settled to break up their household and go abroad.
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
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.
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 and Aslaug.
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 maidens.'
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
Slaying of Hallvard and Sigtrygg.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
on king is ta'en:
eagle tread as prey
to sovereign sway.
the billows flew;
wight once swift to fare
beak doth tear.'
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
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.'
after this Kveldulf died.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 wonderful.
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.
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.
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
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
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 on.
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
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
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 ship's lading.
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
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 this stave:
wealth by iron
sea's breezy brother
Of Skallagrim's children.
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.
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.'
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.'
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:
came to the hearth fire
right fain so to find him,
on heroes bestoweth
the heather-worm guardeth.
the snake's shining treasure
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 reward:
of keen-biting wound-fowl
Egil the talker
dogs of the surf-swell,
the praise in his poem.
skilled guide of the sea-horse,
please with a present,
fourth gift to young Egil
the brook-bird's bed-bolster.'
poetry won him thanks from many men. No more tidings were
there of that journey. Egil went home with Skallagrim.
Of lord Brynjolf and Bjorn, his son.
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.
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.
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 land.
'Most to my
mind is it,' said he, 'that you should give me a long-ship
and crew therewith, and I go a free-booting.'
'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.'
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
looked for this,' said he, 'in a son of Brynjolf, that I
should not know the truth from him.'
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 brother.'
Skallagrim in great wrath, 'How dared you come to meet me?
Did you not know what friendship was between me and Thorir?'
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.'
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.
Bjorn,' said he, 'and deal with him as may best prove your
Thorolf goes abroad.
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
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.'
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 son.
Of Eric Bloodaxe and Thorolf.
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.
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.
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 to Thorolf:
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
that this would be a good plan.
went down to the ship, and Thorolf spoke:
regardest the ship carefully, prince; how dost thou like
well,' said he, 'it is a perfect beauty.'
'Then will I
give it thee,' said Thorolf, 'if thou wilt take the
'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.'
that he thought the ship were thus far overpaid.
separated. But thenceforward the king's son was right
cheerful with Thorolf and his friend.
Thorolf, talking with Thorir, asked him whether he thought
it true that the king bore a heavy grudge against Thorolf.
not deny that he had heard so.
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.
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.'
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.'
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.'
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
said Thorolf would have his way.
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:
not a few,
Kettle Blund comes out to Iceland.
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.
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.
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 were chosen.
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
should they purchase
and good oars
for the haven,
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:
turn they shape-strength, Skallagrim, against thy son?'
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.
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.
said he, 'to go out with Thorolf.'
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 said:
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
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.
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
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, and Svein.
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.
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 urgent
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
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.'
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 a coolness.
Thorolf asks Asgerdr to wife.
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
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 goodly company.
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
Of Aulvir and Egil.
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.
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
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
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 there is.'
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
The slaying of Bard.
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 the
Bard?' asked the king; 'I see him not.'
said: 'Bard is outside supplying his guests.'
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.
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
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 each toast.
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:
ale thou couldst allege,
spirits' holy feast.
thee I find.
thou didst beguile,
thy churlish greed.
niggard base art thou,
on such to play.'
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:
runes around the horn,
the spell with blood;
choose I for the cup
branching horn of beast.
then, as drink we will,
cheerful bearer brings,
health abides in ale,
that Bard hath bless'd.'
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:
borne to me, for ale
I let pour
lips the shower.
they fate to see
bring'st on thee:
from Odin's thane
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.
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.
said the king, 'and bring him to me.'
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 again.
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.
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
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 this matter.
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
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.'
spoke well of this work, and said to his father that he
would be bound to atone Egil with the king.
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
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.
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
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
'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
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
'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 you deserve.'
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.
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
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:
high gleaming swords.
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
Of the banquet at earl Arnfid's.
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
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 my seat, youth?
sure hast given
his warm flesh-banquet.
will mine own.
course thou heard'st not
the joying raven,
Egil took her, and set her down by him. He sang:
of bane hath followed:
spear hath sounded
swift Vikings' charge.
o'er foemen's rooftrees;
many a warrior
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
'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 so.'
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.
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
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:
the warrior fight,
his wights o'erborne,
and seek the sand
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
Of Athelstan king of the English.
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 king's pay.
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 men.
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
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
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:
earl by furious
flight hath driven,
slain: a sovereign
fight is he.
field fared Gudrek
to his undoing.
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 should be.
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 and night.
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
The king thought this good counsel. 'We will here make ready
our army,' said he, 'as soon as it is light, and move to
This plan they fixed upon, and so ended the council.
Of the fight.
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 mail-piercers.
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
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.
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
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 rue.'
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
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 earl's bold slayer:
stress of battle
on soil of Vin-heath
my noble brother:
our woe—a sorrow
And again he further sang:
slain round standard
field I burdened;
my blue Adder
snow of war.
not stour of weapons,
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 forward.
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 brown-skinned,
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:
god of battle,
own arm forsaking,
wrist of mine.
on arm brand-wielding
red gold gladly.
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 mayst
Egil took the money, and thanked the king for his gifts and
friendly words. Thenceforward Egil began to be cheerful; and
then he sang:
I one who furrows
a king hath lifted
of golden armlet:
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:
this scion royal
hath laid. To Ella
swear, all humbled
high monarch yields.'
But this is the burden in the poem:
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 formerly worn.
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.
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
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 verse:
'Unfriendly, who was friend,
seems. Of old
(whose name I veil)
to the skald
his cloak his head.'
asked who was the woman about whom he composed such
love-song. 'Have you hidden her name in this stave?'
not, but hides
I use to veil.
wine of song
deep hath plunged.'
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.'
said that he deemed it well thought of. 'I will,' said he,
'surely give my good word that this match may be made.'
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 Arinbjorn's.
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.'
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.
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 the Swarthy.
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
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.
soon spoke with Arinbjorn about those claims on money that
he thought he had there in the land.
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 case right.'
'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.'
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.'
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.'
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.
'To the Gula-thing I will come, and my will is that you
should not come away thence with a whole skin.'
Egil said he
would risk coming to the Thing all the same: 'There let come
what come may to end our matter.'
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.'
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.'
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.
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.
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.
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
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.'
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:
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
words the king found no ready answer. Then sang Egil a
bride is one
great king, accept,
are meet and true.'
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.
queen Gunnhilda take the word:
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 all
Egil: 'Can Bergonund hear my words?'
'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.'
king Eric made answer: 'If thou, Egil, art strongly set on
fighting, then will we grant thee this forthwith.'
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.'
Arinbjorn: 'Go we away, Egil; we shall not here effect
to-day anything that will be to our gain.'
this Arinbjorn and all his people turned to depart.
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.'
Egil went away with Arinbjorn.
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
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.'
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:
But his threats,
I boldly meet.
we sought the law:
of my right
he shall repay.'
Of king Eric and Egil.
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.
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.'
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. Arinbjorn answered.
'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.'
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.
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.
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.
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:
prince, hath wrought
our gallant ten.
my hand a spear,
and Kettle's ribs
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 Egil sang:
of my wealth!
away, be wroth,
his folk, base king,
and Njord make flee!
ground hath scorn'd!'
King Eric slays his brothers.
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
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
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:
lays on me;
of his brothers,
of my exile:
I full swiftly
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
The slaying of Bergonund and Rognvald the king's son.
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
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?'
'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 every night.'
them,' said Egil, 'where the bear is; but I will hasten
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.
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.
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
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.'
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:
we losers sit,
him who took
the gold that once
I better knew:
with wounds hath wrought,
earth in veil
and Frodi's blood.'
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
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
nor feared vengeance;
son of Bloodaxe,
and his queen.
twelve his liege-men,
of stern battle
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.'
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.
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:
storm the sea-way
stern doth plow.
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.
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.
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.
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?'
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.'
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.'
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.'
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.
the heritage, lands and chattels. Thenceforward he ruled the
house. With Egil there was Thordis, daughter of Thorolf and
Egil's voyage to England.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
'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.'
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.'
said: 'Go and beg him to bide without, nor shall he need to
He did as
Arinbjorn told him, went out and said what had been said to
bade take up the tables; then went he out and all his
house-carles with him.
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
said Arinbjorn, 'before you came to this house met any men
in the town who are likely to have known you?'
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
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
went in. Arinbjorn went before the king and saluted him. The
king received him, and asked what he would have.
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.'
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.'
Egil up to the table, and clasped the foot of the king. He
on my wave-horse,
strand of Harold's
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.'
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
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.'
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
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.'
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.'
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.'
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.'
'I shall try this counsel that you wish, but 'twas the last
thing I ever meant, to sing king Eric's praises.'
bade him try.
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.
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.'
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
Egil recites the poem.
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.'
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.'
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.'
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.'
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.'
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
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
'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.
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:
I in nowise,
king to take.
boast that ever
he won him,
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 sang:
throne of helmet,
from rough rainstorm
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 inheritance.
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
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
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
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 plenty.
Egil and Thorstein go before the king.
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 had been.
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
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
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.
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
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:
wrath a king:
faints and fails not
and peace I gat.
not whom true friends
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
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
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 stave:
not young Fridgeir
with this warrior,
gods who doth curse.
may meet him,
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:
I to baulk him.
my hand pliant
on his mail.
we for combat;
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:
with hilt-wands flashing,
shield with falchion,
sword in blood.
life be sundered,
play shall lay him,
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 sang:
by a bald-head
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
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:
by skald sever'd
I seek me,
deem the spear-din,
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 the ship.
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 matter.'
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
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 forth.
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:
not the buckler,
Short so blunted
by his spells.
strength I grappled,
I bade bite him,
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.
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
Egil goes abroad.
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
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
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:
I find me
like the ages
look in vain.'
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 question.'
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
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
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 cheerful.
Of Arinbjorn's harrying.
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
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
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
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
Mission to Vermaland.
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
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
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
'We are eight,' said they; 'we would fain have four men go
from hence; then are we twelve.'
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.
Egil 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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.'
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
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:
with this message
doth send me,
word that Egil
far more worthy
we our guests."'
the girl, and bade her hold her tongue: 'You are always,'
said he, 'saying what least suits.'
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.
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.
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.
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 well armed.'
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
'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 such ailments?'
Egil said: 'Maybe no harm will be done by my taking it in
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
should grave ever
not to read them;
spell full many
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 stave:
with me follow,
not six men
he with eight go,
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
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
Egil gathers tribute.
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
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 parted.
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
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.
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
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 as ever.'
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.
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 Bera.
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
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 him.
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
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,' said he.
Egil had had another son named Gunnar, who had died a short
So then Egil began the poem, and this is the beginning.
it task me
throat to utter
I may not,
drawn not lightly
flows but hardly;
sire and son.
to their end,
to bloom leafy
of son rent
of beloved ones
of my kin,
mine own twisting
sword could venge
strong to slay,
and his sea-brood
in no wise
stout ships' Bane.
eyes of all
old man's lot
of my house
son was waxing
and the strength
reached but ripeness
power and rule
and the stay.
stands by me
to his sire
to their kin,
happier bees' home
mead the lord,
a heavy hand
sight and thought.
I mind me,
Friend of men
home of gods
true wife born
giver of conquest,
friend of Mimir
boons I tell.
to know well
him to face me
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
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
ARINBJORN'S EPIC, OR A
I of scorn,
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.
to this ruler
Of fishful seas
My bolster-mate's ransom
Made bold to bear,
Of Odin's goblet
Each listening ear-mouth
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.
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.
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.
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.
it if he
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.
Shape into song
Virtues full many
Of valiant friend.
Ready on tongue
Twofold they lie,
Yea, threefold praises
Of Thorir's son.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
eight I battled,
wolf a meal,
bane of all.
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
and gone. Where seek
my high hawk-perch
the silver shower.'
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:
I on a chief
slept, I wrought,
earl to seek
came, nor thought
that earl whose sword
for the wolf:
sword I lend.
my succour scorn:
his sea-borne barque
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 away.
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 beginning:
the ship's bright guard,
the praise ''tis time,
my hand is given
who list my lay)
of minstrel lore.'
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 spangles.
Of Thorstein Egil's son.
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
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
from me inherits
no worthy heir.
deceives me living,
call his deed.
awhile, till me
of piled stones.'
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
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
the stream of lay
a king, and bid
due silence keep.
the eagle's beak
shall shower of song
shore be heard.'
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
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
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 then.
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.
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.'
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.'
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.'
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.'
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.'
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 Thing banquet.
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.'
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.
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.'
Egil sat down, then Thorstein named witnesses to his
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.'
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 friendly terms.
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 remained quiet.
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.
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.'
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 Battle-hillock.
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.
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.
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.
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
his fruitful acres:
I hope to help
of Geir and Kettle.
he promised fair,
son hath failed me.
(whereat I wonder)
not from ill.'
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.
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:
horse I waver,
of hearing dry.'
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
the blaze I wander,
the fire-maid pardon,
a seat. Such sorrow
eyes I bear.
once with pleasure
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:
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.'
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.
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.
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
Grim takes the Christian faith.
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.
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
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.
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