Saga Of Burnt Njal
OF FIDDLE MORD
There was a man named Mord whose surname was Fiddle; he was the son of Sigvat the Red, and he dwelt at the “Vale” in the Rangrivervales. He was a mighty chief, and a great taker up of suits, and so great a lawyer that no judgments were thought lawful unless he had a hand in them. He had an only daughter, named Unna. She was a fair, courteous, and gifted woman, and that was thought the best match in all the Rangrivervales.
Now the story turns westward to the Broadfirth dales, where, at Hauskuldstede, in Laxriverdale, dwelt a man named Hauskuld, who was Dalakoll’s son, and his mother’s name was Thorgerda. He had a brother named Hrut, who dwelt at Hrutstede; he was of the same mother as Hauskuld, but his father’s name was Heriolf. Hrut was handsome, tall and strong, well skilled in arms, and mild of temper; he was one of the wisest of men — stern towards his foes, but a good counsellor on great matters. It happened once that Hauskuld bade his friends to a feast, and his brother Hrut was there, and sat next him. Hauskuld had a daughter named Hallgerda, who was playing on the floor with some other girls. She was fair of face and tall of growth, and her hair was as soft as silk; it was so long, too, that it came down to her waist. Hauskuld called out to her, “Come hither to me, daughter.” So she went up to him, and he took her by the chin, and kissed her; and after that she went away.
Then Hauskuld said to Hrut, “What dost thou think of this maiden? Is she not fair?” Hrut held his peace. Hauskuld said the same thing to him a second time, and then Hrut answered, “Fair enough is this maid, and many will smart for it, but this I know not, whence thief’s eyes have come into our race.” Then Hauskuld was wroth, and for a time the brothers saw little of each other.
HRUT WOOS UNNA
It happened once that those brothers, Hauskuld and Hrut, rode to the Althing, and there was much people at it. Then Hauskuld said to Hrut, “One thing I wish, brother, and that is, that thou wouldst better thy lot and woo thyself a wife.”
Hrut answered, “That has been long on my mind, though there always seemed to be two sides to the matter; but now I will do as thou wishest; whither shall we turn our eyes?”
Hauskuld answered, “Here now are many chiefs at the Thing, and there is plenty of choice, but I have already set my eyes on a spot where a match lies made to thy hand. The woman’s name is Unna, and she is a daughter of Fiddle Mord, one of the wisest of men. He is here at the Thing and his daughter too, and thou mayest see her if it pleases thee.”
Now the next day, when men were going to the High Court, they saw some well-dressed women standing outside the booths of the men from the Rangrivervales. Then Hauskuld said to Hrut “Yonder now is Unna, of whom I spoke; what thinkest thou of her?”
“Well,” answered Hrut; “but yet I do not know whether we should get on well together.”
After that they went to the High Court, where Fiddle Mord was laying down the law as was his wont, and after he had done he went home to his booth.
Then Hauskuld and Hrut rose, and went to Mord’s booth. They went in and found Mord sitting in the innermost part of the booth, and they bade him “Good-day.” He rose to meet them, and took Hauskuld by the hand and made him sit down by his side, and Hrut sat next to Hauskuld. So after they had talked much of this and that, at last Hauskuld said, “I have a bargain to speak to thee about; Hrut wishes to become thy son-in-law, and buy thy daughter, and I, for my part, will not be sparing in the matter.”
Mord answered, “I know that thou art a great chief, but thy brother is unknown to me.”
“He is a better man than I,” answered Hauskuld.
“Thou wilt need to lay down a large sum with him, for she is heir to all I leave behind me,” said Mord.
“There is no need,” said Hauskuld, “to wait long before thou hearest what I give my word lie shall have. He shall have Kamness and Hrutstede, up as far as Thrandargil, and a trading-ship beside, now on her voyage.”
Then said Hrut to Mord, “Bear in mind, now, husband, that my brother has praised me much more than I deserve for love’s sake; but if after what thou hast heard, thou wilt make the match, I am willing to let thee lay down the terms thyself.”
Mord answered, “I have thought over the terms; she shall have sixty hundreds down, and this sum shall be increased by a third more in thine house, but if ye two have heirs, ye shall go halves in the goods.”
Then said Hrut, “I agree to these terms, and now let us take witness.” After that they stood up and shook hands, and Mord betrothed his daughter Unna to Hrut, and the bridal feast was to be at Mord’s house, half a month after Midsummer.
Now both sides ride home from the Thing, and Hauskuld and Hrut ride westward by Hallbjorn’s beacon. Then Thiostolf, the son of Bjorn Gullbera of Reykriverdale, rode to meet them, and told them how a ship had come out from Norway to the White River, and how aboard of her was Auzur Hrut’s father’s brother, and he wished Hrut to come to him as soon as ever he could. When Hrut heard this, he asked Hauskuld to go with him to the ship, so Hauskuld went with his brother, and when they reached the ship, Hrut gave his kinsman Auzur a kind and hearty welcome. Auzur asked them into his booth to drink, so their horses were unsaddled, and they went in and drank, and while they were drinking, Hrut said to Auzur, “Now, kinsman, thou must ride west with me, and stay with me this winter.”
“That cannot be, kinsman, for I have to tell thee the death of thy brother Eyvind, and he has left thee his heir at the Gula Thing, and now thy foes will seize thy heritage, unless thou comest to claim it.”
“What’s to be done now, brother?” said Hrut to Hauskuld, “for this seems a hard matter, coming just as I have fixed my bridal day.”
“Thou must ride south,” said Hauskuld, “and see Mord, and ask him to change the bargain which ye two have made, and to let his daughter sit for thee three winters as thy betrothed, but I will ride home and bring down thy wares to the ship.”
Then said Hrut, “My wish is that thou shouldest take meal and timber, and whatever else thou needest out of the lading.” So Hrut had his horses brought out, and he rode south, while Hauskuld rode home west. Hrut came east to the Rangrivervales to Mord, and had a good welcome, and he told Mord all his business, and asked his advice what he should do.
“How much money is this heritage,” asked Mord, and Hrut said it would come to a hundred marks, if he got it all.
“Well,” said Mord, “that is much when set against what I shall leave behind me, and thou shalt go for it, if thou wilt.”
After that they broke their bargain, and Unna was to sit waiting for Hrut three years as his betrothed. Now Hrut rides back to the ship, and stays by her during the summer, till she was ready to sail, and Hauskuld brought down all Hrut’s wares and money to the ship, and Hrut placed all his other property in Hauskuld’s hands to keep for him while he was away. Then Hauskuld rode home to his house, and a little while after they got a fair wind and sail away to sea. They were out three weeks, and the first land they made was Hern, near Bergen, and so sail eastward to the Bay.
HRUT AND GUNNHILLDA, KING’S MOTHER
At that time Harold Grayfell reigned in Norway; he was the son of Eric Bloodaxe, who was the son of Harold Fair-hair; his mother’s name was Gunnhillda, a daughter of Auzur Toti, and they had their abode east, at the King’s Crag. Now the news was spread, how a ship had come thither east into the Bay, and as soon as Gunnhillda heard of it, she asked what men from Iceland were abroad, and they told her Hrut was the man’s name, Auzur’s brother’s son. Then Gunnhillda said, “I see plainly that he means to claim his heritage, but there is a man named Soti, who has laid his hands on it.”
After that she called her waiting-man, whose name was Augmund, and said, “I am going to send thee to the Bay to find out Auzur and Hrut, and tell them that I ask them both to spend this winter with me. Say, too, that I will be their friend, and if Hrut will carry out my counsel, I will see after his suit, and anything else he takes in hand, and I will speak a good word, too, for him to the king.”
After that he set off and found them; and as soon as they knew that he was Gunnhillda’s servant, they gave him good welcome. He took them aside and told them his errand, and after that they talked over their plans by themselves. Then Auzur said to Hrut, “Methinks, kinsman, here is little need for long talk, our plans are ready made for us; for I know Gunnhillda’s temper; as soon as ever we say we will not go to her she will drive us out of the land, and take all our goods by force; but if we go to her, then she will do us such honour as she has promised.”
Augmund went home, and when he saw Gunnhillda, he told her how his errand had ended, and that they would come, and Gunnhillda said, “It is only what was to be looked for; for Hrut is said to be a wise and well-bred man; and now do thou keep a sharp look out, and tell me as soon as ever they come to the town.”
Hrut and Auzur went east to the King’s Crag, and when they reached the town, their kinsmen and friends went out to meet and welcome them. They asked whether the king were in the town, and they told them he was. After that they met Augmund, and he brought them a greeting from Gunnhillda, saying, that she could not ask them to her house before they had seen the king, lest men should say, “I make too much of them.” Still she would do all she could for them, and she went on, “Tell Hrut to be out-spoken before the king, and to ask to be made one of his body-guard;” “and here,” said Augmund, “is a dress of honour which she sends to thee, Hrut, and in it thou must go in before the king.” After that he went away.
The next day Hrut said, “Let us go before the king.”
“That may well be,” answered Auzur.
So they went, twelve of them together, and all of them friends or kinsmen, and came into the hall where the king sat over his drink. Hrut went first and bade the king “Good-day,” and the king, looking steadfastly at the man who was well-dressed, asked him his name. So he told his name.
“Art thou an Icelander?” said the king.
He answered, “Yes.”
“What drove thee hither to seek us?”
Then Hrut answered, “To see your state, lord; and, besides, because I have a great matter of inheritance here in the land, and I shall have need of your help if I am to get my rights.”
The king said, “I have given my word that every man shall have lawful justice here in Norway; but hast thou any other errand in seeking me?”
“Lord!” said Hrut, “I wish you to let me live in your court, and become one of your men.”
At this the king holds his peace, but Gunnhillda said, “It seems to me as if this man offered you the greatest honour, for methinks if there were many such men in the body-guard, it would be well filled.”
“Is he a wise man?” asked the king.
“He is both wise and willing,” said she.
“Well,” said the king, “methinks my mother wishes that thou shouldst have the rank for which thou askest, but for the sake of our honour and the custom of the land, come to me in half a month’s time, and then thou shalt be made one of my body-guard. Meantime, my mother will take care of thee, but then come to me.”
Then Gunnhillda said to Augmund, “Follow them to my house, and treat them well.”
So Augmund went out, and they went with him, and he brought them to a hall built of stone, which was hung with the most beautiful tapestry, and there too was Gunnhillda’s high seat.
Then Augmund said to Hrut, “Now will be proved the truth of all that I said to thee from Gunnhillda. Here is her high seat, and in it thou shalt sit, and this seat thou shalt hold, though she comes herself into the hall.”
After that he made them good cheer, and they had sat down but a little while when Gunnhillda came in. Hrut wished to jump up and greet her.
“Keep thy seat!” she says, “and keep it too all the time thou art my guest.”
Then she sat herself down by Hrut, and they fell to drink, and at even she said, “Thou shalt be in the upper chamber with me to-night, and we two together.”
“You shall have your way,” he answers.
After that they went to sleep, and she locked the door inside. So they slept that night, and in the morning fell to drinking again. Thus they spent their life all that halfmonth, and Gunnhillda said to the men who were there, “Ye shall lose nothing except your lives if you say to any one a word of how Hrut and I are going on.”
When the half-month was over Hrut gave her a hundred ells of household woollen and twelve rough cloaks, and Gunnhillda thanked him for his gifts. Then Hrut thanked her and gave her a kiss and went away. She bade him “farewell.” And next day he went before the king with thirty men after him and bade the king “Good-day.” The king said, “Now, Hrut, thou wilt wish me to carry out towards thee what I promised.”
So Hrut was made one of the king’s body-guard, and he asked, “Where shall I sit?”
“My mother shall settle that,” said the king.
Then she got him a seat in the highest room, and he spent the winter with the king in much honour.
OF HRUT’S CRUISE
When the spring came he asked about Soti, and found out he had gone south to Denmark with the inheritance. Then Hrut went to Gunnhillda and tells her what Soti had been about. Gunnhillda said, “I will give thee two long-ships, full manned, and along with them the bravest man, Wolf the Unwashed, our overseer of guests; but still go and see the king before thou settest off.”
Hrut did so; and when he came before the king, then he told the king of Soti’s doings, and how he had a mind to hold on after him.
The king said, “What strength has my mother handed over to thee?”
“Two long-ships and Wolf the Unwashed to lead the men,” says Hrut.
“Well given,” says the king. ” Now I will give thee other two ships, and even then thou’lt need all the strength thou’st got.”
After that he went down with Hrut to the ship, and said, “fare thee well.” Then Hrut sailed away south with his crews.
ATLI ARNVID SON’S SLAYING
There was a man named Atli, son of Arnvid, Earl of East Gothland. He had kept back the taxes from Hacon Athelstane’s foster child, and both father and son had fled away from Jemtland to Gothland. After that, Atli held on with his followers out of the Maelar by Stock Sound, and so on towards Denmark, and now he lies out in Oresound. He is an outlaw both of the Dane-King and of the Swede-King. Hrut held on south to the Sound, and when he came into it he saw a many ships in the Sound. Then Wolf said, “What’s best to be done now, Icelander?”
“Hold on our course,” said Hrut, “for `nothing venture, nothing have.’ My ship and Auzur’s shall go first, but thou shalt lay thy ship where thou likest.”
“Seldom have I had others as a shield before me,” says Wolf, and lays his galley side by side with Hrut’s ship; and so they hold on through the Sound. Now those who are in the Sound see that ships are coming up to them, and they tell Atli.
He answered, “Then may be there’ll be gain to be got.”
After that men took their stand on board each ship; “but my ship,” says Atli, “shall be in the midst of the fleet.”
Meantime Hrut’s ships ran on, and as soon as either side could hear the other’s hail, Atli stood up and said, “Ye fare unwarily. Saw ye not that war-ships were in the Sound. But what’s the name of your chief?”
Hrut tells his name.
“Whose man art thou,” says Atli.
“One of king Harold Grayfell’s body-guard.”
Atli said. “‘Tis long since any love was lost between us, father and son, and your Norway kings.”
“Worse luck for thee,” says Hrut.
“Well,” says Atli, “the upshot of our meeting will be, that thou shalt not be left alive to tell the tale;” and with that he caught up a spear and hurled it at Hrut’s ship, and the man who stood before it got his death. After that the battle began, and they were slow in boarding Hrut’s ship. Wolf, he went well forward, and with him it was now cut, now thrust. Atli’s bowman’s name was Asolf; he sprung up on Hrut’s ship, and was four men’s death before Hrut was aware of him; then he turned against him, and when they met, Asolf thrust at and through Hrut’s shield, but Hrut cut once at Asolf, and that was his death-blow. Wolf the Unwashed saw that stroke, and called out, “Truth to say, Hrut, thou dealest big blows, but thou’st much to thank Gunnhillda for.”
“Something tells me,” says Hrut, “that thou speakest with a `fey’ mouth.”
Now Atli sees a bare place for a weapon on Wolf, and shot a spear through him and now the battle grows hot: Atli leaps up on Hrut’s ship, and clears it fast round about, and now Auzur turns to meet
him, and thrust at him, but fell down full length on his back, for another man thrust at him. Now Hrut turns to meet Atli: he cut at once at Hrut’s shield, and clove it all in two, from top to point; just then Atli got a blow on his hand from a stone, and down fell his sword. Hrut caught up the sword, and cut his foot from under him. After that he dealt him his death-blow. There they took much goods, and brought away with them two ships which were best, and stayed there only a little while. But meantime Soti and his crew had sailed past them, and he held on his course back to Norway, and made the land at Limgard’s side. There Soti went on shore, and there he met Augmund, Gunnhillda’s page; he knew him at once, and asks, “How long meanest thou to be here?”
“Three nights,” says Soti.
“Whither away, then?” says Augmund.
“West, to England,” says Soti, “and never to come back again to Norway while Gunnhillda’s rule is in Norway.”
Augmund went away, and goes and finds Gunnhillda, for she was a little way off, at a feast, and Gudred, her son, with her. Augmund told Gunnhillda what Soti meant to do, and she begged Gudred to take his life. So Gudred set off at once, and came unawares on Soti, and made them lead him up the country, and hang him there. But the goods he took, and brought them to his mother, and she got men to carry them all down to the King’s Crag, and after that she went thither herself.
Hrut came back towards autumn, and had gotten great store of goods. He went at once to the king, and had a hearty welcome. He begged them to take whatever they pleased of his goods, and the king took a third. Gunnhillda told Hrut how she had got hold of the inheritance, and had Soti slain. He thanked her, and gave her half of all he had.
HRUT SAILS OUT TO ICELAND
Hrut stayed with the king that winter in good cheer, but when spring came he grew very silent. Gunnhillda finds that out, and said to him when they two were alone together, “Art thou sick at heart?”
“So it is,” said Hrut, “as the saying runs — `Ill goes it with those who are born on a barren land.'”
“Wilt thou to Iceland?” she asks.
“Yes,” he answered.
“Hast thou a wife out there?” she asked; and he answers, “No.”
“But I am sure that is true,” she says; and so they ceased talking about the matter.
Shortly after Hrut went before the king and bade him Good-day; and the king said, “What dost thou want now, Hrut?”
“I am come to ask, lord, that you give me leave to go to Iceland.”
“Will thine honour be greater there than here?” asks the king.
“No, it will not,” said Hrut; “but every one must win the work that is set before him.”
“It is pulling a rope against a strong man,” said Gunnhillda, “so give him leave to go as best suits him.”
There was a bad harvest that year in the land, yet Gunnhillda gave Hrut as much meal as he chose to have; and now he busks him to sail out to Iceland, and Auzur with him; and when they were “all-boun,” Hrut went to find the king and Gunnhillda. She led him aside to talk alone, and said to him, “Here is a gold ring which I will give thee;” and with that she clasped it round his wrist.
“Many good gifts have I had from thee,” said Hrut.
Then she put her hands round his neck and kissed him, and said, “If I have as much power over thee as I think, I lay this spell on thee that thou mayst never have any pleasure in living with that woman on whom thy heart is set in Iceland, but with other women thou mayst get on well enough, and now it is like to go well with neither of us; but thou hast not believed what I have been saying.”
Hrut laughed when he heard that, and went away; after that he came before the king and thanked him; and the king spoke kindly to him, and bade him “farewell.” Hrut went straight to his ship, and they had a fair wind all the way until they ran into Borgarfirth.
As soon as the ship was made fast to the land, Hrut rode west home, but Auzur stayed by the ship to unload her and lay her up. Hrut rode straight to Hauskuldstede, and Hauskuld gave him a hearty welcome, and Hrut told him all about his travels. After that they send men east across the rivers to tell Fiddle Mord to make ready for the bridal feast; but the two brothers rode to the ship, and on the way Hauskuld told Hrut how his money-matters stood, and his goods had gained much since he was away. Then Hrut said, “The reward is less worth than it ought to be, but I will give thee as much meal as thou needst for thy household next winter.”
Then they drew the ship on land on rollers, and made her snug in her shed, but all the wares on board her they carried away into the Dales westward. Hrut stayed at home at Hrutstede till winter was six weeks off, and then the brothers made ready and Auzur with them, to ride to Hrut’s wedding. Sixty men ride with them, and they rode east till they came to Rangriver plains. There they found a crowd of guests, and the men took their seats on benches down the length of the hall, but the women were seated on the cross-benches on the dais, and the bride was rather downcast. So they drank out the feast and it went off well. Mord pays down his daughter’s portion, and she rides west with her husband and his train. So they ride till they reach home. Hrut gave over everything into her hands inside the house, and all were pleased at that; but for all that she and Hrut did not pull well together as man and wife, and so things went on till spring, and when spring came Hrut had a journey to make to the Westfirths, to get in the money for which he had sold his wares; but before he set off his wife says to him, “Dost thou mean to be back before men ride to the Thing?”
“Why dost thou ask?” said Hrut.
“I will ride to the Thing,” she said, “to meet my father.”
“So it sball be,” said he, “and I will ride to the Thing along with thee.”
“Well and good,” she says.
After that Hrut rode from home west to the Firths, got in all his money, and laid it out anew, and rode home again. When he came home he busked him to ride to the Thing, and made all his neighbours ride with him. His brother Hauskuld rode among the rest. Then Hrut said to his wife, “If thou hast as much mind now to go to the Thing as thou saidst a while ago, busk thyself and ride along with me.”
She was not slow in getting herself ready, and then they all rode to the Thing. Unna went to her father’s booth, and he gave her a hearty welcome, but she seemed somewhat heavy-hearted, and when he saw that he said to her, “I have seen thee with a merrier face. Hast thou anything on thy mind?”
She began to weep, and answered nothing. Then he said to her again. “Why didst thou ride to the Thing, if thou wilt not tell me thy secret? Dost thou dislike living away there in the west?”
Then she answered him, “I would give all I own in the world that I had never gone thither.”
“Well!” said Mord, “I’ll soon get to the bottom of this.” Then be sends men to fetch Hauskuld and Hrut, and they came straightway; and when they came in to see Mord, he rose up to meet them and gave them a hearty welcome, and asked them to sit down. Then they talked a long time in a friendly way, and at last Mord said to Hauskuld, “Why does my daughter think so ill of life in the west yonder?”
“Let her speak out,” said Hrut, “if she has anything to lay to my charge.”
But she brought no charge against him. Then Hrut made them ask his neighbours and household how he treated her, and all bore him good witness, saying that she did just as she pleased in the house.
Then Mord said, “Home thou shalt go, and be content with thy lot; for all the witness goes better for him than for thee.”
After that Hrut rode home from the Thing, and his wife with him, and all went smoothly between them that summer; but when spring came it was the old story over again, and things grew worse and worse as the spring went on. Hrut had again a journey to make west to the Firths, and gave out that he would not ride to the Althing, but Unna his wife said little about it. So Hrut went away west to the Firths.
UNNA SEPARATES FROM HRUT
Now the time for the Thing was coming on. Unna spoke to Sigmund, Auzur’s son, and asked if he would ride to the Thing with her; he said he could not ride if his kinsman Hrut set his face against it.
“Well!” says she, “I spoke to thee because I have better right to ask this from thee than from any one else.”
He answered, “I will make a bargain with thee: thou must promise to ride back west with me, and to have no underhand dealings against Hrut or myself.”
So she promised that, and then they rode to the Thing. Her father Mord was at the Thing, and was very glad to see her, and asked her to stay in his booth while the Thing lasted, and she did so.
“Now,” said Mord, “what hast thou to tell me of thy mate, Hrut?”
Then she sung him a song, in which she praised Hrut’s liberality, but said he was not master of himself. She herself was ashamed to speak out.
Mord was silent a short time, and then said, “Thou hast now that on thy mind I see, daughter, which thou dost not wish that any one should know save myself, and thou wilt trust to me rather than any one else to help thee out of thy trouble.”
Then they went aside to talk, to a place where none could overhear what they said; and then Mord said to his daughter, “Now, tell me all that is between you two, and don’t make more of the matter than it is worth.”
“So it shall be,” she answered, and sang two songs, in which she revealed the cause of their misunderstanding; and when Mord pressed her to speak out, she told him how she and Hrut could not live together, because he was spellbound, and that she wished to leave him.
“Thou didst right to tell me all this,” said Mord., “and now I will give thee a piece of advice, which will stand thee in good stead, if thou canst carry it out to the letter. First of all, thou must ride home from the Thing, and by that time thy husband will have come back, and will be glad to see thee; thou must be blithe and buxom to him, and he will think a good change has come over thee, and thou must show no signs of coldness or ill-temper, but when spring comes thou must sham sickness, and take to thy bed. Hrut will not lose time in guessing what thy sickness can be, nor will he scold thee at all, but he will rather beg every one to take all the care they can of thee. After that he will set off west to the Firths, and Sigmund with him, for he will have to flit all his goods home from the Firths west, and he will be away till the summer is far spent. But when men ride to the Thing, and after all have ridden from the Dales that mean to ride thither; then thou must rise from thy bed and summon men to go along with thee to the Thing; and when thou art “all-boun,” then shalt thou go to thy bed, and the men with thee who are to bear thee company, and thou shalt take witness before thy husband’s bed, and declare thyself separated from him by such a lawful separation as may hold good according to the judgment of the Great Thing, and the laws of the land; and at the man’s door the main door of the house, thou shalt take the same witness. After that ride away, and ride over Laxriverdale Heath, and so on over Holtbeacon Heath; for they will look for thee by way of Hrutfirth. And so ride on till thou comest to me; then I will see after the matter. But into his hands thou shalt never come more.”
Now she rides home from the Thing, and Hrut had come back before her, and made her hearty welcome. She answered him kindly, and was blithe and forbearing towards him. So they lived happily together that half-year; but when spring came she fell sick, and kept her bed. Hrut set off west to the Firths, and bade them tend her well before he went. Now, when the time for the Thing comes, she busked herself to ride away, and did in every way as had been laid down for her; and then she rides away to the Thing. The country folk looked for her, but could not find her. Mord made his daughter welcome, and asked her if she had followed his advice; and she says, “I have not broken one tittle of it.”
Then she went to the Hill of Laws, and declared herself separated from Hrut; and men thought this strange news. Unna went home with her father, and never went west from that day forward.
MORD CLAIMS HIS GOODS FROM HRUT
Hrut came home, and knit his brows when he heard his wife was gone, but yet kept his feelings well in hand, and stayed at home all that half-year, and spoke to no one on the matter. Next summer he rode to the Thing, with his brother Hauskuld, and they had a great following. But when he came to the Thing, he asked whether Fiddle Mord were at the Thing, and they told him he was; and all thought they would come to words at once about their matter, but it was not so. At last, one day when the brothers and others who were at the Thing went to the Hill of Laws, Mord took witness and declared that he had a money-suit against Hrut for his daughter’s dower, and reckoned the amount at ninety hundreds in goods, calling on Hrut at the same time to pay and hand it over to him, and asking for a fine of three marks. He laid the suit in the Quarter Court, into which it would come by law, and gave lawful notice, so that all who stood on the Hill of Laws might hear.
But when he had thus spoken, Hrut said, “Thou hast undertaken this suit, which belongs to thy daughter, rather for the greed of gain and love of strife than in kindliness and manliness. But I shall have something to say against it; for the goods which belong to me are not yet in thy bands. Now, what I have to say is this, and I say it out, so that all who hear me on this hill may bear witness: I challenge thee to fight on the island; there on one side shall be laid all thy daughter’s dower, and on the other I will lay down goods worth as much, and whoever wins the day shall have both dower and goods; but if thou wilt not fight with me, then thou shalt give up all claim to these goods.”
Then Mord held his peace, and took counsel with his friends about going to fight on the island, and Jorund the priest gave him an answer.
“There is no need for thee to come to ask us for counsel in this matter, for thou knowest if thou fightest with Hrut thou wilt lose both life and goods. He has a good cause, and is besides mighty in himself and one of the boldest of men.”
Then Mord spoke out, that he would not fight with Hrut, and there arose a great shout and hooting on the hill, and Mord got the greatest shame by his suit.
After that men ride home from the Thing, and those brothers Hauskuld and Hrut ride west to Reykriverdale, and turned in as guests at Lund, where Thiostolf, Bjorn Gullbera’s son, then dwelt. There had been much rain that day, and men got wet, so long-fires were made down the length of the hall. Thiostolf, the master of the house, sat between Hauskuld and Hrut, and two boys, of whom Thiostolf had the rearing, were playing on the floor, and a girl was playing with them. They were great chatterboxes, for they were too young to know better. So one of them said, “Now I will be Mord, and summon thee to lose thy wife because thou hast not been a good husband to her.”
Then the other answered, “I will be Hrut, and I call on thee to give up all claim to thy goods, if thou darest not to fight with me.”
This they said several times, and all the household burst out laughing. Then Hauskuld got wroth, and struck the boy who called himself Mord with a switch, and the blow fell on his face, and grazed the skin.
“Get out with thee,” said Hauskuld to the boy, “and make no game of us;” but Hrut said, “Come hitherto me,” and the boy did so. Then Hrut drew a ring from his finger and gave it to him, and said, “Go away, and try no man’s temper henceforth.”
Then the boy went away saying, “Thy manliness I will bear in mind all my life.”
From this matter Hrut got great praise, and after that they went home; and that was the end of Mord’s and Hrut’s quarrel.
THORWALD GETS HALLGERDA TO WIFE
Now, it must be told how Hallgerda, Hauskuld’s daughter, grows up, and is the fairest of women to look on; she was tall of stature, too, and therefore she was called “Longcoat.” She was fair-haired, and had so much of it that she could hide herself in it; but she was layish and hard-hearted. Her foster-father’s name was Thiostolf: he was a Southislander by stock: he was a strong man, well skilled in arms, and had slain many men, and made no atonement in money for one of them. It was said, too, that his rearing had not bettered Hallgerda’s temper.
There was a man named Thorwald; he was Oswif’s son, and dwelt out on Middlefells strand, under the Fell. He was rich and well to do, and owned the islands called Bearisles, which lie out in Broadfirth, whence he got meal and stock fish. This Thorwald was a strong and courteous man, though somewhat hasty in temper. Now, it fell out one day that Thorwald and his father were talking together of Thorwald’s marrying, and where he had best look for a wife, and it soon came out that he thought there wasn’t a match fit for him far or near.
“Well,” said Oswif, “wilt thou ask for Hallgerda Longcoat, Hauskuld’s daughter.”
“Yes! I will ask for her,” said Thorwald.
“But that is not a match that will suit either of you,” Oswif went on to say, “for she has a will of her own, and thou art stern-tempered and unyielding.”
“For all that I will try my luck there,” said Thorwald, “so it’s no good trying to hinder me.”
“Ay!” said Oswif, “and the risk is all thine own.”
After that they set off on a wooing journey to Hauskuldstede, and had a hearty welcome. They were not long in telling Hauskuld their business, and began to woo; then Hauskuld answered, “As for you, I know how you both stand in the world, but for my own part I will use no guile towards you. My daughter has a hard temper, but as to her looks and breeding you can both see for yourselves.”
“Lay down the terms of the match,” answered Thorwald, “for I will not let her temper stand in the way of our bargain.”
Then they talked over the terms of the bargain, and Hauskuld never asked his daughter what she thought of it, for his heart was set on giving her away and so they came to an understanding as to the terms of the match. After that Thorwald betrothed himself to Hallgerda, and rode away home when the matter was settled.
Hauskuld told Hallgerda of the bargain he had made, and she said, “Now that has been put to the proof which I have all along been afraid of, that thou lovest me not so much as thou art always saying, when thou hast not thought it worth while to tell me a word of all this matter. Besides, I do not think this match so good a one as thou hast always promised me.”
So she went on, and let them know in every way that she thought she was thrown away.
Then Hauskuld said, “I do not set so much store by thy pride as to let it stand in the way of my bargains; and my will, not thine, shall carry the day if we fall out on any point.”
“The pride of all you kinsfolk is great,” she said, “and so it is not wonderful if I have some of it.”
With that she went away, and found her foster-father Thiostolf, and told him what was in store for her, and was very heavy-hearted. Then Thiostolf said, “Be of good cheer, for thou wilt be married a second time, and then they will ask thee what thou thinkest of the match; for I will do in all things as thou wishest, except in what touches thy father or Hrut.”
After that they spoke no more of the matter, and Hauskuld made ready the bridal feast, and rode off to ask men to it. So he came to Hrutstede and called Hrut out to speak with him. Hrut went out, and they began to talk, and Hauskuld told him the whole story of the bargain, and bade him to the feast, saying, “I should be glad to know that thou dost not feel hurt though I did not tell thee when the bargain was being made.
“I should be better pleased,” said Hrut “to have nothing at all to do with it; for this match will bring luck neither to him nor to her; but still I will come to the feast if thou thinkest it will add any honour to thee.”
“Of course I think so,” said Hauskuld, and rode off home.
Oswif and Thorwald also asked men to come, so that no fewer than one hundred guests were asked.
There was a man named Swan, who dwelt in Bearfirth, which lies north from Steingrimsfirth. This Swan was a great wizard, and he was Hallgerda’s mother’s brother. He was quarrelsome, and hard to deal with, but Hallgerda asked him to the feast, and sends Thiostolf to him; so he went, and it soon got to friendship between him and Swan.
Now men come to the feast, and Hallgerda sat upon the cross-bench, and she was a very merry bride. Thiostolf was always talking to her, though he sometimes found time to speak to Swan, and men thought their talking strange. The feast went off well, and Hauskuld paid down Hallgerda’s portion with the greatest readiness. After he had done that, he said to Hrut, “Shall I bring out any gifts beside?”
“The day will come,” answered Hrut, “when thou wilt have to waste thy goods for Hallgerda’s sake, so hold thy hand now.”
Throwald rode home from the bridal feast, and his wife with him, and Thiostolf, who rode by her horse’s side, and still talked to her in a low voice. Oswif turned to his son and said, “Art thou pleased with thy match? and how went it when ye talked together.”
“Well,” said he, “she showed all kindness to me. Thou mightst see that by the way she laughs at every word I say.”
“I don’t think her laughter so hearty as thou dost,” answered Oswif, “but this will be put to the proof by and by.”
So they ride on till they come home, and at night she took her seat by her husband’s side, and made room for Thiostolf next herself on the inside. Thiostolf and Thorwald had little to do with each other, and few words were thrown away between them that winter, and so time went on. Hallgerda was prodigal and grasping, and there was nothing that any of their neighbours had that she must not have too, and all that she had, no matter whether it were her own or belonged to others she wasted. But when the spring came there was a scarcity in the house, both of meal and stock fish, so Hallgerda went up to Thorwald and said, “Thou must not be sitting in-doors any longer, for we want for the house both meal and fish.
“Well,” said Thorwald, “I did not lay in less for the house this year than I laid in before, and then it used to last till summer.”
“What care I,” said Hallgerda, “if thou and thy father have made your money by starving yourselves.”
Then Thorwald got angry and gave her a blow on the face and drew blood, and went away and called his men and ran the skiff down to the shore. Then six of them jumped into her and rowed out to the Bear-isles, and began to load her with meal and fish.
Meantime it is said that Hallgerda sat out of doors heavy at heart. Thiostolf went up to her and saw the wound on her face, and said, “Who has been playing thee this sorry trick?”
“My husband, Thorwald,” she said, “and thou stoodst aloof, though thou wouldst not if thou hadst cared at all for me.”
“Because I knew nothing about it,” said Thiostolf, “but I will avenge it.”
Then he went away down to the shore and ran out a six-oared boat, and held in his hand a great axe that he had with a haft overlaid with iron. He steps into the boat and rows out to the Bear-isles, and when he got there all the men had rowed away but Thorwald and his followers, and he stayed by the skiff to load her, while they brought the goods down to him. So Thiostolf came up just then and jumped into the skiff, and began to load with him, and after a while he said, “Thou canst do but little at this work, and that little thou dost badly.”
“Thinkst thou thou canst do it better,” said Thorwald.
“There’s one thing to be done which I can do better than thou,” said Thiostolf, and then he went on, “The woman who is thy wife has made a bad match, and you shall not live much longer together.”
Then Thorwald snatched up a fishing-knife that lay by him, and made a stab at Thiostolf; he had lifted his axe to his shoulder and dashed it down. It came on Thorwald’s arm and crushed the wrist, but down fell the knife. Then Thiostolf lifted up his axe a second time and gave Thorwald a blow on the head, and he fell dead on the spot.
While this was going on, Thorwald’s men came down with their load, but Thiostolf was not slow in his plans. He hewed with both hands at the gunwale of the skiff and cut it down about two planks; then he leapt into his boat, but the dark blue sea poured into the skiff, and down she went with all her freight. Down too sank Thorwald’s body, so that his men could not see what had been done to him, but they knew well enough that he was dead. Thiostolf rowed away up the firth, but they shouted after him wishing him ill luck. He made them no answer, but rowed on till he got home, and ran the boat up on the beach, and went up to the house with his axe, all bloody as it was, on his shoulder. Hallgerda stood out of doors, and said, “Thine axe is bloody; what hast thou done?”
“I have done now what will cause thee to be wedded a second time.”
“Thou tellest me then that Thorwald is dead,” she said.
“So it is,” said he, “and now look out for my safety.”
“So I will,” she said; “I will send thee north to Bearfirth, to Swanshol, and Swan, my kinsman, will receive thee with open arms. He is so mighty a man that no one will seek thee thither.”
So he saddled a horse that she had, and jumped on his back, and rode off north to Bearfirth, to Swanshol, and Swan received him with open arms, and said: “That’s what I call a man who does not stick at trifles! And now I promise thee if they seek thee here, they shall get nothing but the greatest shame.”
Now, the story goes back to Hallgerda, and how she behaved. She called on Liot the Black, her kinsman, to go with her, and bade him saddle their horses, for she said, “I will ride home to my father.”
While he made ready for their journey, she went to her chests and unlocked them and called all the men of her house about her, and gave each of them some gift; but they all grieved at her going. Now she rides home to her father; and he received her well, for as yet he had not heard the news. But Hrut said to Hallgerda, “Why did not Thorwald come with thee?” and she answered, “He is dead.”
Then said Hauskuld, “That was Thiostolf’s doing.”
“It was,” she said.
“Ah!” said Hauskuld, “Hrut was not far wrong when he told me that this bargain would draw mickle misfortune after it. But there’s no good in troubling one’s self about a thing that’s done and gone.”
Now, the story must go back to Thorwald’s mates, how there they are, and how they begged the loan of a boat to get to the mainland. So a boat was lent them at once, and they rowed up the firth to Reykianess, and found Oswif, and told him these tidings.
He said, “Ill luck is the end of ill redes, and now I see how it has all gone. Hallgerda must have sent Thiostolf to Bearfirth, but she herself must have ridden home to her father. Let us now gather folk and follow him up thither north.” So they did that, and went about asking for help, and got together many men. And then they all rode off to Steingrims river, and so on to Liotriverdale and Selriverdale, till they came to Bearfirth.
Now Swan began to speak, and gasped much. “Now Oswif’s fetches are seeking us out.” Then up sprung Thiostolf, but Swan said, “Go thou out with me, there won’t be need of much.” So they went out both of them, and Swan took a goatskin and wrapped it about his own head, and said, “Become mist and fog, become fright and wonder mickle to all those who seek thee.”
Now, it must be told how Oswif, his friends, and his men are riding along the ridge; then came a great mist against them, and Oswif said, “This is Swan’s doing; ’twere well if nothing worse followed.” A little after a mighty darkness came before their eyes, so that they could see nothing, and then they fell off their horses’ backs, and lost their horses, and dropped their weapons, and went over head and ears into bogs, and some went astray into the wood, till they were on the brink of bodily harm. Then Oswif said, “If I could only find my horse and weapons, then I’d turn back;” and he hid scarce spoken these words than they saw somewhat, and found their horses and weapons. Then many still egged the others on to look after the chase once more; and so they did, and at once the same wonders befell them, and so they fared thrice. Then Oswif said, “Though the course be not good, let us still turn back. Now, we will take counsel a second time, and what now pleases my mind best, is to go and find Hauskuld, and ask atonement for my son; for there’s no hope of honour where there’s good store of it.”
So they rode thence to the Broadfirth dales, and there is nothing to be told about them till they came to Hauskuldstede, and Hrut was there before them. Oswif called out Hauskuld and Hrut, and they both went out and bade him good day. After that they began to talk. Hauskuld asked Oswif whence he came. He said he had set out to search for Thiostolf, but couldn’t find him. Hauskuld said he must have gone north to Swanshol, “and thither it is not every man’s lot to go to find him.”
“Well,” says Oswif, “I am come hither for this, to ask atonement for my son from thee.”
Hauskuld answered, “I did not slay thy son, nor did I plot his death; still it may be forgiven thee to look for atonement somewhere.”
“Nose is next of kin, brother, to eyes,” said Hrut, “and it is needful to stop all evil tongues, and to make him atonement for his son, and so mend thy daughter’s state, for that will only be the case when this suit is dropped, and the less that is said about it the better it will be.”
Hauskuld said, “Wilt thou undertake the award?”
“That I will,” says Hrut, “nor will I shield thee at all in my award; for if the truth must be told thy daughter planned his death.”
Then Hrut held his peace some little while, and afterwards he stood up, and said to Oswif, “Take now my hand in handsel as a token that thou lettest the suit drop.”
So Oswif stood up and said, “This is not an atonement on equal terms when thy brother utters the award, but still thou (speaking to Hrut) hast behaved so well about it that I trust thee thoroughly to make it.” Then he stood up and took Hauskuld’s band, and came to an atonement in the matter, on the understanding that Hrut was to make up his mind and utter the award before Oswif went away. After that, Hrut made his award, and said, “For the slaying of Thorwald I award two hundred in silver” — that was then thought a good price for a man — “and thou shalt pay it down at once, brother, and pay it too with an open hand.”
Hauskuld did so, and then Hrut said to Oswif, “I will give thee a good cloak which I brought with me from foreign lands.”
He thanked him for his gift, and went home well pleased at the way in which things had gone.
After that Hauskuld and Hrut came to Oswif to share the goods, and they and Oswif came to a good agreement about that too, and they went home with their share of the goods, and Oswif is now out of our story. Hallgerda begged Hauskuld to let her come back home to him, and he gave her leave, and for a long time there was much talk about Thorwald’s slaying. As for Hallgerda’s goods they went on growing till they were worth a great sum.
Now three brothers are named in the story. One was called Thorarin, the second Ragi, and the third Glum. They were the sons of Olof the Halt, and were men of much worth and of great wealth in goods. Thorarin’s surname was Ragi’s brother; he had the Speakership of the Law after Rafn Heing’s son. He was a very wise man, and lived at Varmalek, and he and Glum kept house together. Glum had been long abroad; he was a tall, strong, handsome man. Ragi their brother was a great manslayer. Those brothers owned in the south Engey and Laugarness. One day the brothers Thorarin and Glum were talking together, and Thorarin asked Glum whether he meant to go abroad, as was his wont?
He answered, “I was rather thinking now of leaving off trading voyages.”
“What hast thou then in thy mind? Wilt thou woo thee a wife?”
“That I will,” says he, “if I could only get myself well matched.”
Then Thorarin told off all the women who were unwedded in Borgarfirth, and asked him if he would have any of these, “Say the word, and I will ride with thee!”
But Glum answered, “I will have none of these.”
“Say then the name of her thou wishest to have,” says Thorarin.
Glum answered, “If thou must know, her name is Hallgerda, and she is Hauskuld’s daughter away west in the dales.”
“Well,” says Thorarin, “’tis not with thee as the saw says, `be warned by another’s woe’; for she was wedded to a man, and she plotted his death.”
Glum said, “Maybe such ill-luck will not befall her a second time, and sure I am she will not plot my death. But now, if thou wilt show me any honour, ride along with me to woo her.”
Thorarin said, “There’s no good striving against it, for what must be is sure to happen.” Glum often talked the matter over with Thorarin, but he put it off a long time. At last it came about that they gathered men together and rode off ten in company, west to the dales, and came to Hauskuldstede. Hauskuld gave them a hearty welcome, and they stayed there that night. But early next morning, Hauskuld sends for Hrut, and he came thither at once: and Hauskuld was out of doors when he rode into the “town”. Then Hauskuld told Hrut what men had come thither.
“What may it be they want?” asked Hrut.
“As yet,” says Hauskuld, “they have not let out to me that they have any business.”
“Still,” says Hrut, “their business must be with thee. They will ask the hand of thy daughter, Hallgerda. If they do, what answer wilt thou make?”
“What dost thou advise me to say?” says Hauskuld.
“Thou shalt answer well,” says Hrut; “but still make a clean breast of all the good and all the ill thou knowest of the woman.”
But while the brothers were talking thus, out came the guests. Hauskuld greeted them well, and Hrut bade both Thorarin and his brothers good morning. After that they all began to talk, and Thorarin said, “I am come hither, Hauskuld, with my brother Glum on this errand, to ask for Hallgerda thy daughter, at the hand of my brother Glum. Thou must know that he is a man of worth.”
“I know well,” says Hauskuld, “that ye are both of you powerful and worthy men; but I must tell you right out, that I chose a husband for her before, and that turned out most unluckily for us.”
Thorarin answered, “We will not let that stand in the way of the bargain; for one oath shall not become all oaths, and this may prove to be a good match, though that turned out ill; besides Thiostolf had most hand in spoiling it.”
Then Hrut spoke: “Now I will give you a bit of advice — this: if ye will not let all this that has already happened to Hallgerda stand in the way of the match, mind you do not let Thiostolf go south with her if the match comes off, and that he is never there longer than three nights at a time, unless Glum gives him leave, but fall an outlaw by Glum’s hand without atonement if he stay there longer. Of course, it shall be in Glum’s power to give him leave; but he will not if he takes my advice. And now this match shall not be fulfilled, as the other was, without Hallgerda’s knowledge. She shall now know the whole course of this bargain, and see Glum, and herself settle whether she will have him or not; and then she will not be able to lay the blame on others if it does not turn out well. And all this shall be without craft or guile.”
Then Thorarin said, “Now, as always, it will prove best if thy advice be taken.”
Then they sent for Hallgerda, and she came thither, and two women with her. She had on a cloak of rich blue woof, and under it a scarlet kirtle, and a silver girdle round her waist, but her hair came down on both sides of her bosom, and she had turned the locks up under her girdle. She sat down between Hrut and her father, and she greeted them all with kind words, and spoke well and boldly, and asked what was the news. After that she ceased speaking.
Then Glum said, “There has been some talk between thy father and my brother Thorarin and myself about a bargain. It was that I might get thee, Hallgerda, if it be thy will, as it is theirs; and now, if thou art a brave woman, thou wilt say right out whether the match is at all to thy mind; but if thou hast anything in thy heart against this bargain with us, then we will not say anything more about it.”
Hallgerda said, “I know well that you are men of worth and might, ye brothers. I know too that now I shall be much better wedded than I was before; but what I want to know is, what you have said already about the match, and how far you have given your words in the matter. But so far as I now see of thee, I think I might love thee well if we can but hit it off as to temper.”
So Glum himself told her all about the bargain, and left nothing out, and then he asked Hauskuld and Hrut whether he had repeated it right. Hauskuld said he had; and then Hallgerda said, “Ye have dealt so well with me in this matter, my father and Hrut, that I will do what ye advise, and this bargain shall be struck as ye have settled it.”
Then Hrut said, “Methinks it were best that Hauskuld and I should name witnesses, and that Hallgerda should betroth herself, if the Lawman thinks that right and lawful.
“Right and lawful it is,” says Thorarin.
After that Hallgerda’s goods were valued, and Glum was to lay down as much against them, and they were to go shares, half and half, in the whole. Then Glum bound himself to Hallgerda as his betrothed, and they rode away home south; but Hauskuld was to keep the wedding-feast at his house. And now all is quiet till men ride to the wedding.
Those brothers gathered together a great company, and they were all picked men. They rode west to the dales and came to Hauskuldstede, and there they found a great gathering to meet them. Hauskuld and Hrut, and their friends, filled one bench, and the bridegroom the other. Hallgerda sat upon the cross bench on the dais, and behaved well. Thiostolf went about with his axe raised in air, and no one seemed to know that he was there, and so the wedding went off well. But when the feast was over, Hallgerda went away south with Glum and his brothers. So when they came south to Varmalek, Thorarin asked Hallgerda if she would undertake the housekeeping. “No, I will not,” she said. Hallgerda kept her temper down that winter, and they liked her well enough. But when the spring came, the brothers talked about their property, and Thorarin said, “I will give up to you the house at Varmalek, for that is readiest to your hand, and I will go down south to Laugarness and live there, but Engey we will have both of us in common.”
Glum was willing enough to do that. So Thorarin went down to the south of that district, and Glum and his wife stayed behind there, and lived in the house at Varmalek.
Now Hallgerda got a household about her; she was prodigal in giving, and grasping in getting. In the summer she gave birth to a girl. Glum asked her what name it was to have?
“She shall be called after my father’s mother, and her name shall be Thorgerda,” for she came down from Sigurd Fafnir’s-bane on the father’s side, according to the family pedigree.
So the maiden was sprinkled with water, and had this name given her, and there she grew up, and got like her mother in looks and feature. Glum and Hallgerda agreed well together, and so it went on for a while. About that time these tidings were heard from the north and Bearfirth, how Swan had rowed out to fish in the spring, and a great storm came down on him from the east, and how he was driven ashore at Fishless, and he and his men were there lost. But the fishermen who were at Kalback thought they saw Swan go into the fell at Kalbackshorn, and that he was greeted well; but some spoke against that story, and said there was nothing in it. But this all knew that he was never seen again either alive or dead. So when Hallgerda heard that, she thought she had a great loss in her mother’s brother. Glum begged Thorarin to change lands with him, but he said he would not; “but,” said he, “if I outlive you, I mean to have Varmalek to myself.” When Glum told this to Hallgerda, she said, “Thorarin has indeed a right to expect this from us.”
THIOSTOLF GOES TO GLUM’S HOUSE
Thiostolf had beaten one of Hauskuld’s house-carles, so he drove him away. He took his horse and weapons, and said to Hauskuld, “Now, I will go away and never come back.”
“All will be glad at that,” says Hauskuld.
Thiostolf rode till he came to Varmalek, and there he got a hearty welcome from Hallgerda, and not a bad one from Glum. He told Hallgerda how her father had driven him away, and begged her to give him her help and countenance. She answered him by telling him she could say nothing about his staying there before she had seen Glum about it.
“Does it go well between you?” he says.
“Yes,” she says, “our love runs smooth enough.”
After that she went to speak to Glum, and threw her arms round his neck and said, “Wilt thou grant me a boon which I wish to ask of thee?”
“Grant it I will,” he says, “if it be right and seemly; but what is it thou wishest to ask?”
“Well,” she said, “Thiostolf has been driven away from the west, and what I want thee to do is to let him stay here; but I will not take it crossly if it is not to thy mind.”
Glum said, “Now that thou behavest so well, I will grant thee thy boon; but I tell thee, if he takes to any ill he shall be sent off at once.”
She goes then to Thiostolf and tells him, and he answered, “Now, thou art still good, as I had hoped.”
After that he was there, and kept himself down a little while, but then it was the old story, he seemed to spoil all the good he found; for he gave way to no one save to Hallgerda alone, but she never took his side in his brawls with others. Thorarin, Glum’s brother, blamed him for letting him be there, and said ill luck would come of it, and all would happen as had happened before if he were there. Glum answered him well and kindly, but still kept on in his own way.
GLUM’S SHEEP HUNT
Now once on a time when autumn came, it happened that men had hard work to get their flocks home, and many of Glum’s wethers were missing. Then Glum said to Thiostolf, “Go thou up on the fell with my house-carles and see if ye cannot find out anything about the sheep.”
“‘Tis no business of mine,” says Thiostolf, “to hunt up sheep, and this one thing is quite enough to hinder it. I won’t walk in thy thralls’ footsteps. But go thyself, and then I’ll go with thee.”
About this they had many words. The weather was good, and Hallgerda was sitting out of doors. Glum went up to her and said, “Now Thiostolf and I have had a quarrel, and we shall not live much longer together.” And so he told her all that they had been talking about.
Then Hallgerda spoke up for Thiostolf, and they had many words about him. At last Glum gave her a blow with his hand, and said, “I will strive no longer with thee,” and with that he went away.
Now she loved him much, and could not calm herself, but wept out loud. Thiostolf went up to her and said, “This is sorry sport for thee, and so it must not be often again.”
“Nay,” she said, “but thou shalt not avenge this, nor meddle at all whatever passes between Glum and me.”
He went off with a spiteful grin.
Now Glum called men to follow him, and Thiostolf got ready and went with them. So they went up South Reykiardale and then up along by Baugagil and so south to Crossfell. But some of his band he sent to the Sulafells, and they all found very many sheep. Some of them, too, went by way of Scoradale, and it came about at last that those twain, Glum and Thiostolf, were left alone together. They went south from Crossfell and found there a flock of wild sheep, and they went from the south towards the fell, and tried to drive them down; but still the sheep got away from them up on the fell. Then each began to scold the other, and Thiostolf said at last that Glum had no strength save to tumble about in Hallgerda’s arms.
Then Glum said, “`A man’s foes are those of his own house.’ Shall I take upbraiding from thee, runaway thrall as thou art?”
Thiostolf said, “Thou shalt soon have to own that I am no thrall, for I will not yield an inch to thee.”
Then Glum got angry, and cut at him with his hand-axe, but he threw his axe in the way, and the blow fell on the haft with a downward stroke and bit into it about the breadth of two fingers. Thiostolf cut at him at once with his axe, and smote him on the shoulder, and the stroke hewed asunder the shoulderbone and collarbone, and the wound bled inwards. Glum grasped at Thiostolf with his left hand so fast, that he fell; but Glum could not hold him, for death came over him. Then Thiostolf covered his body with stones, and took off his gold ring. Then he went straight to Varmalek. Hallgerda was sitting out of doors, and saw that his axe was bloody. He said, “I know not what thou wilt think of it, but I tell thee Glum is slain.”
“That must be thy deed,” she says.
“So it is,” he says.
She laughed and said, “Thou dost not stand for nothing in this sport.”
“What thinkest thou is best to be done now?” he asked.
“Go to Hrut, my father’s brother,” she said, “and let him see about thee.”
“I do not know,” says Thiostolf, “whether this is good advice; but still I will take thy counsel in this matter.”
So he took his horse, and rode west to Hrutstede that night. He binds his horse at the back of the house, and then goes round to the door, and gives a great knock. After that he walks round the house, north about. It happened that Hrut was awake. He sprang up at once, and put on his jerkin and pulled on his shoes. Then he took up his sword, and wrapped a cloak about his left arm, up as far as the elbow. Men woke up just as he went out; there he saw a tall stout man at the back of the house, and knew it was Thiostolf. Hrut asked him what news?
“I tell thee Glum is slain.” says Thiostolf.
“Who did the deed?” says Hrut.
“I slew him,” says Thiostolf.
“Why rodest thou hither?” says Hrut.
“Hallgerda sent me to thee,” says Thiostolf.
“Then she has no hand in this deed,” says Hrut, and drew his sword. Thiostolf saw that, and would not be behind hand, so he cuts at Hrut at once. Hrut got out of the way of the stroke by a quick turn, and at the same time struck the back of the axe so smartly with a side-long blow of his left hand, that it flew out of Thiostolf’s grasp. Then Hrut made a blow with his sword in his right hand at Thiostolf’s leg, just above the knee, and cut it almost off so that it hung by a little piece, and sprang in upon him at the same time, and thrust him hard back. After that he smote him on the head, and dealt him his death-blow. Thiostolf fell down on his back at full length, and then out came Hrut’s men, and saw the tokens of the deed. Hrut made them take Thiostolf away, and throw stones over his body, and then he went to find Hauskuld, and told him of Glum’s slaying, and also of Thiostolf’s. He thought it harm that Glum was dead and gone, but thanked him for killing Thiostolf. A little while after, Thorarin Ragi’s brother hears of his brother Glum’s death, then he rides with eleven men behind him west to Hauskuldstede, and Hauskuld welcomed him with both hands, and he is there the night. Hauskuld sent at once for Hrut to come to him, and he went at once, and next day they spoke much of the slaying of Glum, and Thorarin said “Wilt thou make me any atonement for my brother, for I have had a great loss?”
Hauskuld answered, “I did not slay thy brother, nor did my daughter plot his death; but as soon as ever Hrut knew it he slew Thiostolf.”
Then Thorarin held his peace, and thought the matter had taken a bad turn. But Hrut said, “Let us make his journey good; he has indeed had a heavy loss, and if we do that we shall be well spoken of. So let us give him gifts, and then he will be our friend ever afterwards.”
So the end of it was, that those brothers gave him gifts, and he rode back south. He and Hallgerda changed homesteads in the spring, and she went south to Laugarness and he to Varmalek. And now Thorarin is out of the story.
FIDDLE MORD’S DEATH
Now it must be told how Fiddle Mord took a sickness and breathed his last; and that was thought great scathe. His daughter Unna took all the goods he left behind him. She was then still unmarried the second time. She was very layish, and unthrifty of her property; so that her goods and ready money wasted away, and at last she had scarce anything left but land and stock.
GUNNAR COMES INTO THE STORY
There was a man whose name was Gunnar. He was one of Unna’s kinsmen, and his mother’s name was Rannveig. Gunnar’s father was named Hamond. Gunnar Hamond’s son dwelt at Lithend, in the Fleetlithe. He was a tall man in growth, and a strong man –best skilled in arms of all men. He could cut or thrust or shoot if he chose as well with his left as with his right hand, and he smote so swiftly with his sword, that three seemed to flash through the air at once. He was the best shot with the bow of all men, and never missed his mark. He could leap more than his own height, with all his war-gear, and as far backwards as forwards. He could swim like a seal, and there was no game in which it was any good for any one to strive with him; and so it has been said that no man was his match. He was handsome of feature, and fair skinned. His nose was straight, and a little turned up at the end. He was blue-eyed and bright-eyed, and ruddy-cheeked. His hair thick, and of good hue, and hanging down in comely curls. The most courteous of men was he, of sturdy frame and strong will, bountiful and gentle, a fast friend, but hard to please when making them. He was wealthy in goods. His brother’s name was Kolskegg; he was a tall strong man, a noble fellow, and undaunted in everything. Another brother’s name was Hjort; he was then in his childhood. Orm Skogarnef was a base-born brother of Gunnar’s; he does not come into this story. Arnguda was the name of Gunnar’s sister. Hroar, the priest at Tongue, had her to wife.
OF NJAL AND HIS CHILDREN
There was a man whose name was Njal. He was the son of Thorgeir Gelling, the son of Thorolf. Njal’s mother’s name was Asgerda. Njal dwelt at Bergthorsknoll in the land-isles; he had another homestead on Thorolfsfell. Njal was wealthy in goods, and handsome of face; no beard grew on his chin. He was so great a lawyer, that his match was not to be found. Wise too he was, and foreknowing and foresighted. Of good counsel, and ready to give it, and all that he advised men was sure to be the best for them to do. Gentle and generous, he unravelled every man’s knotty points who came to see him about them. Bergthora was his wife’s name; she was Skarphedinn’s daughter, a very high-spirited, brave-hearted woman, but somewhat hard-tempered. They had six children, three daughters and three sons, and they all come afterwards into this story.
UNNA GOES TO SEE GUNNAR
Now it must be told how Unna had lost all her ready money. She made her way to Lithend, and Gunnar greeted his kinswoman well. She stayed there that night, and the next morning they sat out of doors and talked. The end of their talk was, that she told him how heavily she was pressed for money.
“This is a bad business,” he said.
“What help wilt thou give me out of my distress?” she asked.
He answered, “Take as much money as thou needest from what I have out at interest.”
“Nay,” she said, “I will not waste thy goods.”
“What then dost thou wish?”
“I wish thee to get back my goods out of Hrut’s hands,” she answered.
“That, methinks, is not likely,” said he, “when thy father could not get them back, and yet he was a great lawyer, but I know little about law.”
She answered, “Hrut pushed that matter through rather by boldness than by law; besides, my father was old, and that was why men thought it better not to drive things to the uttermost. And now there is none of my kinsmen to take this suit up if thou hast not daring enough.
“I have courage enough,” he replied, “to get these goods back; but I do not know how to take the suit up.”
“Well!” she answered, “go and see Njal of Bergthorsknoll, he willknow how to give thee advice. Besides, he is a great friend of thine.”
“‘Tis like enough he will give me good advice, as he gives it to every one else,” says Gunnar.
So the end of their talk was, that Gunnar undertook her cause, and gave her the money she needed for her housekeeping, and after that she went home.
Now Gunnar rides to see Njal, and he made him welcome, and they began to talk at once.
Then Gunnar said, “I am come to seek a bit of good advice from thee.”
Njal replied, “Many of my friends are worthy of this, but still I think I would take more pains for none than for thee.”
Gunnar said, “I wish to let thee know that I have undertaken to get Unna’s goods back from Hrut.”
“A very hard suit to undertake,” said Njal, “and one very hazardous how it will go; but still I will get it up for thee in the way I think likeliest to succeed, and the end will be good if thou breakest none of the rules I lay down; if thou dost, thy life is in danger.”
“Never fear; I will break none of them,” said Gunnar.
Then Njal held his peace for a little while, and after that he spoke as follows: —
I have thought over the suit, and it will do so. Thou shalt ride from home with two men at thy back. Over all thou shalt have a great rough cloak, and under that, a russet kirtle of cheap stuff, and under all, thy good clothes. Thou must take a small axe in thy hand, and each of you must have two horses, one fat, the other lean. Thou shalt carry hardware and smith’s work with thee hence, and ye must ride off early to-morrow morning, and when ye are come across Whitewater westwards, mind and slouch thy hat well over thy brows. Then men will ask who is this tall man, and thy mates shall say, `Here is Huckster Hedinn the Big, a man from Eyjafirth, who is going about with smith’s work for sale.’ This Hedinn is ill-tempered and a chatterer — a fellow who thinks he alone knows everything. Very often he snatches back his wares, and flies at men if everything is not done as he wishes. So thou shalt ride west to Borgarfirth offering all sorts of wares for sale, and be sure often to cry off thy bargains, so that it will be noised abroad that Huckster Hedinn is the worst of men to deal with, and that no lies have been told of his bad behaviour. So thou shalt ride to Northwaterdale, and to Hrutfirth, and Laxriverdale, till thou comest to Hauskuldstede. There thou must stay a night, and sit in the lowest place, and hang thy head down. Hauskuld will tell them all not to meddle nor make with Huckster Hedinn, saying he is a rude unfriendly fellow. Next morning thou must be off early and go to the farm nearest Hrutstede. There thou must offer thy goods for sale, praising up all that is worst, and tinkering up the faults. The master of the house will pry about and find out the faults. Thou must snatch the wares away from him, and speak ill to him. He will say, ’twas not to be hoped that thou wouldst behave well to him, when thou behavest ill to every one else. Then thou shalt fly at him, though it is not thy wont, but mind and spare thy strength, that thou mayest not be found out. Then a man will be sent to Hrutstede to tell Hrut he had best come and part you. He will come at once and ask thee to his house, and thou must accept his offer. Thou shalt greet Hrut and he will answer well. A place will be given thee on the lower bench over against Hrut’s high seat. He will ask if thou art from the North, and thou shalt answer that thou art a man of Eyjafirth. He will go on to ask if there are very many famous men there. ‘Shabby fellows enough and to spare,’ thou must answer. `Dost thou know Reykiardale and the parts about?’ he will ask. To which thou must answer, `I know all Iceland by heart.’
“`Are there any stout champions left in Reykiardale?’ he will ask. `Thieves and scoundrels,’ thou shalt answer. Then Hrut will smile and think it sport to listen. You two will go on to talk of the men in the Eastfirth Quarter, and thou must always find something to say against them. At last your talk will come Rangrivervale, and then thou must say, there is small choice of men left in those parts since Fiddle Mord died. At the same time sing some stave to please Hrut, for I know thou art a skald. Hrut will ask what makes thee say there is never a man to come in Mord’s place? and then thou must answer, that he was so wise a man and so good a taker up of suits, that he never made a false step in upholding his leadership. He will ask, `Dost thou know how matters fared between me and him?’
“`I know all about it,’ thou must reply, `he took thy wife from thee, and thou hadst not a word to say.'”
Then Hrut will ask, `Dost thou not think it was some disgrace to him when he could not get back his goods, though he set the suit on foot?’
“`I can answer thee that well enough,’ thou must say. `Thou challengedst him to single combat; but he was old, and so his friends advised him not to fight with thee, and then they let the suit fall to the ground.’
“`True enough,’ Hrut will say. `I said so, and that passed for law among foolish men; but the suit might have been taken up again at another Thing if he had the heart.’
“`I know all that,’ thou must say.
Then he will ask, `Dost thou know anything about law?’
“`Up in the North I am thought to know something about it,’ thou shalt say. `But still I should like thee to tell me how this suit should be taken up.’
“`What suit dost thou mean?’ he will ask.
“`A suit,’ thou must answer, `which does not concern me. I want to know how a man must set to work who wishes to get back Unna’s dower.’
“Then Hrut will say, `In this suit I must be summoned so that I can hear the summons, or I must be summoned here in my lawful house.’
“`Recite the summons, then,’ thou must say, ‘and I will say it after thee.’
“Then Hrut will summon himself; and mind and pay great heed to every word he says. After that Hrut will bid thee repeat the summons, and thou must do so, and say it all wrong, so that no more than every other word is right.”
Then Hrut will smile and not mistrust thee, but say that scarce a word is right. Thou must throw the blame on thy companions, and say they put thee out, and then thou must ask him to say the words first, word by word, and to let thee say the words after him. He will give thee leave, and summon himself in the suit, and thou shalt summon after him there and then, and this time say every word right. When it is done, ask Hrut if that were rightly summoned, and he will answer, `There is no flaw to be found in it.’ Then thou shalt say in a loud voice, so that thy companions may hear, `I summon thee in the suit which Unna, Mord’s daughter, has made over to me with her plighted hand.’
“But when men are sound asleep, you shall rise and take your bridles and saddles, and tread softly, and go out of the house, and put your saddles on your fat horses in the fields, and so ride off on them, but leave the others behind you. You must ride up into the hills away from the home pastures and stay there three nights, for about so long will they seek you. After that ride home south, riding always by night and resting by day. As for us, we will then ride this summer to the Thing, and help thee in thy suit.” So Gunnar thanked Njal, and first of all rode home.
Gunnar rode from home two nights afterwards, and two men with him; they rode along until they got on Bluewoodheath and then men on horseback met them and asked who that tall man might be of whom so little was seen. But his companions said it was Huckster Hedinn. Then the others said a worse was not to be looked for behind, when such a man as he went before. Hedinn at once made as though he would have set upon them, but yet each went their way. So Gunnar went on doing everything as Njal had laid it down for him, and when he came to Hauskuldstede he stayed there the night, and thence he went down the dale till he came to the next farm to Hrutstede. There he offered his wares for sale, and Hedinn fell at once upon the farmer. This was told to Hrut, and he sent for Hedinn, and Hedinn went at once to see Hrut, and had a good welcome. Hrut seated him over against himself, and their talk went pretty much as Njal had guessed; but when they came to talk of Rangrivervale, and Hrut asked about the men there, Gunnar sung this stave —
“Men in sooth are slow to find —
So the people speak by stealth,
Often this hath reached my ears —
All through Rangar’s rolling vales.
Still I trow that Fiddle Mord,
Tried his hand in fight of yore;
Sure was never gold-bestower,
Such a man for might and wit.”
Then Hrut said, “Thou art a skald, Hedinn. But hast thou never heard how things went between me and Mord?” Then Hedinn sung another stave —
“Once I ween I heard the rumour,
How the Lord of rings bereft thee;
From thine arms earth’s offspring tearing,
Trickfull he and trustful thou.
Then the men, the buckler-bearers,
Begged the mighty gold-begetter,
Sharp sword oft of old he reddened,
Not to stand in strife with thee.”
So they went on, till Hrut, in answer told him how the suit must be taken up, and recited the summons. Hedinn repeated it all wrong, and Hrut burst out laughing, and had no mistrust. Then he said, Hrut must summon once more, and Hrut did so. Then Hedinn repeated the summons a second time, and this time right, and called his companions to witness how he summoned Hrut in a suit which Unna, Mord’s daughter, had made over to him with her plighted hand. At night he went to sleep like other men, but as soon as ever Hrut was sound asleep, they took their clothes and arms, and went out and came to their horses, and rode off across the river, and so up along the bank by Hiardarholt till the dale broke off among the hills, and so there they are upon the fells between Laxriverdale and Hawkdale, having got to a spot where no one could find them unless he had fallen on them by chance.
Hauskuld wakes up that night at Hauskuldstede, and roused all his household. “I will tell you my dream,” he said. “I thought I saw a great bear go out of this house, and I knew at once this beast’s match was not to be found; two cubs followed him, wishing well to the bear, and they all made for Hrutstede and went into the house there. After that I woke. Now I wish to ask if any of you saw aught about yon tall man.”
Then one man answered him, “I saw how a golden fringe and a bit of scarlet cloth peeped out at his arm, and on his right arm he had a ring of gold.”
Hauskuld said, “This beast is no man’s fetch, but Gunnar’s of Lithend, and now methinks I see all about it. Up! let us ride to Hrutstede,” And they did so. Hrut lay in his locked bed, and asks who have come there? Hauskuld tells who he is, and asked what guests might be there in the house?
“Only Huckster Hedinn is here,” says Hrut.
“A broader man across the back, it will be, I fear,” says Hauskuld, “I guess here must have been Gunnar of Lithend.”
“Then there has been a pretty trial of cunning,” says Hrut.
“What has happened?” says Hauskuld.
“I told him how to take up Unna’s suit, and I summoned myself and he summoned after, and now he can use this first step in the suit, and it is right in law.”
“There has, indeed, been a great falling off of wit on one side,” said Hauskuld, “and Gunnar cannot have planned it all by himself; Njal must be at the bottom of this plot, for there is not his match for wit in all the land.”
Now they look for Hedinn, but he is already off and away; after that they gathered folk, and looked for them three days, but could not find them. Gunnar rode south from the fell to Hawkdale and so east of Skard, and north to Holtbeaconheath, and so on until he got home.
GUNNAR AND HRUT STRIVE AT THE THING
Gunnar rode to the Althing, and Hrut and Hauskuld rode thither too with a very great company. Gunnar pursues his suit, and began by calling on his neighbours to bear witness, but Hrut and his brother had it in their minds to make an onslaught on him, but they mistrusted their strength.
Gunnar next went to the court of the men of Broadfirth, and bade Hrut listen to his oath and declaration of the cause of the suit, and to all the proofs which he was about to bring forward. After that he took his oath, and declared his case. After that he brought forward his witnesses of the summons, along with his witnesses that the suit had been handed over to him. All this time Njal was not at the court. Now Gunnar pursued his suit till he called on the defendant to reply. Then Hrut took witness, and said the suit was naught, and that there was a flaw in the pleading; he declared that it had broken down because Gunnar had failed to call those three witnesses which ought to have been brought before the court. The first, that which was taken before the marriage-bed, the second, before the man’s door, the third, at the Hill of Laws. By this time Njal was come to the court and said the suit and pleading might still be kept alive if they chose to strive in that way.
“No,” says Gunnar, “I will not have that; I will do the same to Hrut as he did to Mord my kinsman; or, are those brothers Hrut and Hauskuld so near that they may hear my voice.”
“Hear it we can,” says Hrut. “What dost thou wish?”
Gunnar said, “Now all men here present be ear-witnesses, that I challenge thee Hrut to single combat, and we shall fight to-day on the holm, which is here in Oxwater. But if thou wilt not fight with me, then pay up all the money this very day.”
After that Gunnar sung a stave —
“Yes, so must it be, this morning —
Now my mind is full of fire —
Hrut with me on yonder island
Raises roar of helm and shield.
All that bear my words bear witness,
Warriors grasping Woden’s guard,
Unless the wealthy wight down payeth
Dower of wife with flowing veil.”
After that Gunnar went away from the court with all his followers. Hrut and Hauskuld went home too, and the suit was never pursued nor defended from that day forth. Hrut said, as soon as he got inside the booth, “This has never happened to me before, that any man has offered me combat and I have shunned it.”
“Then thou must mean to fight,” says Hauskuld, “but that shall not be if I have my way; for thou comest no nearer to Gunnar than Mord would have come to thee, and we had better both of us pay up the money to Gunnar.”
After that the brothers asked the householders of their own country what they would lay down, and they one and all said they would lay down as much as Hrut wished.
“Let us go then,” says Hauskuld, “to Gunnar’s booth, and pay down the money out of hand.” That was told to Gunnar, and he went out into the doorway of the booth, and Hauskuld said, “Now it is thine to take the money.”
Gunnar said, “Pay it down, then, for I am ready to take it.”
So they paid down the money truly out of hand, and then Hauskuld said, “Enjoy it now, as thou hast gotten it.” Then Gunnar sang another stave: —
“Men who wield the blade of battle
Hoarded wealth may well enjoy,
Guileless gotten this at least,
Golden meed I fearless take;
But if we for woman’s quarrel,
Warriors born to brandish sword,
Glut the wolf with manly gore,
Worse the lot of both would be.”
Hrut answered, “III will be thy meed for this.”
“Be that as it may,” says Gunnar.
Then Hauskuld and his brother went home to their booth, and he had much upon his mind, and said to Hrut, “Will this unfairness of Gunnar’s never be avenged?”
“Not so,” says Hrut; “’twill be avenged on him sure enough, but we shall have no share nor profit in that vengeance. And after all it is most likely that he will turn to our stock to seek for friends.”
After that they left off speaking of the matter. Gunnar showed Njal the money, and he said, “The suit has gone off well.”
“Ay,” says Gunnar, “but it was all thy doing.”
Now men rode home from the Thing, and Gunnar got very great honour from the suit. Gunnar handed over all the money to Unna, and would have none of it, but said he thought he ought to look more for help from her and her kin hereafter than from other men. She said, so it should be.
UNNA’S SECOND WEDDING
There was a man named Valgard, he kept house at Hof by Rangriver, he was the son of Jorund the Priest, and his brother was Wolf Aurpriest. Those brothers, Wolf Aurpriest, and Valgard the Guileful, set off to woo Unna, and she gave herself away to Valgard without the advice of any of her kinsfolk. But Gunnar and Njal, and many others thought ill of that, for he was a cross-grained man and had few friends. They begot between them a son, whose name was Mord, and he is long in this story. When he was grown to man’s estate, he worked ill to his kinsfolk but worst of all to Gunnar. He was a crafty man in his temper, but spiteful in his counsels.
Now we will name Njal’s sons. Skarphedinn was the eldest of them. He was a tall man in growth, and strong withal; a good swordsman; he could swim like a seal, the swiftest-looted of men, and bold and dauntless; he had a great flow of words and quick utterance; a good skald too; but still for the most part he kept himself well in hand; his hair was dark brown, with crisp curly locks; he had good eyes; his features were sharp, and his face ashen pale, his nose turned up and his front teeth stuck out, and his mouth was very ugly. Still he was the most soldierlike of men.
Grim was the name of Njal’s second son. He was fair of face and wore his hair long. His hair was dark, and he was comelier to look on than Skarphedinn. A tall strong man.
Helgi was the name of Njal’s third son. He too was fair of face and had fine hair. He was a strong man and well-skilled in arms. He was a man of sense and knew well how to behave. They were all
unwedded at that time, Njal’s sons.
Hauskuld was the fourth of Njal’s sons. He was baseborn. His mother was Rodny, and she was Hauskuld’s daughter, the sister of Ingialld of the Springs.
Njal asked Skarphedinn one day if he would take to himself a wife. He bade his father settle the matter. Then Njal asked for his hand Thorhilda, the daughter of Ranvir of Thorolfsfell, and that was why they had another homestead there after that. Skarphedinn got Thorhilda, but he stayed still with his father to the end. Grim wooed Astrid of Deepback; she was a widow and very wealthy. Grim got her to wife, and yet lived on with Njal.
OF ASGRIM AND HIS CHILDREN
There was a man named Asgrim. He was Ellidagrim’s son. The brother of Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son was Sigfus. Gauk Trandil’s son was Asgrim’s foster-brother, who is said to have been the fairest man of his day, and best skilled in all things; but matters went ill with them, for Asgrim slew Gauk.
Asgrim had two sons, and each of them was named Thorhall. They were both hopeful men. Grim was the name of another of Asgrim’s sons, and Thorhalla was his daughter’s name. She was the fairest of women, and well behaved.
Njal came to talk with his son Helgi, and said, “I have thought of a match for thee, if thou wilt follow my advice.”
“That I will surely,” says he, “for I know that thou both meanest me well, and canst do well for me; but whither hast thou turned thine eyes.”
“We will go and woo Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son’s daughter, for that is the best choice we can make.”
HELGI NJAL’S SON’S WOOING
A little after they rode out across Thurso water, and fared till they came into Tongue. Asgrim was at home, and gave them a hearty welcome; and they were there that night. Next morning they began to talk, and then Njal raised the question of the wooing, and asked for Thorhalla for his son Helgi’s hand. Asgrim answered that well, and said there were no men with whom he would be more willing to make this bargain than with them. They fell a-talking then about terms, and the end of it was that Asgrim betrothed his daughter to Helgi, and the bridal day was named. Gunnar was at that feast, and many other of the bestmen. After the feast Njal offered to foster in his house Thorhall, Asgrim’s son, and he was with Njal long after. He loved Njal more than his own father. Njal taught him law, so that he became the greatest lawyer in Iceland in those days.
HALLVARD COMES OUT TO ICELAND
There came a ship out from Norway, and ran into Arnbael’s Oyce, and the master of the ship was Hallvard the White, a man from the Bay. He went to stay at Lithend, and was with Gunnar that winter, and was always asking him to fare abroad with him. Gunnar spoke little about it, but yet said more unlikely things might happen; and about spring he went over to Bergthorsknoll to find out from Njal whether he thought it a wise step in him to go abroad.
“I think it is wise,” says Njal; “they will think thee there an honourable man, as thou art.”
“Wilt thou perhaps take my goods into thy keeping while I am away, for I wish my brother Kolskegg to fare with me; but I would that thou shouldst see after my household along with my mother.”
“I will not throw anything in the way of that,” says Njal; “lean on me in this thing as much as thou likest.”
“Good go with thee for thy words,” says Gunnar, and he rides then home.
The Easterling fell again to talk with Gunnar that he should fare abroad. Gunnar asked if he had ever sailed to other lands? He said he had sailed to every one of them that lay between Norway and Russia, and so, too, I have sailed to Biarmaland.
“Wilt thou sail with me eastward ho?” says Gunnar.
“That I will of a surety,” says he.
Then Gunnar made up his mind to sail abroad with him. Njal took all Gunnar’s goods into his keeping.
GUNNAR GOES ABROAD
So Gunnar fared abroad, and Kolskegg with him. They sailed first to Tonsberg, and were there that winter. There had then been a shift of rulers in Norway. Harold Grayfell was then dead, and so was Gunnhillda. Earl Hakon the Bad, Sigurd’s son, Hakon’s son, Gritgarth’s son, then ruled the realm. The mother of Hakon was Bergliot, the daughter of Earl Thorir. Her mother was Olof Harvest-heal. She was Harold Fair-hair’s daughter.
Hallvard asks Gunnar if he would make up his mind to go to Earl Hakon?
“No; I will not do that,” says Gunnar. “Hast thou ever a long-ship?”
“I have two,” he says.
“Then I would that we two went on warfare; and let us get men to go with us.”
“I will do that,” says Hallvard.
After that they went to the Bay, and took with them two ships, and fitted them out thence. They had good choice of men, for much praise was said of Gunnar.
“Whither wilt thou first fare?” says Gunnar.
“I wish to go south-east to Hisingen, to see my kinsman Oliver,” says Hallvard.
“What dost thou want of him?” says Gunnar.
He answered, “He is a fine brave fellow, and he will be sure to get us some more strength for our voyage.”
“Then let us go thither,” says Gunnar.
So, as soon as they were “boun,” they held on east to Hisingen, and had there a hearty welcome. Gunnar had only been there a short time ere Oliver made much of him. Oliver asks about his voyage, and Hallvard says that Gunnar wishes to go a-warfaring to gather goods for himself.
“There’s no use thinking of that,” says Oliver, “when ye have no force.”
“Well” says Hallvard, “then you may add to it.”
“So I do mean to strengthen Gunnar somewhat,” says Oliver; “and though thou reckonest thyself my kith and kin, I think there is more good in him.”
“What force, now, wilt thou add to ours?” he asks.
“Two long-ships, one with twenty, and the other with thirty seats for rowers.”
“Who shall man them?” asks Hallvard.
“I will man one of them with my own house-carles, and the freemen around shall man the other. But still I have found out that strife has come into the river, and I know not whether ye two will be able to get away; for they are in the river.”
“Who?” says Hallvard.
“Brothers twain,” says Oliver; “one’s name is Vandil, and the other’s Karli, sons of Sjolf the Old, east away out of Gothland.”
Hallvard told Gunnar that Oliver had added some ships to theirs, and Gunnar was glad at that. They busked them for their voyage thence, till they were “allboun.” Then Gunnar and Hallvard went before Oliver, and thanked him; he bade them fare warily for the sake of those brothers.
GUNNAR GOES A-SEA-ROVING
So Gunnar held on out of the river, and he and Kolskegg were both on board one ship. But Hallvard was on board another. Now, they see the ships before them, and then Gunnar spoke, and said, “Let us be ready for anything if they turn towards us! but else let us have nothing to do with them.”
So they did that, and made all ready on board their ships. The others parted their ships asunder, and made a fareway between the ships. Gunnar fared straight on between the ships, but Vandil caught up a grappling-iron, and cast it between their ships and Gunnar’s ship, and began at once to drag it towards him.
Oliver had given Gunnar a good sword; Gunnar now drew it, and had not yet put on his helm. He leapt at once on the forecastle of Vandil’s ship, and gave one man his death-blow. Karli ran his ship alongside the other side of Gunnar’s ship, and hurled a spear athwart the deck, and aimed at him about the waist. Gunnar sees this, and turned him about so quickly that no eye could follow him, and caught the spear with his left hand, and hurled it back at Karli’s ship, and that man got his death who stood before it. Kolskegg snatched up a grapnel and cast it at Karli’s ship, and the fluke fell inside the hold, and went out through one of the planks and in rushed the coal-blue sea, and all the men sprang on board other ships.
Now Gunnar leapt back to his own ship, and then Hallvard came up, and now a great battle arose. They saw now that their leader was unflinching, and every man did as well as he could. Sometimes Gunnar smote with the sword, and sometimes he hurled the spear, and many a man had his bane at his hand. Kolskegg backed him well. As for Karli, he hastened in a ship to his brother Vandil, and thence they fought that day. During the day Kolskegg took a rest on Gunnar’s ship, and Gunnar sees that. Then he sung a song —
“For the eagle ravine-eager,
Raven of my race, to-day
Better surely hast thou catered,
Lord of gold, than for thyself;
Here the morn come greedy ravens
Many any a rill of wolf to sup,
But thee burning thirst down-beareth,
Prince of battle’s Parliament!”
After that Kolskegg took a beaker full of mead, and drank it off, and went on fighting afterwards; and so it came about that those brothers sprang up on the ship of Vandil and his brother, and Kolskegg went on one side, and Gunnar on the other. Against Gunnar came Vandil, and smote at once at him with his sword, and the blow fell on his shield. Gunnar gave the shield a twist as the sword pierced it, and broke it short off at the hilt. Then Gunnar smote back at Vandil, and three swords seemed to be aloft, and Vandil could not see how to shun the blow. Then Gunnar cut both his legs from under him, and at the same time Kolskegg ran Karli through with a spear. After that they took great war spoil.
Thence they held on south to Denmark, and thence east to Smoland, and had victory wherever they went. They did not come back in autumn. The next summer they held on to Reval, and fell in there with sea-rovers, and fought at once, and won the fight. After that they steered east to Osel, and lay there somewhile under a ness. There they saw a man coming down from the ness above them; Gunnar went on shore to meet the man, and they had a talk. Gunnar asked him his name, and he said it was Tofi. Gunnar asked again what he wanted.
“Thee I want to see,” says the man. ” Two warships lie on the other side under the ness, and I will tell thee who command them: two brothers are the captains — one’s name is Hallgrim, and the other’s Kolskegg. I know them to be mighty men of war; and I know too that they have such good weapons that the like are not to be had. Hallgrim has a bill, which he had made by seething-spells; and this is what the spells say, that no weapon shall give him his deathblow save that bill. That thing follows it too that it is known at once when a man is to be slain with that bill, for something sings in it so loudly that it may be heard along way off — such a strong nature has that bill in it.”
Then Gunnar sang a song —
“Soon shall I that spearhead seize,
And the bold sea-rover slay,
Him whose blows on headpiece ring,
Heaper up of piles of dead.
Then on Endil’s courser bounding,
O’er the sea-depths I will ride,
While the wretch who spells abuseth,
Life shall lose in Sigar’s storm.”
“Kolskegg has a short sword; that is also the best of weapons. Force, too, they have — a third more than ye. They have also much goods, and have stowed them away on land, and I know clearly where they are. But they have sent a spy-ship off the ness, and they know all about you. Now they are getting themselves ready as fast as they can; and as soon as they are `boun,’ they mean to run out against you. Now you have either to row away at once, or to busk yourselves as quickly as ye can; but if ye win the day then I will lead you to all their store of goods.”
Gunnar gave him a golden finger-ring, and went afterwards to his men and told them that war-ships lay on the other side of the ness, “and they know all about us; so let us take to our arms and busk us well, for now there is gain to be got.”
Then they busked them; and just when they were `boun’ they see ships coming up to them. And now a fight sprung up between them, and they fought long, and many men fell. Gunnar slew many a man. Hallgrim and his men leapt on board Gunnar’s ship. Gunnar turns to meet him, and Hallgrim thrust at him with his bill. There was a boom athwart the ship, and Gunnar leapt nimbly back over it. Gunnar’s shield was just before the boom, and Hallgrim thrust his bill into it, and through it, and so on into the boom. Gunnar cut at Hallgrim’s arm hard, and lamed the forearm, but the sword would not bite. Then down fell the bill, and Gunnar seized the bill, and thrust Hallgrim through, and then sang a song —
“Slain is he who spoiled the people,
Lashing them with flashing steel;
Heard have I how Hallgrim’s magic
Helm-rod forged in foreign land;
All men know, of heartstrings doughty,
How this bill hath come to me,
Deft in fight, the wolf’s dear feeder,
Death alone us two shall part.”
And that vow Gunnar kept, in that he bore the bill while he lived. Those namesakes the two Kolskeggs fought together, and it was a near thing, which would get the better of it. Then Gunnar came up, and gave the other Kolskegg his deathblow. After that the sea rovers begged for mercy. Gunnar let them have that choice, and he let them also count the slain, and take the goods, which the dead men owned, but he gave the others whom he spared their arms and their clothing, and bade them be off to the lands that fostered them. So they went off, and Gunnar took all the goods that were left behind.
Tofi came to Gunner after the battle, and offered to lead him to that store of goods which the sea-rovers had stowed away, and said that it was both better and larger than that which they had already got.
Gunnar said he was willing to go, and so he went ashore, and Tofi before him, to a wood, and Gunnar behind him. They came to a place where a great heap of wood was piled together. Tofi says the goods were under there, then they tossed off the wood, and found under it, both gold and silver, clothes, and good weapons. They bore those goods to the ships, and Gunnar asks Tofi in what way he wished him to repay him.
Tofi answered, “I am a Dansk man by race, and I wish thou wouldst bring me to my kinsfolk.”
Gunnar asks why he was there away east?
“I was taken by sea-rovers,” says Tofi, “and they put me on land here in Osel, and here I have been ever since.”
GUNNAR GOES TO KING HAROLD GORM’SSON AND EARL HAKON
Gunnar took Tofi on board, and said to Kolskegg and Hallvard, “Now we will hold our course for the north lands.”
They were well pleased at that, and bade him have his way. So Gunnar sailed from the east with much goods. He had ten ships, and ran in with them to Heidarby in Denmark. King Harold Gorm’s son was there up the country, and he was told about Gunnar, and how too that there was no man his match in all Iceland. He sent men to him to ask him to come to him, and Gunnar went at once to see the king, and the king made him a hearty welcome, and sat him down next to himself. Gunnar was there half a month. The king made himself sport by letting Gunnar prove himself in diverse feats of strength against his men, and there were none that were his match even in one feat.
Then the king said to Gunnar, “It seems to me as though thy peer is not to be found far or near,” and the king offered to get Gunnar a wife, and to raise him to great power if he would settle down there.
Gunnar thanked the king for his offer and said, “I will first of all sail back to Iceland to see my friends and kinsfolk.”
“Then thou wilt never come back to us,” says the king.
“Fate will settle that, lord,” says Gunnar.
Gunnar gave the king a good long-ship, and much goods besides, and the king gave him a robe of honour, and golden-seamed gloves, and a fillet with a knot of gold on it, and a Russian hat.
Then Gunnar fared north to Hisingen. Oliver welcomed him with both hands, and he gave back to Oliver his ships, with their lading, and said that was his share of the spoil. Oliver took the goods, and said Gunnar was a good man and true, and bade him stay with him some while. Hallvard asked Gunnar if he had a mind to go to see Earl Hakon. Gunnar said that was near his heart, “for now I am somewhat proved, but then I was not tried at all when thou badest me do this before.”
After that they fared north to Drontheim to see Earl Hakon, and he gave Gunnar a hearty welcome, and bade him stay with him that winter, and Gunnar took that offer, and every man thought him a man of great worth. At Yule the Earl gave him a gold ring.
Gunnar set his heart on Bergliota, the Earl’s kinswoman, and it was often to be seen from the Earl’s way, that he would have given her to him to wife if Gunnar had said anything about that.
GUNNAR COMES OUT TO ICELAND
When the spring came, the Earl asks Gunnar what course he meant to take. He said he would go to Iceland. The Earl said that had been a bad year for grain, “and there will be little sailing out to Iceland, but still thou shalt have meal and timber both in thy ship.”
Gunnar fitted out his ship as early as he could, and Hallvard fared out with him and Kolskegg. They came out early in the summer, and made Arnbael’s Oyce before the Thing met.
Gunnar rode home from the ship, but got men to strip her and lay her up. But when they came home all men were glad to see them. They were blithe and merry to their household, nor had their haughtiness grown while they were away.
Gunnar asks if Njal were at home; and he was told that he was at home; then he let them saddle his horse, and those brothers rode over to Bergthorsknoll.
Njal was glad at their coming, and begged them to stay there that night, and Gunnar told him of his voyages.
Njal said he was a man of the greatest mark, “and thou hast been much proved; but still thou wilt be more tried hereafter; for many will envy thee.”
“With all men I would wish to stand well,” says Gunnar.
“Much bad will happen,” said Njal, “and thou wilt always have some quarrel to ward off.”
“So be it, then,” says Gunnar, “so that I have a good ground on my side.”
“So will it be too,” says NjaI, “if thou hast not to smart for others.”
Njal asked Gunnar if he would ride to the Thing. Gunnar said he was going to ride thither, and asks Njal whether he were going to ride; but he said he would not ride thither, “and if I had my will thou wouldst do the like.”
Gunnar rode home, and gave Njal good gifts, and thanked him for the care he had taken of his goods. Kolskegg urged him on much to ride to the Thing, saying, “There thy honour will grow, for many will flock to see thee there.”
“That has been little to my mind,” says Gunnar, “to make a show of myself; but I think it good and right to meet good and worthy men.”
Hallvard by this time was also come thither, and offered to ride to the thing with them.
So Gunnar rode, and they all rode. But when they came to the Thing they were so well arrayed that none could match them in bravery; and men came out of every booth to wonder at them. Gunnar rode to the booths of the men of Rangriver, and was there with his kinsmen. Many men came to see Gunnar, and ask tidings of him; and he was easy and merry to all men, and told them all they wished to hear.
It happened one day that Gunnar went away from the Hill of Laws, and passed by the booths of the men from Mossfell; then he saw a woman coming to meet him, and she was in goodly attire; but when they met she spoke to Gunnar at once. He took her greeting well, and asks what woman she might be. She told him her name was Hallgerda, and said she was Hauskuld’s daughter, Dalakoll’s son. She spoke up boldly to him, and bade him tell her of his voyages; but he said he would not gainsay her a talk. Then they sat them down and talked. She was so clad that she had on a red kirtle, and had thrown over her a scarlet cloak trimmed with needlework down to the waist. Her hair came down to her bosom, and was both fair and full. Gunnar was clad in the scarlet clothes which King Harold Gorm’s son had given him; he had also the gold ring on his arm which Earl Hakon had given him.
So they talked long out loud, and at last it came about that he asked whether she were unmarried. She said, so it was, “and there are not many who would run the risk of that.”
“Thinkest thou none good enough for thee?”
“Not that,” she says, “but I am said to be hard to please in husbands.”
“How wouldst thou answer, were I to ask for thee?”
“That cannot be in thy mind,” she says.
“It is though,” says he.
“If thou hast any mind that way, go and see my father.”
After that they broke off their talk.
Gunnar went straightway to the Dalesmen’s booths, and met a man outside the doorway, and asks whether Hauskuld were inside the booth?
The man says that he was. Then Gunnar went in, and Hauskuld and Hrut made him welcome. He sat down between them, and no one could find out from their talk that there had ever been any misunderstanding between them. At last Gunnar’s speech turned thither; how these brothers would answer if he asked for Hallgerda?
“Well,” says Hauskuld, “if that is indeed thy mind.”
Gunnar says that he is in earnest, “but we so parted last time, that many would think it unlikely that we should ever be bound together.”
“How thinkest thou, kinsman Hrut?” says Hauskuld.
Hrut answered, “Methinks this is no even match.”
“How dost thou make that out?” says Gunnar.
Hrut spoke, “In this wise will I answer thee about this matter, as is the very truth. Thou art a brisk brave man well to do, and unblemished; but she is much mixed up with ill report, and I will not cheat thee in anything.”
“Good go with thee for thy words,” says Gunnar, “but still I shall hold that for true, that the old feud weighs with ye, if ye will not let me make this match.”
“Not so,” says Hrut, “’tis more because I see that thou art unable to help thyself; but though we make no bargain, we would still be thy friends.”
“I have talked to her about it,” says Gunnar, “and it is not far from her mind.”
Hrut says, “I know that you have both set your hearts on this match; and, besides, ye two are those who run the most risk as to how it turns out.”
Hrut told Gunnar unasked all about Hallgerda’s temper, and Gunnar at first thought that there was more than enough that was wanting; but at last it came about that they struck a bargain.
Then Hallgerda was sent for, and they talked over the business when she was by, and now, as before, they made her betroth herself. The bridal feast was to be at Lithend, and at first they were to set about it secretly; but the end after all was that every one knew of it.
Gunnar rode home from the Thing, and came to Bergthorsknoll, and told Njal of the bargain he had made. He took it heavily.
Gunnar asks Njal why he thought this so unwise?
“Because from her,” says Njal, “will arise all kind of ill if she comes hither east.”
“Never shall she spoil our friendship,” says Gunnar.
“Ah! but yet that may come very near,” says Njal; “and, besides, thou wilt have always to make atonement for her.”
Gunnar asked Njal to the wedding, and all those as well whom he wished should be at it from Njal’s house.
Njal promised to go; and after that Gunnar rode home, and then rode about the district to bid men to his wedding.
OF THRAIN SIGFUS’ SON
There was a man named Thrain, he was the son of Sigfus, the son of Sighvat the Red. He kept house at Gritwater on Fleetlithe. He was Gunnar’s kinsman, and a man of great mark. He had to wife Thorhillda Skaldwife; she had a sharp tongue of her own, and was given to jeering. Thrain loved her little. He and his wife were bidden to the wedding, and she and Bergthora, Skarphedinn’s daughter, Njal’s wife, waited on the guests with meat and drink.
Kettle was the name of the second son of Sigfus; he kept house in the Mark, east of Markfleet. He had to wife Thorgerda, Njal’s daughter. Thorkell was the name of the third son of Sigfus; the fourth’s name was Mord; the fifth’s Lambi; the sixth’s Sigmund; the seventh’s Sigurd. These were all Gunnar’s kinsmen, and great champions. Gunnar bade them all to the wedding.
Gunnar had also bidden Valgard the Guileful, and Wolf Aurpriest, and their sons Runolf and Mord.
Hauskuld and Hrut came to the wedding with a very great company, and the sons of Hauskuld, Thorleik, and Olof, were there; the bride, too, came along with them, and her daughter Thorgerda came also, and she was one of the fairest of women; she was then fourteen winters old. Many other women were with her, and besides there were Thorkatla Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son’s daughter, and Njal’s two daughters, Thorgerda and Helga.
Gunnar had already many guests to meet them, and he thus arranged his men. He sat on the middle of the bench, and on the inside, away from him, Thrain Sigfus’ son, then Wolf Aurpriest, then Valgard the Guileful, then Mord and Runolf, then the other sons of Sigfus, Lambi sat outermost of them.
Next to Gunnar on the outside, away from him, sat Njal, then Skarphedinn, then Helgi, then Grim, then Hauskuld Njal’s son, then Hafr the Wise, then Ingialld from the Springs, then the sons of Thorir from Holt away east. Thorir would sit outermost of the men of mark, for every one was pleased with the seat he got.
Hauskuld, the bride’s father, sat on the middle of the bench over against Gunnar, but his sons sat on the inside away from him; Hrut sat on the outside away from Hauskuld, but it is not said how the others were placed. The bride sat in the middle of the cross bench on the dais; but on one hand of her sat her daughter Thorgerda, and on the other Thorkatla Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son’s daughter.
Thorhillda went about waiting on the guests, and Bergthora bore the meat on the board.
Now Thrain Sigfus’ son kept staring at Thorgerda Glum’s daughter; his wife Thorhillda saw this, and she got wroth, and made a couplet upon him.
“Thrain,” she says,
“Gaping mouths are no wise good, Goggle eyne are in thy head.”
He rose at once up from the board, and said he would put Thorhillda away. “I will not bear her jibes and jeers any longer;” and he was so quarrelsome about this, that he would not be at the feast unless she were driven away. And so it was, that she went away; and now each man sat in his place, and they drank and were glad.
Then Thrain began to speak, “I will not whisper about that which is in my mind. This I will ask thee, Hauskuld Dalakoll’s son, wilt thou give me to wife Thorgerda, thy kinswoman?”
“I do not know that,” says Hauskuld; “methinks thou art ill parted from the one thou hadst before. But what kind of man is he, Gunnar?”
Gunnar answers, “I will not say aught about the man, because he is near of kin; but say thou about him, Njal,” says Gunnar, “for all men will believe it.”
Njal spoke, and said, “That is to be said of this man, that the man is well to do for wealth, and a proper man in all things. A man, too, of the greatest mark; so that ye may well make this match with him.”
Then Hauskuld spoke, “What thinkest thou we ought to do, kinsman Hrut?”
“Thou mayst make the match, because it is an even one for her,” says Hrut.
Then they talk about the terms of the bargain, and are soon of one mind on all points.
Then Gunnar stands up, and Thrain too, and they go to the cross bench. Gunnar asked that mother and daughter whether they would say yes to this bargain. They said they would find no fault with it, and Hallgerda betrothed her daughter. Then the places of the women were shifted again, and now Thorhalla sate between the brides. And now the feast sped on well, and when it was over, Hauskuld and his company ride west, but the men of Rangriver rode to their own abode. Gunnar gave many men gifts, and that made him much liked.
Hallgerda took the housekeeping under her, and stood up for her rights in word and deed. Thorgerda took to housekeeping at Gritwater, and was a good housewife.
THE VISIT TO BERGTHORSKNOLL
Now it was the custom between Gunnar and Njal, that each made the other a feast, winter and winter about, for friendship’s sake; and it was Gunnar’s turn to go to feast at Njal’s. So Gunnar and Hallgerda set off for Bergthorsknoll, and when they got there Helgi and his wife were not at home. Njal gave Gunnar and his wife a hearty welcome, and when they had been there a little while, Helgi came home with Thorhalla his wife. Then Bergthora went up to the crossbench, and Thorhalla with her, and Bergthora said to Hallgerda, “Thou shalt give place to this woman.”
She answered, “To no one will I give place, for I will not be driven into the corner for any one.”
“I shall rule here,” said Bergthora. After that Thorhalla sat down, and Bergthora went round the table with water to wash the guests’ hands. Then Hallgerda took hold of Bergthora’s hand, and said, “There’s not much to choose, though, between you two. Thou hast hangnails on every finger, and Njal is beardless.”
“That’s true,” says Bergthora, “yet neither of us finds fault with the other for it; but Thorwald, thy husband, was not beardless, and yet thou plottedst his death.”
Then Hallgerda said, “It stands me in little stead to have the bravest man in Iceland if thou dost not avenge this, Gunnar!”
He sprang up and strode across away from the board, and said, “Home I will go, and it were more seemly that thou shouldest wrangle with those of thine own household, and not under other men’s roofs; but as for NjaI, I am his debtor for much honour, and never will I be egged on by thee like a fool.”
After that they set off home.
“Mind this Bergthora,” said Hallgerda, “that we shall meet again.”
Bergthora said she should not be better off for that. Gunnar said nothing at all, but went home to Lithend, and was there at home all the winter. And now the summer was running on towards the Great Thing.
KOL SLEW SWART
Gunnar rode away to the Thing, but before he rode from home he said to Hallgerda, “Be good now while I am away, and show none of thine ill temper in anything with which my friends have to do.”
“The trolls take thy friends,” says Hallgerda.
So Gunnar rode to the Thing, and saw it was not good to come to words with her. Njal rode to the Thing too, and all his sons with him.
Now it must be told of what tidings happened at home. Njal and Gunnar owned a wood in common at Redslip; they had not shared the wood, but each was wont to hew in it as he needed, and neither said a word to the other about that. Hallgerda’s grieve’s name was Kol; he had been with her long, and was one of the worst of men. There was a man named Swart; he was Njal’s and Bergthora’s housecarle; they were very fond of him. Now Bergthora told him that he must go up into Redslip and hew wood; but she said, “I will get men to draw home the wood.”
He said he would do the work she set him to win; and so he went up into Redslip, and was to be there a week.
Some gangrel men came to Lithend from the east across Markfleet, and said that Swart had been in Redslip, and hewn wood, and done a deal of work.
“So,” says Hallgerda, “Bergthora must mean to rob me in many things, but I’ll take care that he does not hew again.”
Rannveig, Gunnar’s mother, heard that, and said, “There have been good housewives before now, though they never set their hearts on manslaughter.”
Now the night wore away, and early next morning Hallgerda came to speak to Kol, and said, “I have thought of some work for thee;” and with that she put weapons into his hands, and went on to say — “Fare thou to Redslip; there wilt thou find Swart.”
“What shall I do to him?” he says.
“Askest thou that, when thou art the worst of men?” she says. “Thou shalt kill him.”
“I can get that done,” he says, “but ’tis more likely that I shall lose my own life for it.”
“Everything grows big in thy eyes,” she says, “and thou behavest ill to say this after I have spoken up for thee in everything. I must get another man to do this if thou darest not.”
He took the axe, and was very wroth, and takes a horse that Gunnar owned, and rides now till he comes east of Markfleet. There he got off and bided in the wood, till they had carried down the firewood, and Swart was left alone behind. Then Kol sprang on him, and said, “More folk can hew great strokes than thou alone;” and so he laid the axe on his head, and smote him his death-blow, and rides home afterwards, and tells Hallgerda of the slaying.
She said, “I shall take such good care of thee, that no harm shall come to thee.”
“May be so,” says he, “but I dreamt all the other way as I slept ere I did the deed.”
Now they come up into the wood, and find Swart slain, and bear him home. Hallgerda sent a man to Gunnar at the Thing to tell him of the slaying. Gunnar said no hard words at first of Hallgerda to the messenger, and men knew not at first whether he thought well or ill of it. A little after he stood up, and bade his men go with him: they did so, and fared to Njal’s booth. Gunnar sent a man to fetch Njal, and begged him to come out. Njal went out at once, and he and Gunnar fell a-talking, and Gunnar said, “I have to tell thee of the slaying of a man, and my wife and my grieve Kol were those who did it; but Swart, thy housecarle, fell before them.”
Njal held his peace while he told him the whole story. Then Njal spoke, “Thou must take heed not to let her have her way in everything.”
Gunnar said, “Thou thyself shalt settle the terms.”
Njal spoke again, “‘Twill be hard work for thee to atone for all Hallgerda’s mischief; and somewhere else there will be a broader trail to follow than this which we two now have a share in, and yet, even here there will be much awanting before all be well; and herein we shall need to bear in mind the friendly words that passed between us of old; and something tells me that thou wilt come well out of it, but still thou wilt be sore tried.”
Then Njal took the award into his own hands from Gunnar, and said, “I will not push this matter to the uttermost; thou shalt pay twelve ounces of silver; but I will add this to my award, that if anything happens from our homestead about which thou hast to utter an award, thou wilt not be less easy in thy terms.”
Gunnar paid up the money out of hand, and rode home afterwards. Njal, too, came home from the Thing, and his sons. Bergthora saw the money, and said, “This is very justly settled; but even as much money shall be paid for Kol as time goes on.”
Gunnar came home from the Thing and blamed Hallgerda. She said, better men lay unatoned in many places. Gunnar said, she might have her way in beginning a quarrel, “but how the matter is to be settled rests with me.”
Hallgerda was for ever chattering of Swart’s slaying, but Bergthora liked that ill. Once Njal and her sons went up to Thorolfsfell to see about the house-keeping there, but that selfsame day this thing happened when Bergthora was out of doors: she sees a man ride up to the house on a black horse. She stayed there and did not go in, for she did not know the man. That man had a spear in his hand, and was girded with a short sword. She asked this man his name.
“Atli is my name,” says he.
She asked whence he came.
“I am an Eastfirther,” he says.
“Whither shalt thou go?” she says.
“I am a homeless man,” says he, “and I thought to see Njal and Skarphedinn, and know if they would take me in.”
“What work is handiest to thee?” says she.
“I am a man used to field-work,” he says, “and many things else come very handy to me; but I will not hide from thee that I am a man of hard temper, and it has been many a man’s lot before now to bind up wounds at my hand.”
“I do not blame thee,” she says, “though thou art no milksop.”
Atli said, “Hast thou any voice in things here?”
“I am Njal’s wife,” she says, “and I have as much to say to our housefolk as he.”
“Wilt thou take me in then?” says he.
“I will give thee thy choice of that,” says she. “If thou wilt do all the work that I set before thee, and that, though I wish to send thee where a man’s life is at stake.”
“Thou must have so many men at thy beck,” says he, “that thou wilt not need me for such work.”
“That I will settle as I please,” she says.
“We will strike a bargain on these terms,” says he.
Then she took him into the household. Njal and his sons came home and asked Bergthora what man that might be?
“He is thy house-carle,” she says, “and I took him in.” Then she went on to say he was no sluggard at work.
“He will be a great worker enough, I daresay,” says Njal, “but I do not know whether he will be such a good worker.”
Skarphedinn was good to Atli.
Njal and his sons ride to the Thing in the course of the summer; Gunnar was also at the Thing.
Njal took out a purse of money.
“What money is that, father?”
“Here is the money that Gunnar paid me for our housecarle last summer.”
“That will come to stand thee in some stead,” says Skarphedinn, and smiled as he spoke.
THE SLAYING OF KOL, WHOM ATLI SLEW
Now we must take up the story and say, that Atli asked Bergthora what work he should do that day?
“I have thought of some work for thee,” she says; “thou shalt go and look for Kol until thou find him; for now shalt thou slay him this very day, if thou wilt do my will.”
“This work is well fitted,” says Atli, “for each of us two are bad fellows; but still I will so lay myself out for him that one or other of us shall die.”
“Well mayst thou fare,” she says, “and thou shalt not do this deed for nothing.”
He took his weapons and his horse, and rode up to Fleetlithe, and there met men who were coming down from Lithend. They were athome east in the Mark. They asked Atli whither he meant to go? He said he was riding to look for an old jade. They said that was a small errand for such a workman, “but still ‘twould be better to ask those who have been about last night.”
“Who are they?” says he.
“Killing-Kol,” say they, “Hallgerda’s house-carle, fared from the fold just now, and has been awake all night.”
“I do not know whether I dare to meet him,” says Atli, “he is bad-tempered, and may be that I shall let another’s wound be my warning.”
“Thou bearest that look beneath the brows as though thou wert no coward,” they said, and showed him where Kol was.
Then he spurred his horse and rides fast, and when he meets Ko1, Atli said to him, “Go the pack-saddle bands well,” says Atli.
“That’s no business of thine, worthless fellow, nor of any one else whence thou comest.”
Atli said, “Thou hast something behind that is earnest work, but that is to die.”
After that Atli thrust at him with his spear, and struck him about his middle. Kol swept at him with his axe, but missed him, and fell off his horse, and died at once.
Atli rode till he met some of Hallgerda’s workmen, and said, “Go ye up to the horse yonder, and look to Kol, for he has fallen off, and is dead.”
“Hast thou slain him? ” say they.
“Well, ’twill seem to Hallgerda as though he has not fallen by his own hand.”
After that Atli rode home and told Bergthora; she thanked him for this deed, and for the words which he had spoken about it.
“I do not know,” says he, “what Njal will think of this.”
“He will take it well upon his hands,” she says, “and I will tell thee one thing as a token of it, that he has carried away with him to the Thing the price of that thrall which we took last spring, and that money will now serve for Kol; but though peace be made thou must still be ware of thyself, for Hallgerda will keep no peace.”
“Wilt thou send at all a man to Njal to tell him of the slaying?”
“I will not,” she says, “I should like it better that Kol were unatoned.”
Then they stopped talking about it.
Hallgerda was told of Kol’s slaying, and of the words that Atli had said. She said Atli should be paid off for them. She sent a man to the Thing to tell Gunnar of Kol’s slaying; he answered little or nothing, and sent a man to tell Njal. He too made no answer, but Skarphedinn said, “Thralls are men of more mettle than of yore; they used to fly at each other and fight, and no one thought much harm of that; but now they will do naught but kill,” and as he said this he smiled.
Njal pulled down the purse of money which hung up in the booth, and went out: his sons went with him to Gunnar’s booth.
Skarphedinn said to a man who was in the doorway of the booth, “Say thou to Gunnar that my father wants to see him.”
He did so, and Gunnar went out at once and gave Njal a hearty welcome. After that they began to talk.
“‘Tis ill done,” says Njal, “that my housewife should have broken the peace, and let thy house-carle be slain.”
“She shall not have blame for that,” says Gunnar.
“Settle the award thyself,” says Njal.
“So I will do,” says Gunnar, “and I value those two men at an even price, Swart and Kol. Thou shalt pay me twelve ounces in silver.”
Njal took the purse of money and handed it to Gunnar. Gunnar knew the money, and saw it was the same that he had paid Njal. Njal went away to his booth, and they were just as good friends as before. When Njal came home, he blamed Bergthora; but she said she would never give way to Hallgerda. Hallgerda was very cross with Gunnar, because he had made peace for Kol’s slaying. Gunnar told her he would never break with Njal or his sons, and she flew into a great rage; but Gunnar took no heed of that, and so they sat for that year, and nothing noteworthy happened.
THE KILLING OF ATLI THE THRALL
Next spring Njal said to Atli, “I wish that thou wouldst change thy abode to the east firths, so that Hallgerda may not put an end to thy life?”
“I am not afraid of that,” says Atli, “and I will willingly stay at home if I have the choice.”
“Still that is less wise,” says Njal.
“I think it better to lose my life in thy house than to change my master; but this I will beg of thee, if I am slain, that a thrall’s price shall not be paid for me.”
“Thou shalt be atoned for as a free man; but perhaps Bergthora will make thee a promise which she will fulfil, that revenge, man for man, shall be taken for thee.”
Then he made up his mind to be a hired servant there.
Now it must be told of Hallgerda that she sent a man west to Bearfirth, to fetch Brynjolf the Unruly, her kinsman. He was a base son of Swan, and he was one of the worst of men. Gunnar knew nothing about it. Hallgerda said he was well fitted to be a grieve. So Brynjolf came from the west, and Gunnar asked what he was to do there? He said he was going to stay there.
“Thou wilt not better our household,” says Gunnar, “after what has been told me of thee, but I will not turn away any of Hallgerda’s kinsmen, whom she wishes to be with her.”
Gunnar said little, but was not unkind to him, and so things went on till the Thing. Gunnar rides to the Thing and Kolskegg rides too, and when they came to the Thing they and Njal met, for he and his sons were at the Thing, and all went well with Gunnar and them.
Bergthora said to Atli, “Go thou up into Thorolfsfell and work there a week.”
So he went up thither, and was there on the sly, and burnt charcoal in the wood.
Hallgerda said to Brynjolf, “I have been told Atli is not at home, and he must be winning work on Thorolfsfell.”
“What thinkest thou likeliest that he is working at,” says he.
“At something in the wood,” she says.
“What shall I do to him?” he asks.
“Thou shalt kill him,” says she.
He was rather slow in answering her, and Hallgerda said, “‘Twould grow less in Thiostolf’s eyes to kill Atli if he were alive.”
“Thou shalt have no need to goad me on much more,” he says, and then he seized his weapons, and takes his horse and mounts, and rides to Thorolfsfell. There he saw a great reek of coalsmoke east of the homestead, so he rides thither, and gets off his horse and ties him up, but he goes where the smoke was thickest. Then he sees where the charcoal pit is, and a man stands by it. He saw that he had thrust his spear in the ground by him. Brynjolf goes along with the smoke right up to him, but he was eager at his work, and saw him not. Brynjolf gave him a stroke on the head with his axe, and he turned so quick round that Brynjolf loosed his hold of the axe, and Atli grasped the spear, and hurled it after him. Then Brynjolf cast himself down on the ground, but the spear flew away over him.
“Lucky for thee that I was not ready for thee,” says Atli, “but now Hallgerda will be well pleased, for thou wilt tell her of my death; but it is a comfort to know that thou wilt have the same fate soon; but come now take thy axe which has been here.”
He answered him never a word, nor did he take the axe before he was dead. Then he rode up to the house on Thorolfsfell, and told of the slaying, and after that rode home and told Hallgerda. She sent men to Bergthorsknoll, and let them tell Bergthora that now Kol’s slaying was paid for.
After that Hallgerda sent a man to the Thing to tell Gunnar of Atli’s killing.
Gunnar stood up, and Kolskegg with him, and Kolskegg said, “Unthrifty will Hallgerda’s kinsmen be to thee.”
Then they go to see Njal, and Gunnar said, “I have to tell thee of Atli’s killing.” He told him also who slew him, and went on, “And now I will bid thee atonement for the deed, and thou shalt make the award thyself.”
Njal said, “We two have always meant never to come to strife about anything; but still I cannot make him out a thrall.”
Gunnar said that was all right, and stretched out his hand.
Njal named his witnesses, and they made peace on those terms.
Skarphedinn said, “Hallgerda does not let our housecarles die of old age.”
Gunnar said, “Thy mother will take care that blow goes for blow between the houses.”
“Ay, ay,” says Njal, “there will be enough of that work.”
After that Njal fixed the price at a hundred in silver, but Gunnar paid it down at once. Many who stood by said that the award was high; Gunnar got wroth, and said that a full atonement was often paid for those who were no brisker men than Atli.
With that they rode home from the Thing.
Bergthora said to Njal when she saw the money, “Thou thinkest thou hast fulfilled thy promise, but now my promise is still behind.”
“There is no need that thou shouldst fulfil it,” says Njal.
“Nay,” says she, “thou hast guessed it would be so; and so it shall be.”
Hallgerda said to Gunnar, “Hast thou paid a hundred in silver for Atli’s slaying, and made him a free man?”
“He was free before,” says Gunnar, “and besides, I will not make Njal’s household outlaws who have forfeited their rights.”
“There’s not a pin to choose between you,” she said, “for both of you are so blate?”
“That’s as things prove,” says he.
Then Gunnar was for a long time very short with her, till she gave way to him; and now all was still for the rest of that year; in the spring Njal did not increase his household, and now men ride to the Thing about summer.
THE SLAYING OF BRYNJOLF THE UNRULY
There was a man named Thord, he was surnamed Freedmanson. Sigtrygg was his father’s name, and he had been the freedman of Asgerd, and he was drowned in Markfleet. That was why Thord was with Njal afterwards. He was a tall man and a strong, and he had fostered all Njal’s sons. He had set his heart on Gudfinna Thorolf’s daughter, Njal’s kinswoman; she was housekeeper at home there, and was then with child.
Now Bergthora came to talk with Thord Freedmanson; she said, “Thou shalt go to kill Brynjolf, Hallgerda’s kinsman.”
“I am no man-slayer,” he says, “but still I will do whatever thou wilt.”
“This is my will,” she says.
After that he went up to Lithend, and made them call Hallgerda out, and asked where Brynjolf might be.
“What’s thy will with him,” she says.
“I want him to tell me where he has hidden Atli’s body; I have heard say that he has buried it badly.”
She pointed to him and said he was down yonder in Acretongue.
“Take heed,” says Thord, “that the same thing does not befall him as befell Atli.”
“Thou art no man-slayer,” she says, “and so naught will come of it even if ye two do meet.”
“Never have I seen man’s blood, nor do I know how I should feel if I did,” he says, and gallops out of the “town” and down to Acretongue.
Rannveig, Gunnar’s mother, had heard their talk.
“Thou goadest his mind much, Hallgerda,” she says, “but I think him a dauntless man, and that thy kinsman will find.”
They met on the beaten way, Thord and Brynjolf; and Thord said, “Guard thee, Brynjolf, for I will do no dastard’s deed by thee.”
Brynjolf rode at Thord, and smote at him with his axe. He smote at him at the same time with his axe, and hewed in sunder the haft just above Brynjolf’s hands, and then hewed at him at once a second time, and struck him on the collar-bone, and the blow went straight into his trunk. Then he fell from horseback, and was dead on the spot.
Thord met Hallgerda’s herdsman, and gave out the slaying as done by his hand, and said where he lay, and bade him tell Hallgerda of the slaying. After that he rode home to Bergthorsknoll, and told Bergthora of the slaying, and other people too.
“Good luck go with thy hands,” she said.
The herdsman told Hallgerda of the slaying; she was snappish at it, and said much ill would come of it, if she might have her way.
GUNNAR AND NJAL MAKE PEACE ABOUT BRYNJOLF’S SLAYING
Now these tidings come to the Thing, and Njal made them tell him the tale thrice, and then he said, “More men now become man-slayers than I weened.”
Skarphedinn spoke, “That man, though, must have been twice fey,” he says, “who lost his life by our foster-father’s hand, who has never seen man’s blood. And many would think that we brothers would sooner have done this deed with the turn of temper that we have.”
“Scant space wilt thou have,” says Njal, “ere the like befalls thee; but need will drive thee to it.”
Then they went to meet Gunnar, and told him of the slaying. Gunnar spoke and said that was little man-scathe, “but yet he was a free man.”
Njal offered to make peace at once, and Gunnar said yes, and he was to settle the terms himself. He made his award there and then, and laid it at one hundred in silver. Njal paid down the money on the spot, and they were at peace after that.