Burnt Njal Saga Page 3
OLAF THE PEACOCK’S GIFTS TO GUNNAR
Gunnar thanked Njal for his aid, and Njal rode away under the Threecorner, and told those namesakes that Gunnar would not break up his band of men before he had fought it out with them.
They began to offer terms for themselves, and were full of dread, and bade Njal to come between them with an offer of atonement.
Njal said that could only be if there were no guile behind. Then they begged him to have a share in the award, and said they would hold to what he awarded.
Njal said he would make no award unless it were at the Thing, and unless the best men were by; and they agreed to that.
Then NjaI came between them, so that they gave each other pledges of peace and atonement.
Njal was to utter the award, and to name as his fellows those whom he chose.
A little while after those namesakes met Mord Valgard’s son, and Mord blamed them much for having laid the matter in Njal’s hands, when he was Gunnar’s great friend. He said that would turn out ill for them.
Now men ride to the Althing after their wont, and now both sides are at the Thing.
Njal begged for a hearing, and asked all the best men who were come thither, what right at law they thought Gunnar had against those namesakes for their treason. They said they thought such a man had great right on his side.
Njal went on to ask, whether he had a right of action against all of them, or whether the leaders had to answer for them all in the suit?
They say that most of the blame would fall on the leaders, but a great deal still on them all.
“Many will say this,” said Mord, “that it was not without a cause when Gunnar broke the settlement made with those namesakes.”
“That is no breach of settlement,” says Njal, “that any man should take the law against another; for with law shall our land be built up and settled, and with lawlessness wasted and spoiled.”
Then Njal tells them that Gunnar had offered land for Moeidsknoll, or other goods.
Then those namesakes thought they had been beguiled by Mord, and scolded him much, and said that this fine was all his doing.
Njal named twelve men as judges in the suit, and then every man paid a hundred in silver who had gone out, but each of those namesakes two hundred.
Njal took this money into his keeping but either side gave the other pledges of peace, and Njal gave out the terms.
Then Gunnar rode from the Thing west to the Dales, till he came to Hjardarholt, and Olaf the Peacock gave him a hearty welcome. There he sat half a month, and rode far and wide about the Dales, and all welcomed him with joyful hands. But at their parting Olaf said, “I will give thee three things of price, a gold ring, and a cloak which Moorkjartan the Erse king owned, and a hound that was given me in Ireland; he is big, and no worse follower than a sturdy man. Besides, it is part of his nature that he has man’s wit, and he will bay at every man whom he knows is thy foe, but never at thy friends; he can see, too, in any man’s face, whether he means thee well or ill, and he will lay down his life to be true to thee. This hound’s name is Sam.”
After that he spoke to the hound, “Now shalt thou follow Gunnar, and do him all the service thou canst.”
The hound went at once to Gunnar and laid himself down at his feet.
Olaf bade Gunnar to be ware of himself, and said he had many enviers, “For now thou art thought to be a famous man throughout all the land.”
Gunnar thanked him for his gifts and good counsel, and rode home.
Now Gunnar sits at home for sometime, and all is quiet.
A little after, those namesakes and Mord met, and they were not at all of one mind. They thought they had lost much goods for Mord’s sake, but had got nothing in return; and they bade him set on foot some other plot which might do Gunnar harm.
Mord said so it should be. “But now this is my counsel, that thou, Thorgeir Otkell’s son shouldest beguile Ormilda, Gunnar’s kinswoman; but Gunnar will let his displeasure grow against thee at that, and then I will spread that story abroad that Gunnar will not suffer thee to do such things. Then ye two shall some time after make an attack on Gunnar, but still ye must not seek him at home, for there is no thinking of that while the hound is alive.”
So they settled this plan among them that it should be brought about.
Thorgeir began to turn his steps towards Ormilda, and Gunnar thought that ill, and great dislike arose between them.
So the winter wore away. Now comes the summer, and their secret meetings went on oftener than before.
As for Thorgeir of the Threecorner and Mord, they were always meeting; and they plan an onslaught on Gunnar when he rides down to the isles to see after the work done by his house-caries.
One day Mord was ware of it when Gunnar rode down to the isles, and sent a man off under the Threecorner to tell Thorgeir that then would be the likeliest time to try to fall on Gunnar.
They bestirred them at once, and fare thence twelve together, but when they came to Kirkby there they found thirteen men waiting for them.
Then they made up their minds to ride down to Rangriver and lie in wait there for Gunnar.
But when Gunnar rode up from the isles, Kolskegg rode with him. Gunnar had his bow and his arrows and his bill. Kolskegg had his short sword and weapons to match.
THE SLAYING OF THORGEIR OTKELL’S SON
That token happened as Gunnar and his brother rode up towards Rangriver, that much blood burst out on the bill.
Kolskegg asked what that might mean.
Gunnar says, “If such tokens took place in other lands, it was called `wound-drops,’ and Master Oliver told me also that this only happened before great fights.”
So they rode on till they saw men sitting by the river on the other side, and they had tethered their horses.
Gunnar said, “Now we have an ambush.”
Kolskegg answered, “Long have they been faithless; but what is best to be done now?”
“We will gallop up alongside them to the ford,” says Gunnar, “and there make ready for them.”
The others saw that and turned at once towards them.
Gunnar strings his bow, and takes his arrows and throws them on the ground before him, and shoots as soon as ever they come within shot; by that Gunnar wounded many men, but some he slew.
Then Thorgeir Otkell’s son spoke and said, “This is no use; let us make for him as hard as we can.”
They did so, and first went Aunund the Fair, Thorgeir’s kinsman. Gunnar hurled the bill at him, and it fell on his shield and clove it in twain, but the bill rushed through Aunund. Augmund Shockhead rushed at Gunnar behind his back. Kolskegg saw that and cut off at once both Augmund’s legs from under him, and hurled him out into Rangriver, and he was drowned there and then.
Then a hard battle arose; Gunnar cut with one hand and thrust with the other. Kolskegg slew some men and wounded many.
Thorgeir Starkad’s son called out to his namesake, “It looks very little as though thou hadst a father to avenge.”
“True it is,” he answers, “that I do not make much way, but yet thou hast not followed in my footsteps; still I will not bear thy reproaches.”
With that he rushes at Gunnar in great wrath, and thrust his spear through his shield, and so on through his arm.
Gunnar gave the shield such a sharp twist that the spearhead broke short off at the socket. Gunnar sees that another man was come within reach of his sword, and he smites at him and deals him his death-blow. After that, he clutches his bill with both hands; just then, Thorgeir Otkell’s son had come near him with a drawn sword, and Gunnar turns on him in great wrath, and drives the bill through him, and lifts him up aloft, and casts him out into Rangriver, and he drifts down towards the ford, and stuck fast there on a stone; and the name of that ford has since been Thorgeir’s ford.
Then Thorgeir Starkad’s son said, “Let us fly now; no victory will be fated to us this time.”
So they all turned and fled from the field.
“Let us follow them up now,” says Kolskegg “and take thou thy bow and arrows, and thou wilt come within bowshot of Thorgeir Starkad’s son.”
Then Gunnar sang a song:
“Reaver of rich river-treasure,
Plundered will our purses be,
Though to-day we wound no other
Warriors wight in play of spears
Aye, if I for all these sailors
Lowly lying, fines must pay —
This is why I hold my hand,
Hearken, brother dear, to me.”_
“Our purses will be emptied,” says Gunnar, “by the time that these are atoned for who now lie here dead.”
“Thou wilt never lack money,” says Kolskegg; “but Thorgeir will never leave off before he compasses thy death.”
Gunnar sang another song:
“Lord of water-skates that skim
Sea-king’s fields, more good as he,
Shedding wounds’ red stream, must stand
In my way ere I shall wince.
I, the golden armlets’ warder,
Snakelike twined around my wrist,
Ne’er shall shun a foeman’s faulchion
Flashing bright in din of fight.”
“He, and a few more as good as he,” says Gunnar, “must stand in my path ere I am afraid of them.”
After that they ride home and tell the tidings. Hallgerda was well pleased to hear them, and praised the deed much.
Rannveig said, “May be the deed is good; but somehow,” she says, “I feel too downcast about it to think that good can come of it.”
OF THE SUITS FOR MANSLAUGHTER AT THE THING
These tidings were spread far and wide, and Thorgeir’s death was a great grief to many a man. Gizur the White and his men rode to the spot and gave notice of the manslaughter, and called the
neighbours on the inquest to the Thing. Then they rode home west.
Njal and Gunnar met and talked about the battle. Then Njal said to Gunnar, “Now be ware of thyself. Now hast thou slain twice in the same stock; and so now take heed to thy behaviour, and think that it is as much as thy life is worth, if thou dost not hold to the settlement that is made.”
“Nor do I mean to break it in any way,” says Gunnar, “but still I shall need thy help at the Thing.”
“I will hold to my faithfulness to thee,” said Njal, “till my death day.”
Then Gunnar rides home. Now the Thing draws near; and each side gather a great company; and it is a matter of much talk at the Thing how these suits will end.
Those two, Gizur the White, and Geir the Priest, talked with each other as to who should give notice of the suit of manslaughter after Thorgeir, and the end of it was that Gizur took the suit on his hand, and gave notice of it at the Hill of Laws, and spoke in these words: —
“I gave notice of a suit for assault laid down by law against Gunnar Hamond’s son; for that he rushed with an onslaught laid down by law on Thorgeir Otkell’s son, and wounded him with a body
wound, which proved a death wound, so that Thorgeir got his death.
“I say on this charge he ought to become a convicted outlaw, not to be fed, not to be forwarded, not to be helped or harboured in any need.
“I say that his goods are forfeited, half to me and half to the men of the Quarter, whose right it is by law to seize the goods of outlaws.
“I give notice of this charge in the Quarter Court, into which this suit ought by law to come.
“I give this lawful notice in the hearing of all men at the Hill of Laws.
“I give notice now of this suit, and of full forfeiture and outlawry against Gunnar Hamond’s son.”
A second time Gizur took witness, and gave notice of a suit against Gunnar Hamond’s son, for that he had wounded Thorgeir Otkell’s son with a body wound which was a death wound, and from which Thorgeir got his death, on such and such a spot when Gunnar first sprang on Thorgeir with an onslaught, laid down by law.
After that he gave notice of this declaration as he had done of the first. Then he asked in what Quarter Court the suit lay, and in what house in the district the defendant dwelt.
When that was over, men left the Hill of Laws, and all said that he spoke well.
Gunnar kept himself well in hand and said little or nothing.
Now the Thing wears away till the day when the courts were to be set.
Then Gunnar stood looking south by the court of the men of Rangriver, and his men with him.
Gizur stood looking north, and calls his witnesses, and bade Gunnar to listen to his oath, and to his declaration of the suit, and to all the steps and proofs which he meant to bring forward. After that he took his oath, and then he brought forward the suit in the same shape before the court, as he had given notice of it before. Then he made them bring forward witness of the notice, then he bade the neighbours on the inquest to take their seats, and called upon Gunnar to challenge the inquest.
OF THE ATONEMENT
Then Njal spoke and said, “Now I can no longer sit still and take no part. Let us go to where the neighbours sit on the inquest.”
They went thither and challenged four neighbours out of the inquest, but they called on the five that were left to answer the following question in Gunnar’s favour, “Whether those namesakes had gone out with that mind to the place of meeting to do Gunnar a mischief if they could?”
But all bore witness at once that so it was.
Then Njal called this a lawful defence to the suit, and said he would bring forward proof of it unless they gave over the suit to arbitration.
Then many chiefs joined in praying for an atonement, and so it was brought about that twelve men should utter an award in the matter.
Then either side went and handselled this settlement to the other. Afterwards the award was made, and the sum to be paid settled, and it was all to be paid down then and there at the Thing.
But besides, Gunnar was to go abroad and Kolskegg with him, and they were to be away three winters; but if Gunnar did not go abroad when he had a chance of a passage, then he was to be slain by the kinsmen of those whom he had killed.
Gunnar made no sign, as though he thought the terms of atonement were not good. He asked Njal for that money which he had handed over to him to keep. Njal had laid the money out at interest and paid it down all at once, and it just came to what Gunnar had to pay for himself.
Now they ride home. Gunnar and Njal rode both together from the Thing, and then Njal said to Gunnar, “Take good care, messmate, that thou keepest to this atonement, and bear in mind what we have spoken about; for though thy former journey abroad brought thee to great honour, this will be a far greater honour to thee. Thou wilt come back with great glory, and live to be an old man, and no man here will then tread on thy heel; but if thou dost not fare away, and so breakest thy atonement, then thou wilt be slain here in the land, and that is ill knowing for those who are thy friends.”
Gunnar said he had no mind to break the atonement, and he rides home and told them of the settlement.
Rannveig said it was well that he fared abroad, for then they must find some one else to quarrel with.
KOLSKEGG GOES ABROAD
Thrain Sigfus’ son said to his wife that he meant to fare abroad that summer. She said that was well. So he took his passage with Hogni the White.
Gunnar took his passage with Arnfin of the Bay; and Kolskegg was to go with him.
Grim and Helgi, Njal’s sons, asked their father’s leave to go abroad too, and Njal said, “This foreign voyage ye will find hard work, so hard that it will be doubtful whether ye keep your lives; but still ye two will get some honour and glory, but it is not unlikely that a quarrel will arise out of your journey when ye come back.”
Still they kept on asking their father to let them go, and the end of it was that he bade them go if they chose.
Then they got them a passage with Skald the Black, and Olof Kettle’s son of Elda; and it is the talk of the whole country that all the better men in that district were leaving it.
By this time Gunnar’s sons, Hogni and Grani, were grown up; they were men of very different turn of mind. Grani had much of his mother’s temper, but Hogni was kind and good.
Gunnar made men bear down the wares of his brother and himself to the ship, and when all Gunnar’s baggage had come down, and the ship was all but “boun,” then Gunnar rides to Bergthorsknoll, and to other homesteads to see men, and thanked them all for the help they had given him.
The day after he gets ready early for his journey to the ship, and told all his people that he would ride away for good and all, and men took that much to heart, but still they said that they looked to his coming back afterwards.
Gunnar threw his arms round each of the household when he was “boun,” and every one of them went out of doors with him; he leans on the butt of his spear and leaps into the saddle, and he and Kolskegg ride away.
They ride down along Markfleet, and just then Gunnar’s horse tripped and threw him off. He turned with his face up towards the Lithe and the homestead at Lithend, and said, “Fair is the Lithe; so fair that it has never seemed to me so fair; the corn fields are white to harvest and the home mead is mown; and now I will ride back home, and not fare abroad at all.”
“Do not this joy to thy foes,” says Kolskegg, “by breaking thy atonement, for no man could think thou wouldst do thus, and thou mayst be sure that all will happen as Njal has said.”
“I will not go away any whither,” said Gunnar, “and so I would thou shouldest do too.”
“That shall not be,” says Kolskegg; “I will never do a base thing in this, nor in any thing else which is left to my good faith; and this is that one thing that could tear us asunder; but tell this to my kinsman and to my mother that I never mean to see Iceland again, for I shall soon learn that thou art dead, brother, and then there will be nothing left to bring me back.”
So they parted there and then. Gunnar rides home to Lithend, but Kolskegg rides to the ship, and goes abroad.
Hallgerda was glad to see Gunnar when he came home, but his mother said little or nothing.
How Gunnar sits at home that fall and winter, and had not many men with him.
Now the winter leaves the farmyard. Olaf the Peacock asked Gunnar and Hallgerda to come and stay with him; but as for the farm, to put it into the hands of his mother and his son Hogni.
Gunnar thought that a good thing at first, and agreed to it, but when it came to the point he would not do it.
But at the Thing next summer, Gizur the White, and Geir the Priest, gave notice of Gunnar’s outlawry at the Hill of Laws; and before the Thing broke up Gizur summoned all Gunnar’s foes to meet in the “Great Rift.” He summoned Starkad under the Threecorner, and Thorgeir his son; Mord and Valgard the Guileful; Geir the Priest and Hjalti Skeggi’s son; Thorbrand and Asbrand, Thorleik’s sons; Eyjulf, and Aunund his son. Aunund of Witchwood and Thorgrim the Easterling of Sandgil.
The Gizur spoke and said, “I will make you all this offer, that we go out against Gunnar this summer and slay him.”
“I gave my word to Gunnar,” said Hjalti, “here at the Thing, when he showed himself most willing to yield to my prayer, that I would never be in any attack upon him; and so it shall be.”
Then Hjalti went away, but those who were left behind made up their minds to make an onslaught on Gunnar, and shook hands on the bargain, and laid a fine on any one that left the undertaking.
Mord was to keep watch and spy out when there was the best chance of falling on him, and they were forty men in this league, and they thought it would be a light thing for them to hunt down Gunnar, now that Kolskegg was away, and Thrain and many other of Gunnar’s friends.
Men ride from the Thing, and Njal went to see Gunnar, and told him of his outlawry, and how an onslaught was planned against him.
“Methinks thou art the best of friends,” says Gunnar; “thou makest me aware of what is meant.”
“Now,” says Njal, “I would that Skarphedinn should come to thy house, and my son Hauskuld; they will lay down their lives for thy life.”
“I will not,” says Gunnar, “that thy sons should be slain for my sake, and thou hast a right to look for other things from me.”
“All thy care will come to nothing,” says Njal; “quarrels will turn thitherward where my sons are as soon as thou art dead and gone.”
“That is not unlikely,” says Gunnar, “but still it would mislike me that they fell into them for me; but this one thing I will ask of thee, that ye see after my son Hogni, but I say naught of Grani, for he does not behave himself much after my mind.”
Njal rode home, and gave his word to do that.
It is said that Gunnar rode to all meetings of men, and to all lawful Things, and his foes never dared to fall on him.
And so some time went on that he went about as a free and guiltless man.
THE RIDING TO LITHEND
Next autumn Mord Valgard’s son sent word that Gunnar would be all alone at home, but all his people would be down in the isles to make an end of their haymaking. Then Gizur the White and Geir the Priest rode east over the rivers as soon as ever they heard that, and so east across the sands to Hof. Then they sent word to Starkad under the Threecorner, and there they all met who were to fall on Gunnar, and took counsel how they might best bring it about.
Mord said that they could not come on Gunnar unawares, unless they seized the farmer who dwelt at the next homestead, whose name was Thorkell, and made him go against his will with them to lay hands on the hound Sam, and unless he went before them to the homestead to do this.
Then they set out east for Lithend, but sent to fetch Thorkell. They seized him and bound him, and gave him two choices – one that they would slay him, or else he must lay hands on the hound; but he chooses rather to save his life, and went with them.
There was a beaten sunk road, between fences, above the farm yard at Lithend, and there they halted with their band. Master Thorkell went up to the homestead, and the tyke lay on the top of the house, and he entices the dog away with him into a deep hollow in the path. Just then the hound sees that there are men before them, and he leaps on Thorkell and tears his belly open.
Aunund of Witchwood smote the hound on the head with his axe, so that the blade sunk into the brain. The hound gave such a great howl that they thought it passing strange, and he fell down dead.
Gunnar woke up in his hall and said, “Thou hast been sorely treated, Sam, my fosterling, and this warning is so meant that our two deaths will not be far apart.”
Gunnar’s hall was made all of wood, and roofed with beams above, and there were window-slits under the beams that carried the roof, and they were fitted with shutters.
Gunnar slept in a loft above the hall, and so did Hallgerda and his mother.
Now when they were come near to the house they knew not whether Gunnar were at home, and bade that some one would go straight up to the house and see if he could find out. But the rest sat them down on the ground.
Thorgrim the Easterling went and began to climb up on the hall; Gunnar sees that a red kirtle passed before the windowslit, and thrusts out the bill, and smote him on the middle. Thorgrim’s feet slipped from under him, and he dropped his shield, and down he toppled from the roof.
Then he goes to Gizur and his band as they sat on the ground.
Gizur looked at him and said, “Well, is Gunnar at home?
“Find that out for yourselves,” said Thorgrim; “but this I am sure of, that his bill is at home,” and with that he fell down dead.
Then they made for the buildings. Gunnar shot out arrows at them, and made a stout defence, and they could get nothing done. Then some of them got into the out houses and tried to attack him thence, but Gunnar found them out with his arrows there also, and still they could get nothing done.
So it went on for a while, then they took a rest, and made a second onslaught. Gunnar still shot out at them, and they could do nothing, and fell off the second time. Then Gizur the White said, “Let us press on harder; nothing comes of our onslaught.”
Then they made a third bout of it, and were long at it, and then they fell off again.
Gunnar said, “There lies an arrow outside on the wall, and it is one of their shafts; I will shoot at them with it, and it will be a shame to them if they get a hurt from their own weapons.”
His mother said, “Do not so, my son; nor rouse them again when they have already fallen off from the attack.”
But Gunnar caught up the arrow and shot it after them, and struck Eylif Aunund’s son, and he got a great wound; he was standing all by himself, and they knew not that he was wounded.
“Out came an arm yonder,” says Gizur, “and there was a gold ring on it, and took an arrow from the roof, and they would not look outside for shafts if there were enough in doors; and now ye shall made a fresh onslaught.”
“Let us burn him house and all,” said Mord.
“That shall never be,” says Gizur, “though I knew that my life lay on it; but it is easy for thee to find out some plan, such a cunning man as thou art said to be.”
Some ropes lay there on the ground, and they were often used to strengthen the roof. Then Mord said, “Let us take the ropes and throw one end over the end of the carrying beams, but let us fasten the other end to these rocks and twist them tight with levers, and so pull the roof off the hall.”
So they took the ropes and all lent a hand to carry this out, and before Gunnar was aware of it, they had pulled the whole roof off the hall.
Then Gunnar still shoots with his bow so that they could never come nigh him. Then Mord said again that they must burn the house over Gunnar’s head. But Gizur said, “I know not why thou wilt speak of that which no one else wishes, and that shall never be.”
Just then Thorbrand Thorleik’s son, sprang up on the roof, and cuts asunder Gunnar’s bowstring. Gunnar clutches the bill with both hands, and turns on him quickly and drives it through him, and hurls him down on the ground.
Then up sprung Asbrand his brother. Gunnar thrusts at him with his bill, and he threw his shield before the blow, but the bill passed clean through the shield and broke both his arms, and down
he fell from the wall.
Gunnar had already wounded eight men and slain those twain. By that time Gunnar had got two wounds, and all men said that he never once winced either at wounds or death.
Then Gunnar said to Hallgerda, “Give me two locks of thy hair, and ye two, my mother and thou, twist them together into a bowstring for me.”
“Does aught lie on it?” she says.
“My life lies on it;” he said; “for they will never come to close quarters with me if I can keep them off with my bow.”
“Well!” she says, “now I will call to thy mind that slap on the face which thou gavest me; and I care never a whit whether thou holdest out a long while or a short.”
Then Gunnar sang a song:
“Each who hurts the gory javelin
Hath some honour of his own,
Now my helpmeet wimple-hooded
Hurries all my fame to earth.
No one owner of a war-ship
Often asks for little things,
Woman, fond of Frodi’s flour,
Wends her hand as she is wont.”
“Every one has something to boast of,” says Gunnar, “and I will ask thee no more for this.”
“Thou behavest ill,” said Rannveig, “and this shame shall long be had in mind.”
Gunnar made a stout and bold defence, and now wounds other eight men with such sore wounds that many lay at death’s door. Gunnar keeps them all off until he fell worn out with toil. Then they wounded him with many and great wounds, but still he got away out of their hands, and held his own against them a while longer, but at last it came about that they slew him.
Of this defence of his, Thorkell the Skald of Gota-Elf sang in the verses which follow —
“We have heard how south in Iceland
Gunnar guarded well himself,
Boldly battle’s thunder wielding,
Fiercest foeman on the wave;
Hero of the golden collar,
Sixteen with the sword he wounded;
In the shock that Odin loveth,
Two before him tasted death.”
But this is what Thormod Olaf’s son sang —
“None that scattered sea’s bright sunbeams,
Won more glorious fame than Gunnar,
So runs fame of old in Iceland,
Fitting fame of heathen men;
Lord of fight when helms were crashing,
Lives of foeman twain he took,
Wielding bitter steel he sorely
Wounded twelve, and four besides.”
Then Gizur spoke and said, “We have now laid low to earth a mighty chief, and hard work has it been, and the fame of this defence of his shall last as long as men live in this land.”
After that he went to see Rannveig and said, “Wilt thou grant us earth here for two of our men who are dead, that they may lie in a cairn here?”
“All the more willingly for two,” she says, “because I wish with all my heart I had to grant it to all of you.”
“It must be forgiven thee,” he says, “to speak thus, for thou hast had a great loss.”
Then he gave orders that no man should spoil or rob anything there.
After that they went away.
Then Thorgeir Starkad’s son said, “We may not be in our house at home for the sons of Sigfus, unless thou Gizur or thou Geir be here south some little while.”
“This shall be so,” says Gizur, and they cast lots, and the lot fell on Geir to stay behind.
After that he came to the Point, and set up his house there; he had a son whose name was Hroald; he was base born, and his mother’s name was Biartey; he boasted that he had given Gunnar his death blow. Hroald was at the Point with his father.
Thorgeir Starkad’s son boasted of another wound which he had given to Gunnar.
Gizur sat at home at Mossfell. Gunnar’s slaying was heard of, and ill spoken of throughout the whole country, and his death was a great grief to many a man.
GUNNAR SINGS A SONG DEAD
Njal could ill brook Gunnar’s death, nor could the sons of Sigfus brook it either.
They asked whether Njal thought they had any right to give notice of a suit of manslaughter for Gunnar, or to set the suit on foot.
He said that could not be done, as the man had been outlawed; but said it would be better worth trying to do something to wound their glory, by slaying some men in vengeance after him.
They cast a cairn over Gunnar, and made him sit upright in the cairn. Rannveig would not hear of his bill being buried in the cairn, but said he alone should have it as his own, who was ready to avenge Gunnar. So no one took the bill.
She was so hard on Hallgerda, that she was on the point of killing her; and she said that she had been the cause of her son’s slaying.
Then Hallgerda fled away to Gritwater, and her son Grani with her, and they shared the goods between them; Hogni was to have the land at Lithend and the homestead on it, but Grani was to have the land let out on lease.
Now this token happened at Lithend, that the neat-herd and the serving-maid were driving cattle by Gunnar’s cairn. They thought that he was merry, and that he was singing inside the cairn. They went home and told Rannveig, Gunnar’s mother, of this token, but she bade them go and tell Njal.
Then they went over to Bergthorsknoll and told Njal, but he made them tell it three times over.
After that, he had a long talk all alone with Skarphedinn; and Skarphedinn took his weapons and goes with them to Lithend.
Rannveig and Hogni gave him a hearty welcome, and were very glad to see him. Rannveig asked him to stay there some time, and he said he would.
He and Hogni were always together, at home and abroad. Hogni was a brisk, brave man, well-bred and well-trained in mind and body, but distrustful and slow to believe what he was told, and that was why they dared not tell him of the token.
Now those two, Skarphedinn and Hogni, were out of doors one evening by Gunnar’s cairn on the south side. The moon and stars were shining clear and bright, but every now and then the clouds drove over them. Then all at once they thought they saw the cairn standing open, and lo! Gunnar had turned himself in the cairn and looked at the moon. They thought they saw four lights burning in the cairn, and none of them threw a shadow. They saw that Gunnar was merry, and he wore a joyful face. He sang a song, and so loud, that it might have been heard though they had been further off.
“He that lavished rings in largesse,
When the fights’ red rain-drips fell,
Bright of face, with heart-strings hardy,
Hogni’s father met his fate;
Then his brow with helmet shrouding,
Bearing battle-shield, he spake,
`I will die the prop of battle,
Sooner die than yield an inch,
Yes, sooner die than yield an inch.”
After that the cairn was shut up again.
“Wouldst thou believe these tokens if Njal or I told them to thee?” says Skarphedinn.
“I would believe them,” he says, “if Njal told them, for it is said he never lies.”
“Such tokens as these mean much,” says Skarphedinn, “when he shows himself to us, he who would sooner die than yield to his foes; and see how he has taught us what we ought to do.”
“I shall be able to bring nothing to pass,” says Hogni, “unless thou wilt stand by me.”
“Now,” says Skarphedinn, “will I bear in mind how Gunnar behaved after the slaying of your kinsman Sigmund; now I will yield you such help as I may. My father gave his word to Gunnar to do that whenever thou or thy mother had need of it.”
After that they go home to Lithend.
GUNNAR OF LITHEND AVENGED
“Now we shall set off at once,” says Skarphedinn, “this very night; for if they learn that I am here, they will be more wary of themselves.”
“I will fulfil thy counsel,” says Hogni.
After that they took their weapons when all men were in their beds. Hogni takes down the bill, and it gave a sharp ringing sound.
Rannveig sprang up in great wrath and said, “Who touches the bill, when I forbade every one to lay hand on it?”
“I mean,” says Hogni, “to bring it to my father, that he may bear it with him to Valhalla, and have it with him when the warriors meet.”
“Rather shalt thou now bear it,” she answered, “and avenge thy father; for the bill has spoken of one man’s death or more.”
Then Hogni went out, and told Skarphedinn all the words that his grandmother had spoken.
After that they fare to the Point, and two ravens flew along with them all the way. They came to the Point while it was still night. Then they drove the flock before them up to the house, and then Hroald and Tjorfi ran out and drove the flock up the hollow path, and had their weapons with them.
Skarphedinn sprang up and said, “Thou needest not to stand and think if it be really as it seems. Men are here.”
Then Skarphedinn smites Tjorfi his deathblow. Hroald had a spear in his hand, and Hogni rushes at him; Hroald thrusts at him, but Hogni hewed asunder the spear-shaft with his bill, and drives the bill through him.
After that they left them there dead, and turn away thence under the Threecorner.
Skarphedinn jumps up on the house and plucks the grass, and those who were inside the house thought it was cattle that had come on the roof. Starkad and Thorgeir took their weapons and upper clothing, and went out and round about the fence of the yard. But when Starkad sees Skarphedinn he was afraid, and wanted to turn back.
Skarphedinn cut him down by the fence. Then Hogni comes against Thorgeir and slays him with the bill.
Thence they went to Hof, and Mord was outside in the field, and begged for mercy, and offered them full atonement.
Skarphedinn told Mord the slaying of those four men, and sang a song:
“Four who wielded warlike weapons
We have slain, all men of worth,
Them at once, gold-greedy fellow,
Thou shalt follow on the spot;
Let us press this pinch-purse so,
Pouring fear into his heart;
Wretch! reach out to Gunnar’s son
Right to settle all disputes.”
“And the like journey,” says Skarphedinn, “shalt thou also fare, or hand over to Hogni the right to make his own award, if he will take these terms.”
Hogni said his mind had been made up not to come to any terms with the slayers of his father; but still at last he took the right to make his own award from Mord.
HOGNI TAKES AN ATONEMENT FOR GUNNAR’S DEATH
Njal took a share in bringing those who had the blood-feud after Starkad and Thorgeir to take an atonement, and a district meeting was called together, and men were chosen to make the award, and every matter was taken into account, even the attack on Gunnar, though he was an outlaw; but such a fine as was awarded, all that Mord paid; for they did not close their award against him before the other matter was already settled, and then they set off one award against the other.
Then they were all set at one again, but at the Thing there was great talk, and the end of it was, that Geir the Priest and Hogni were set at one again, and that atonement they held to ever afterwards.
Geir the Priest dwelt in the Lithe till his deathday, and he is out of the story.
Njal asked as a wife for Hogni Alfeida the daughter of Weatherlid the Skald, and she was given away to him. Their son was Ari, who sailed for Shetland, and took him a wife there; from him is come Einar the Shetlander, one of the briskest and boldest of men.
Hogni kept up his friendship with Njal, and he is now out of the story.
OF KOLSKEGG: HOW HE WAS BAPTIZED
Now it is to be told of Kolskegg how he comes to Norway, and is in the Bay east that winter. But the summer after he fares east to Denmark, and bound himself to Sweyn Forkbeard the Dane-king, and there he had great honour.
One night he dreamt that a man came to him; he was bright and glistening, and he thought he woke him up. He spoke, and said to him, “Stand up and come with me.”
“What wilt thou with me?” he asks.
“I will get thee a bride, and thou shalt be my knight.”
He thought he said yea to that, and after that he woke up.
Then he went to a wizard and told him the dream, but he read it so that he should fare to southern lands and become God’s knight.
Kolskegg was baptized in Denmark, but still he could not rest there, but fared east to Russia, and was there one winter. Then he fared thence out to Micklegarth, and there took service with the Emperor. The last that was heard of him was, that he wedded a wife there, and was captain over the Varangians, and stayed there till his deathday; and he, too, is out of this story.
OF THRAIN: HOW HE SLEW KOL
Now we must take up the story, and say how Thrain Sigfus’ son came to Norway. They made the land north in Helgeland, and held on south to Drontheim, and so to Hlada. But as soon as Earl Hacon heard of that, he sent men to them, and would know what men were in the ship. They came back and told him who the men were. Then the earl sent for Thrain Sigfus’ son, and he went to see him. The earl asked of what stock he might be. He said that he was Gunnar of Lithend’s near kinsman. The earl said, “That shall stand thee in good stead; for I have seen many men from Iceland, but none his match.”
“Lord,” said Thrain, “is it your will that I should be with you this winter?”
The earl took to him, and Thrain was there that winter, and was thought much of.
There was a man named Kol, he was a great sea-rover. He was the son of Asmund Ashside, east out of Smoland. He lay east in the Gota-Elf, and had five ships, and much force.
Thence Kol steered his course out of the river to Norway and landed at Fold, in the bight of the “Bay,” and came on Hallvard Soti unawares, and found him in a loft. He kept them off bravely till they set fire to the house, then he gave himself up; but they slew him, and took there much goods, and sailed thence to Lodese.
Earl Hakon heard these tidings, and made them make Kol an outlaw over all his realm, and set a price upon his head.
Once on a time it so happened that the earl began to speak thus, “Too far off from us now is Gunnar of Lithend. He would slay my outlaw if he were here; but now the Icelanders will slay him, and it is ill that he hath not fared to us.”
Then Thrain Sigfus’ son answered, “I am not Gunnar, but still I am near akin to him, and I will undertake this voyage.”
The earl said, “I should be glad of that, and thou shalt be very well fitted out for the journey.”
After that his son Eric began to speak, and said, “Your word, father, is good to many men, but fulfilling it is quite another thing. This is the hardest undertaking; for this sea-rover is tough and ill to deal with, wherefore thou wilt need to take great pains, both as to men and ships for this voyage.”
Thrain said, “I will set out on this voyage, though it looks ugly.”
After that the earl gave him five ships, and all well trimmed and manned. Along with Thrain was Gunnar Lambi’s son, and Lambi Sigurd’s son. Gunnar was Thrain’s brother’s son, and had come to him young, and each loved the other much.
Eric, the earl’s son, went heartily along with them, and looked after strength for them, both in men and weapons and made such changes in them as he thought were needful. After they were “boun,” Eric got them a pilot. Then they sailed south along the land; but wherever they came to land, the earl allowed them to deal with whatever they needed as their own.
So they held on east to Lodese, and then they heard that Kol was gone to Denmark. Then they shaped their course south thither; but when they came south to Helsingborg, they met men in a boat who said that Kol was there just before them, and would be staying there for a while.
One day when the weather was good, Kol saw the ships as they sailed up towards him, and said he had dreamt of Earl Hacon the night before, and told his people he was sure these must be his men, and bade them all to take their weapons.
After that they busked them, and a fight arose; and they fought long, so that neither side had the mastery.
Then Kol sprang up on Thrain’s ship, and cleared the gangways fast, and slays many men. He had a gilded helm.
Now Thrain sees that this is no good, and now he eggs on his men to go along with him, but he himself goes first and meets Kol.
Kol hews at him, and the blow fell on Thrain’s shield, and cleft it down from top to bottom. Then Kol got a blow on the arm, from a stone and then down fell his sword.
Thrain hews at Kol, and the stroke came on his leg so that it cut it off. After that they slew Kol, and Thrain cut off his head, and they threw the trunk overboard, but kept his head.
They took much spoil, and then they held on north to Drontheim, and go to see the earl.
The earl gave Thrain a hearty welcome, and he shewed the earl Kol’s head, but the earl thanked him for that deed.
Eric said it was worth more than words alone, and the earl said so it was, and bade them come along with him.
They went thither, where the earl had made them make a good ship that was not made like a common long-ship. It had a vulture’s head, and was much carved and painted.
“Thou art a great man for show, Thrain,” said the earl, “and so have both of you, kinsmen, been, Gunnar and thou; and now I will give thee this ship, but it is called the Vulture. Along with it shall go my friendship; and my will is that thou stayest with me as long as thou wilt.”
He thanked him for his goodness, and said he had no longing to go to Iceland just yet.
The earl had a journey to make to the marches of the land to meet the Swede-king. Thrain went with him that summer, and was a shipmaster and steered the Vulture, and sailed so fast that few could keep up with him, and he was much envied. But it always came out that the earl laid great store on Gunnar, for he set down sternly all who tried Thrain’s temper.
So Thrain was all that winter with the earl, but next spring the earl asked Thrain whether he would stay there or fare to Iceland; but Thrain said he had not yet made up his mind, and said that he wished first to know tidings from Iceland.
The earl said that so it should be as he thought it suited him best; and Thrain was with the earl.
Then those tidings were heard from Iceland, which many thought great news, the death of Gunnar of Lithend. Then the earl would not that Thrain should fare out of Iceland, and so there he stayed with him.
NJAL’S SONS SAIL ABROAD
Now it must be told how Njal’s sons, Grim and Helgi, left Iceland the same summer that Thrain and his fellows went away; and in the ship with them were Olaf Kettle’s son of Elda, and Skald the Black. They got so strong a wind from the north that they were driven south into the main; and so thick a mist came over them that they could not tell whither they were driving, and they were out a long while. At last they came to where was a great ground sea, and thought then they must be near land. So then Njal’s sons asked Skald if he could tell at all to what land they were likely to be nearest.
“Many lands there are,” said he, “which we might hit with the weather we have had — the Orkneys, or Scotland, or Ireland.”
Two nights after, they saw land on both boards, and a great surf running up in the firth. They cast anchor outside the breakers, and the wind began to fall; and next morning it was calm. Then they see thirteen ships coming out to them.
Then Skald spoke and said, “What counsel shall we take now, for these men are going to make an onslaught on us?”
So they took counsel whether they should defend themselves or yield, but before they could make up their minds, the Vikings were upon them. Then each side asked the other their names, and what their leaders were called. So the leaders of the chapmen told their names, and asked back who led that host. One called himself Gritgard, and the other Snowcolf, sons of Moldan of Duncansby in Scotland, kinsmen of Malcolm the Scot king.
“And now,” says Gritgard, “we have laid down two choices, one that ye go on shore, and we will take your goods; the other is, that we fall on you and slay every man that we can catch.”
“The will of the chapmen,” answers Helgi, “is to defend themselves.”
But the chapmen called out, “Wretch that thou art to speak thus! What defence can we make? Lading is less than life.”
But Grim, he fell upon a plan to shout out to the Vikings, and would not let them hear the bad choice of the chapmen.
Then Skald and Olaf said, “Think ye not that these Icelanders will make game of you sluggards; take rather your weapons and guard your goods.”
So they all seized their weapons, and bound themselves, one with another, never to give up so long as they had strength to fight.
OF KARI SOLMUND’S SON
Then the Vikings shot at them and the fight began, and the chapmen guard themselves well. Snowcolf sprang aboard and at Olaf, and thrust his spear through his body, but Grim thrust at Snowcolf with his spear, and so stoutly, that he fell overboard. Then Helgi turned to meet Grim, and they two drove down all the Vikings as they tried to board, and Njal’s sons were ever where there was most need. Then the Vikings called out to the chapmen and bade them give up, but they said they would never yield. Just then some one looked seaward, and there they see ships coming from the south round the Ness, and they were not fewer than ten, and they row hard and steer thitherwards. Along their sides were shield on shield, but on that ship that came first stood a man by the mast, who was clad in a silken kirtle, and had a gilded helm, and his hair was both fair and thick; that man had a spear inlaid with gold in his hand.
He asked, “Who have here such an uneven game?”
Helgi tells his name, and said that against them are Gritgard and Snowcolf.
“But who are your captains?” he asks.
Helgi answered, “Skald the Black, who lives, but the other, who is dead and gone, was called Olaf.”
“Are ye men from Iceland?” says he.
“Sure enough we are,” Helgi answers.
He asked whose sons they were, and they told him, then he knew them and said, “Well known names have ye all, father and sons both.
“Who art thou?” asks Helgi.
“My name is Kari, and I am Solmund’s son.”
“Whence comest thou?” says Helgi.
“From the Southern Isles.”
“Then thou art welcome,” says Helgi, “if thou wilt give us a little help.”
“I’ll give ye all the help ye need,” says Kari; “but what do ye ask?”
“To fall on them,” says Helgi.
Kari says that so it shall be. So they pulled up to them, and then the battle began the second time; but when they had fought a little while, Kari springs up on Snowcolf’s ship; he turns to meet him and smites at him with his sword. Kari leaps nimbly backwards over a beam that lay athwart the ship, and Snowcolf smote the beam so that both edges of the sword were hidden. Then Kari smites at him, and the sword fell on his shoulder, and the stroke was so mighty that he cleft in twain shoulder, arm, and all, and Snowcolf got his death there and then. Gritgard hurled a spear at Kari, but Kari saw it and sprang up aloft, and the spear missed him. Just then Helgi and Grim came up both to meet Kari, and Helgi springs on Gritgard and thrusts his spear through him, and that was his death blow; after that they went round the whole ship on both boards, and then men begged for mercy. So they gave them all peace, but took all their goods. After that they ran all the ships out under the islands.
OF EARL SIGURD
Sigurd was the name of an earl who ruled over the Orkneys; he was the son of Hlodver, the son of Thorfinn the skullsplitter, the son of Turf-Einar, the son of Rognvald, Earl of Moeren, the son of Eystein the Noisy. Kari was one of Earl Sigurd’s body-guard, and had just been gathering scatts in the Southern Isles from Earl Gilli. Now Kari asks them to go to Hrossey, and said the earl would take to them well. They agreed to that, and went with Kari and came to Hrossey. Kari led them to see the earl, and said what men they were.
“How came they,” says the earl, “to fall upon thee?”
“I found them,” says Kari, “in Scotland’s firths, and they were fighting with the sons of Earl Moldan, and held their own so well that they threw themselves about between the bulwarks, from side to side, and were always there where the trial was greatest, and now I ask you to give them quarters among your body-guard.”
“It shall be as thou choosest,” says the earl, “thou hast already taken them so much by the hand.”
Then they were there with the earl that winter, and were worthily treated, but Helgi was silent as the winter wore on. The earl could not tell what was at the bottom of that, and asked why he was so silent, and what was on his mind. “Thinkest thou it not good to be here?”
“Good, methinks, it is here,” he says.
“Then what art thou thinking about?” asks the earl.
“Hast thou any realm to guard in Scotland?” asks Helgi.
“So we think,” says the earl, “but what makes thee think about that, or what is the matter with it?”
“The Scots,” says Helgi, “must have taken your steward’s life, and stopped all the messengers, that none should cross the Pentland Firth.”
“Hast thou the second sight?” said the earl.
“That has been little proved,” answers Helgi.
“Well,” says the earl, “I will increase thy honour if this be so, otherwise thou shalt smart for it.”
“Nay,” says Kari, “Helgi is not that kind of man, and like enough his words are sooth, for his father has the second sight.”
After that the earl sent men south to Staumey to Arnljot, his steward there, and after that Arnljot sent them across the Pentland Firth, and they spied out and learnt that Earl Hundi and Earl Melsnati had taken the life of Havard in Thraswick, Earl Sigurd’s brother-in-law. So Arnljot sent word to Earl Sigurd to come south with a great host and drive those earls out of his realm, and as soon as the earl heard that, he gathered together a mighty host from all the isles.
THE BATTLE WITH THE EARLS
After that the earl set out south with his host, and Kari went with him, and Njal’s sons too. They came south to Caithness. The earl had these realms in Scotland, Ross and Moray, Sutherland, and the Dales. There came to meet them men from those realms, and said that the earls were a short way off with a great host. Then Earl Sigurd turns his host thither, and the name of that place is Duncansness above which they met, and it came to a great battle between them. Now the Scots had let some of their host go free from the main battle, and these took the earl’s men in flank, and many men fell there till Njal’s sons turned against the foe, and fought with them and put them to flight; but still it was a hard fight, and then Njal’s sons turned back to the front by the earl’s standard, and fought well. Now Kari turns to meet Earl Melsnati, and Melsnati hurled a spear at him, but Kari caught the spear and threw it back and through the earl. Then Earl Hundi fled, but they chased the fleers until they learnt that Malcolm was gathering a host at Duncansby. Then the earl took counsel with his men, and it seemed to all the best plan to turn back, and not to fight with such a mighty land force; so they turned back. But when the earl came to Staumey they shared the battle-spoil. After that he went north to Hrossey, and Njal’s sons and Kari followed him. Then the earl made a great feast, and at that feast he gave Kari a good sword, and a spear inlaid with gold; but he gave Helgi a gold ring and a mantle, and Grim a shield and sword. After that he took Helgi and Grim into his body-guard, and thanked them for their good help. They were with the earl that winter and the summer after, till Kari went sea-roving; then they went with him, and harried far and wide that summer, and everywhere won the victory. They fought against Godred, King of Man, and conquered him; and after that they fared back, and had gotten much goods. Next winter they were still with the earl, and when the spring came Njal’s sons asked leave to go to Norway. The earl said they should go or not as they pleased, and he gave them a good ship and smart men. As for Kari, he said he must come that summer to Norway with Earl Hakon’s scatts, and then they would meet; and so it fell out that they gave each other their word to meet. After that Njal’s sons put out to sea and sailed for Norway, and made the land north near Drontheim.
HRAPP’S VOYAGE FROM ICELAND
There was a man named Kolbein, and his surname was Arnljot’s son; he was a man from Drontheim; he sailed out to Iceland that same summer in which Kolskegg and Njal’s sons went abroad. He was that winter east in Broaddale; but the spring after, he made his ship ready for sea in Gautawick; and when men were almost “boun,” a man rowed up to them in a boat, and made the boat fast to the ship, and afterwards he went on board the ship to see Kolbein.
Kolbein asked that man for his name.
“My name is Hrapp,” says he.
“What wilt thou with me?” says Kolbein.
“I wish to ask thee to put me across the Iceland main.”
“Whose son art thou?” asks Kolbein.
“I am a son of Aurgunleid, the son of Geirolf the Fighter.”
“What need lies on thee,” asked Kolbein, “to drive thee abroad?”
“I have slain a man,” says Hrapp.
“What manslaughter was that,” says Kolbein, “and what men have the blood-feud?”
“The men of Weaponfirth,” says Hrapp, “but the man I slew was Aurlyg, the son of Aurlyg, the son of Roger the White.”
“I guess this,” says Kolbein, “that he will have the worst of it who bears thee abroad.”
“I am the friend of my friend,” said Hrapp, “but when ill is done to me I repay it. Nor am I short of money to lay down for my passage.”
Then Kolbein took Hrapp on board, and a little while after a fair breeze sprung up, and they sailed away on the sea.
Hrapp ran short of food at sea and then he sate him down at the mess of those who were nearest to him. They sprang up with ill words, and so it was that they came to blows, and Hrapp, in a trice, has two men under him.
Then Kolbein was told, and he bade Hrapp to come and share his mess, and he accepted that.
Now they come off the sea, and lie outside off Agdirness.
Then Kolbein asked where that money was which he had offered to pay for his fare?
“It is out in Iceland,” answers Hrapp.
“Thou wilt beguile more men than me, I fear,” says Kolbein; “but now I will forgive thee all the fare.”
Hrapp bade him have thanks for that. “But what counsel dost thou give as to what I ought to do?”
“That first of all,” he says, “that thou goest from the ship as soon as ever thou canst, for all Easterlings will bear thee bad witness; but there is yet another bit of good counsel which I will give thee, and that is, never to cheat thy master.”
Then Hrapp went on shore with his weapons, and he had a great axe with an iron-bound haft in his hand.
He fares on and on till he comes to Gudbrand of the Dale. He was the greatest friend of Earl Hacon. They two had a shrine between them, and it was never opened but when the earl came thither. That was the second greatest shrine in Norway, but the other was at Hlada.
Thrand was the name of Gudbrand’s son, but his daughter’s name was Gudruna.
Hrapp went in before Gudbrand, and hailed him well.
He asked whence he came and what was his name. Hrapp told him about himself, and how he had sailed abroad from Iceland.
After that he asks Gudbrand to take him into his household as a guest.
“It does not seem,” said Gudbrand, “to look on thee, as thou wert a man to bring good luck.”
“Methinks, then,” says Hrapp, “that all I have heard about thee has been great lies; for it is said that thou takest every one into thy house that asks thee; and that no man is thy match for goodness and kindness, far or near; but now I shall have to speak against that saying, if thou dost not take me in.”
“Well, thou shalt stay here,” said Gudbrand.
“To what seat wilt thou shew me?” says Hrapp.
“To one on the lower bench, over against my high seat.”
Then Hrapp went and took his seat. He was able to tell of many things, and so it was at first that Gudbrand and many thought it sport to listen to him; but still it came about that most men thought him too much given to mocking, and the end of it was that he took to talking alone with Gudruna, so that many said that he meant to beguile her.
But when Gudbrand was aware of that, he scolded her much for daring to talk alone with him, and bade her beware of speaking aught to him if the whole household did not hear it. She gave her word to be good at first, but still it was soon the old story over again as to their talk. Then Gudbrand got Asvard, his overseer, to go about with her, out of doors and in, and to be with her wherever she went. One day it happened that she begged for leave to go into the nutwood for a pastime, and Asvard went along with her. Hrapp goes to seek for them and found them, and took her by the hand, and led her away alone.
Then Asvard went to look for her, and found them both together stretched on the grass in a thicket.
He rushes at them, axe in air, and smote at Hrapp’s leg, but Hrapp gave himself a sudden turn, and he missed him. Hrapp springs on his feet as quick as he can, and caught up his axe. Then Asvard wished to turn and get away, but Hrapp hewed asunder his back-bone.
Then Gudruna said, “Now hast thou done that deed which will hinder thy stay any longer with my father; but still there is something behind which he will like still less, for I go with child.”
“He shall not learn this from others,” says Hrapp, “but I will go home and tell him both these tidings.”
“Then,” she says, “thou wilt not come away with thy life.”
“I will run the risk of that,” he says.
After that he sees her back to the other women, but he went home. Gudbrand sat in his high seat, and there were few men in the room.
Hrapp went in before him, and bore his axe high.
“Why is thine axe bloody?” asks Gudbrand.
“I made it so by doing a piece of work on thy overseer Asvard’s back,” says Hrapp.
“That can be no good work,” says Gudbrand; “thou must have slain him.”
“So it is, be sure,” says Hrapp.
“What did ye fall out about?” asks Gudbrand.
“Oh!” says Hrapp, “what you would think small cause enough. He wanted to hew off my leg.”
“What hadst thou done first?” asked Gudbrand.
“What he had no right to meddle with,” says Hrapp.
“Still thou wilt tell me what it was.”
“Well!” said Hrapp, “if thou must know, I lay by thy daughter’s side, and he thought that bad.”
“Up men!” cried Gudbrand, “and take him. He shall be slain out of hand.”
“Very little good wilt thou let me reap of my son-in-lawship,” says Hrapp, “but thou hast not so many men at thy back as to do that speedily.”
Up they rose, but he sprang out of doors. They run after him, but he got away to the wood, and they could not lay hold of him.
Then Gudbrand gathers people, and lets the wood be searched; but they find him not, for the wood was great and thick.
Hrapp fares through the wood till he came to a clearing; there he found a house, and saw a man outside cleaving wood.
He asked that man for his name, and he said his name was Tofi.
Tofi asked him for his name in turn, and Hrapp told him his true
Hrapp asked why the householder had set up his abode so far from other men?
“For that here,” he says, “I think I am less likely to have brawls with other men.”
“It is strange how we beat about the bush in our talk,” says Hrapp, “but I will first tell thee who I am. I have been with Gudbrand of the Dale, but I ran away thence because I slew his overseer; but now I know that we are both of us bad men; for thou wouldst not have come hither away from other men unless thou wert some man’s outlaw. And now I give thee two choices, either that I will tell where thou art, or that we two have between us, share and share alike, all that is here.”
“This is even as thou savest,” said the householder; “I seized and carried off this woman who is here with me, and many men have sought for me.”
Then he led Hrapp in with him; there was a small house there, but well built.
The master of the house told his mistress that he had taken Hrapp into his company.
“Most men will get ill luck from this man,” she says; “but thou wilt have thy way.”
So Hrapp was there after that. He was a great wanderer, and was never at home. He still brings about meetings with Gudruna; her father and brother, Thrand and Gudbrand, lay in wait for him, but they could never get nigh him, and so all that year passed away.
Gudbrand sent and told Earl Hacon what trouble he had had with Hrapp, and the earl let him be made an outlaw, and laid a price upon his head. He said, too, that he would go himself to look
after him; but that passed off, and the earl thought it easy enough for them to catch him when he went about so unwarily.
THRAIN TOOK TO HRAPP
That same summer Njal’s sons fared to Norway from the Orkneys, as was before written, and they were there at the fair during the summer. Then Thrain Sigfus’ son busked his ship for Iceland, and was all but “boun.” At that time Earl Hakon went to a feast at Gudbrand’s house. That night Killing-Hrapp came to the shrine of Earl Hakon and Gudbrand, and he went inside the house, and there he saw Thorgerda Shrinebride sitting, and she was as tall as a fullgrown man. She had a great gold ring on her arm, and a wimple on her head; he strips her of her wimple, and takes the gold ring from off her. Then he sees Thor’s car, and takes from him a second gold ring; a third he took from Irpa; and then dragged them all out, and spoiled them of all their gear.
After that he laid fire to the shrine, and burnt it down, and then he goes away just as it began to dawn. He walks across a ploughed field, and there six men sprang up with weapons, and fall upon him at once; but he made a stout defence, and the end of the business was that he slays three men, but wounds Thrand to the death, and drives two to the woods, so that they could bear no news to the earl. He then went up to Thrand and said, “It is now in my power to slay thee if I will, but I will not do that; and now I will set more store by the ties that are between us than ye have shown to me.”
Now Hrapp means to turn back to the wood, but now he sees that men have come between him and the wood, so he dares not venture to turn thither, but lays him down in a thicket, and so lies there a while.
Earl Hacon and Gudbrand went that morning early to the shrine and found it burnt down; but the three gods were outside, stripped of all their bravery.
Then Gudbrand began to speak, and said, “Much might is given to our gods, when here they have walked of themselves out of the fire!”
“The gods can have naught to do with it,” says the earl; “a man must have burnt the shrine, and borne the gods out; but the gods do not avenge everything on the spot. That man who has done this will no doubt be driven away out of Valhalla, and never come in thither.”
Just then up ran four of the earl’s men, and told them ill tidings for they said they had found three men slain in the field, and Thrand wounded to the death.
“Who can have done this?” says the earl.
“Killing-Hrapp,” they say.
“Then he must have burnt down the shrine,” says the earl.
They said they thought he was like enough to have done it.
“And where may he be now?” says the earl.
They said that Thrand had told them that he had lain down in a thicket.
The earl goes thither to look for him, but Hrapp was off and away. Then the earl set his men to search for him, but still they could not find him. So the earl was in the hue and cry himself, but first he bade them rest a while.
Then the earl went aside by himself, away from other men, and bade that no man should follow him, and so he stays a while. He fell down on both his knees, and held his hands before his eyes; after that he went back to them, and then he said to them, “Come with me.”
So they went along with him. He turns short away from the path on which they had walked before, and they came to a dell. There up sprang Hrapp before them, and there it was that he had hidden himself at first.
The earl urges on his men to run after him, but Hrapp was so swift-footed that they never came near him. Hrapp made for Hlada. There both Thrain and Njal’s sons lay “boun” for sea at the same time. Hrapp runs to where Njal’s sons are.
“Help me, like good men and true,” he said, “for the earl will slay me.”
Helgi looked at him, and said, “Thou lookest like an unlucky man, and the man who will not take thee in will have the best of it.”
“Would that the worst might befall you from me,” says Hrapp.
“I am the man,” says Helgi, “to avenge me on thee for this as time rolls on.”
Then Hrapp turned to Thrain Sigfus’ son, and bade him shelter him.
“What hast thou on thy hand?” says Thrain.
“I have burnt a shrine under the earl’s eyes, and slain some men, and now he will be here speedily, for he has joined in the hue and cry himself.”
“It hardly beseems me to do this,” says Thrain, “when the earl has done me so much good.”
Then he shewed Thrain the precious things which he had borne out of the shrine, and offered to give him the goods, but Thrain said he could not take them unless he gave him other goods of the same worth for them.
“Then,” said Hrapp, “here will I take my stand, and here shall I be slain before thine eyes, and then thou wilt have to abide by every man’s blame.”
Then they see the earl and his band of men coming, and then Thrain took Hrapp under his safeguard, and let them shove off the boat, and put out to his ship.
Then Thrain said, “Now this will be thy best hiding place, to knock out the bottoms of two casks, and then thou shalt get into them.”
So it was done, and he got into the casks, and then they were lashed together, and lowered overboard.
Then comes the earl with his band to Njal’s sons, and asked if Hrapp had come there.
They said that he had come.
The earl asked whither he had gone thence?
They said they had not kept eyes on him, and could not say.
“He,” said the earl, “should have great honour from me who would tell me where Hrapp was.”
Then Grim said softly to Helgi, “Why should we not say, What know I whether Thrain will repay us with any good?”
“We should not tell a whit more for that,” says Helgi, “when his life lies at stake.”
“May be,” said Grim, “the earl will turn his vengeance on us, for he is so wroth that some one will have to fall before him.”
“That must not move us,” says Helgi, “but still we will pull our ship out, and so away to sea as soon as ever we get a wind.”
So they rowed out under an isle that lay there, and wait there for a fair breeze.
The earl went about among the sailors, and tried them all, but they, one and all, denied that they knew aught of Hrapp.
Then the earl said, “Now we will go to Thrain, my brother in arms, and he will give Hrapp up, if he knows anything of him.”
After that they took a long-ship and went off to the merchant ship.
Thrain sees the earl coming, and stands up and greets him kindly. The earl took his greeting well and spoke thus, — “We are seeking for a man whose name is Hrapp, and he is an Icelander. He has done us all kind of ill; and now we will ask you to be good enough to give him up, or to tell us where he is.”
“Ye know, lord,” said Thrain, “that I slew your outlaw, and then put my fife in peril, and for that I had of you great honour.”
“More honour shalt thou now have,” says the earl.
Now Thrain thought within himself, and could not make up his mind how the earl would take it, so he denies that Hrapp is here, and bade the earl to look for him. He spent little time on that, and went on land alone, away from other men, and was then very wroth, so that no man dared to speak to him.
“Shew me to Njal’s sons,” said the earl, “and I will force them to tell me the truth.”
Then he was told that they had put out of the harbour.
“Then there is no help for it,” says the earl, “but still there were two water-casks alongside of Thrain’s ship, and in them a man may well have been hid, and if Thrain has bidden him, there he must be; and now we will go a second time to see Thrain.”
Thrain sees that the earl means to put off again and said, “However wroth the earl was last time, now he will be half as wroth again, and now the life of every man on board the ship lies at stake.”
They all gave their words to hide the matter, for they were all sore afraid. Then they took some sacks out of the lading, and put Hrapp down into the hold in their stead, and other sacks that were light were laid over him.
Now comes the earl, just as they were done stowing Hrapp away. Thrain greeted the earl well. The earl was rather slow to return it, and they saw that the earl was very wroth.
Then said the earl to Thrain, “Give thou up Hrapp, for I am quite sure that thou hast hidden him.”
“Where shall I have hidden him, Lord?” says Thrain.
“That thou knowest best,” says the earl; “but if I must guess, then I think that thou hiddest him in the water-casks a while ago.”
“Well!” says Thrain, “I would rather not be taken for a liar, far sooner would I that ye should search the ship.”
Then the earl went on board the ship and hunted and hunted, but found him not.
“Dost thou speak me free now?” says Thrain.
“Far from it,” says the earl, “and yet I cannot tell why we cannot find him, but methinks I see through it all when I come on shore, but when I come here, I can see nothing.”
With that he made them row him ashore. He was so wroth that there was no speaking to him. His son Sweyn was there with him, and he said, “A strange turn of mind this to let guiltless men smart for one’s wrath!”
Then the earl went away alone aside from other men, and after that he went back to them at once, and said, “Let us row out to them again,” and they did so.
“Where can he have been hidden?” says Sweyn.
“There’s not much good in knowing that,” says the earl, “for now he will be away thence; two sacks lay there by the rest of the lading, and Hrapp must have come into the lading in their place.”
Then Thrain began to speak, and said, “They are running off the ship again, and they must mean to pay us another visit. Now we will take him out of the lading, and stow other things in his stead, but let the sacks still lie loose. They did so, and then Thrain spoke: “Now let us fold Hrapp in the sail.”
It was then brailed up to the yard, and they did so.
Then the earl comes to Thrain and his men, and he was very wroth, and said, “Wilt thou now give up the man, Thrain?” and he is worse now than before.
“I would have given him up long ago,” answers Thrain, “if he had been in my keeping, or where can he have been?”
“In the lading,” says the earl.
“Then why did ye not seek him there?” says Thrain.
“That never came into our mind,” says the earl.
After that they sought him over all the ship, and found him not.
“Will you now hold me free?” says Thrain.
“Surely not,” says the earl, “for I know that thou hast hidden away the man, though I find him not; but I would rather that thou shouldst be a dastard to me than I to thee,” says the earl, and then they went on shore.
“Now,” says the earl, “I seem to see that Thrain has hidden away Hrapp in the sail.”
Just then, up sprung a fair breeze, and Thrain and his men sailed out to sea. He then spoke these words which have long been held in mind since —
“Let us make the Vulture fly, Nothing now gars Thrain flinch.”
But when the earl heard of Thrain’s words, then he said, “‘Tis not my want of foresight which caused this, but rather their ill-fellowship, which will drag them both to death.”
Thrain was a short time out on the sea, and so came to Iceland, and fared home to his house. Hrapp went along with Thrain, and was with him that year; but the spring after, Thrain got him a homestead at Hrappstede, and he dwelt there; but yet he spent most of his time at Gritwater. He was thought to spoil everything there, and some men even said that he was too good friends with Hallgerda, and that he led her astray, but some spoke against that.
Thrain gave the Vulture to his kinsman, Mord the Reckless; that Mord slew Oddi Haldor’s son, east in Gautawick by Berufirth.
All Thrain’s kinsmen looked on him as a chief.
EARL HAKON FIGHTS WITH NJAL’S SONS
Now we must take up the story, and say how, when Earl Hakon missed Thrain, he spoke to Sweyn his son, and said, “Let us take four long-ships, and let us fare against Njal’s sons and slay them, for they must have known all about it with Thrain.”
“‘Tis not good counsel,” says Sweyn, “to throw the blame on guiltless men, but to let him escape who is guilty.”
“I shall have my way in this,” says the earl.
Now they hold on after Njal’s sons, and seek for them, and find them under an island.
Grim first saw the earl’s ships and said to Helgi, “Here are war ships sailing up, and I see that here is the earl, and he can mean to offer us no peace.”
“It is said,” said Helgi, “that he is the boldest man who holds his own against all comers, and so we will defend ourselves.”
They all bade him take the course he thought best, and then they took to their arms.
Now the earl comes up and called out to them, and bade them give themselves up.
Helgi said that they would defend themselves so long as they could.
Then the earl offered peace and quarter to all who would neither defend themselves nor Helgi; but Helgi was so much beloved that all said they would rather die with him.
Then the earl and his men fall on them, but they defended themselves well, and Njal’s sons were ever where there was most need. The earl often offered peace, but they all made the same answer, and said they would never yield.
Then Aslak of Longisle pressed them hard and came on board their ship thrice. Then Grim said, “Thou pressest on hard, and ’twere well that thou gettest what thou seekest;” and with that he snatched up a spear and hurled it at him, and hit him under the chin, and Aslak got his death wound there and then.
A little after, Helgi slew Egil the earl’s banner-bearer.
Then Sweyn, Earl Hakon’s son, fell on them, and made men hem them in and bear them down with shields, and so they were taken captive.
The earl was for letting them all be slain at once, but Sweyn said that should not be, and said too that it was night.
Then the earl said, “Well, then, slay them to-morrow, but bind them fast to-night.”
“So, I ween, it must be,” says Sweyn; “but never yet have I met brisker men than these, and I call it the greatest manscathe to take their lives.”
“They have slain two of our briskest men,” said the earl, “and for that they shall be slain.”
“Because they were brisker men themselves,” says Sweyn; “but still in this it must be done as thou willest.”
So they were bound and fettered.
After that the earl fell asleep; but when all men slept, Grim spoke to Helgi, and said, “Away would I get if I could.”
“Let us try some trick then,” says Helgi.
Grim sees that there lies an axe edge up, so Grim crawled thither, and gets the bowstring which bound him cut asunder against the axe, but still he got great wounds on his arms.
Then he set Helgi loose, and after that they crawled over the ship’s side, and got on shore, so that neither Hakon nor his men were ware of them. Then they broke off their fetters, and walked away to the other side of the island. By that time it began to dawn. There they found a ship, and knew that there was come Kari Solmund’s son. They went at once to meet him, and told him of their wrongs and hardships, and showed him their wounds, and said the earl would be then asleep.
“Ill is it,” said Kari, “that ye should suffer such wrongs for wicked men; but what now would be most to your minds?”
“To fall on the earl,” they say, “and slay, him.”
“This will not be fated,” says Kari; “but still ye do not lack heart, but we will first know whether he is there now.”
After that they fared thither, and then the earl was up and away.
Then Kari sailed in to Hlada to meet the earl, and brought him the Orkney scatts, so the earl said, “Hast thou taken Njal’s sons into thy keeping?”
“So it is, sure enough,” says Kari.
“Wilt thou hand Njal’s sons over to me?” asks the earl.
“No, I will not,” said Kari.
“Wilt thou swear this,” says the earl, “that thou wilt not fall on me with Njal’s sons?”
Then Eric, the earl’s son, spoke and said, “Such things ought not to be asked. Kari has always been our friend, and things should not have gone as they have, had I been by. Njal’s sons should have been set free from all blame, but they should have had chastisement who had wrought for it. Methinks now it would be more seemly to give Njal’s sons good gifts for the hardships and wrongs which have been put upon them, and the wounds they have got.”
“So it ought to be, sure enough,” says the earl, “but I know not whether they will take an atonement.”
Then the earl said that Kari should try the feeling of Njal’s sons as to an atonement.
After that Kari spoke to Helgi, and asked whether he would take any amends from the earl or not.
“I will take them,” said Helgi, “from his son Eric, but I will have nothing to do with the earl.”
Then Kari told Eric their answer.
“So it shall be.” says Eric. “He shall take the amends from me if he thinks it better; and tell them this too, that I bid them to my house, and my father shall do them no harm.”
This bidding they took, and went to Eric’s house, and were with him till Kari was ready to sail west across the sea to meet Earl Sigurd.
Then Eric made a feast for Kari, and gave him gifts, and Njal’s sons gifts too. After that Kari fared west across the sea, and met Earl Sigurd, and he greeted them very well, and they were with the earl that winter.
But when the spring came, Kari asked Njal’s sons to go on warfare with him, but Grim said they would only do so if he would fare with them afterwards out to Iceland. Kari gave his word to do that, and then they fared with him a-searoving. They harried south about Anglesea and all the Southern isles. Thence they held on to Cantyre, and landed there, and fought with the landsmen, and got thence much goods, and so fared to their ships. Thence they fared south to Wales, and harried there. Then they held on for Alan, and there they met Godred, and fought with him, and got the victory, and slew Dungal the king’s son. There they took great spoil. Thence they held on north to Coll, and found Earl Gilli there, and he greeted them well and there they stayed with him a while. The earl fared with them to the Orkneys to meet Earl Sigurd, but next spring Earl Sigurd gave away his sister Nereida to Earl Gilli, and then he fared back to the Southern isles.
NJAL’S SONS AND KARI COME OUT TO ICELAND
That summer Kari and Njal’s sons busked them for Iceland, and when they were “all-boun” they went to see the earl. The earl gave them good gifts, and they parted with great friendship.
Now they put to sea and have a short passage, and they got a fine fair breeze, and made the land at Eyrar. Then they got them horses and ride from the ship to Bergthorsknoll, but when they came home all men were glad to see them. They flitted home their goods and laid up the ship, and Kari was there that winter with Njal.
But the spring after, Kari asked for Njal’s daughter, Helga, to wife, and Helgi and Grim backed his suit; and so the end of it was that she was betrothed to Kari and the day for the wedding-feast was fixed, and the feast was held half a month before mid-summer, and they were that winter with Njal.
Then Kari bought him land at Dyrholms, east away by Mydale, and set up a farm there; they put in there a grieve and housekeeper to see after the farm, but they themselves were ever with Njal.
THE QUARREL OF NJAL’S SONS WITH THRAIN SIGFUS’ SON
Hrapp owned a farm at Hrappstede, but for all that he was always at Gritwater, and he was thought to spoil everything there. Thrain was good to him.
Once on a time it happened that Kettle of the Mark was at Bergthorsknoll; then Njal’s sons told him of their wrongs and hardships, and said they had much to lay at Thrain Sigfus son’s door, whenever they chose to speak about it.
NjaI said it would be best that Kettle should talk with his brother Thrain about it, and he gave his word to do so.
So they gave Kettle breathing-time to talk to Thrain.
A little after they spoke of the matter again to Kettle, but he said that be would repeat few of the words that had passed between them, “For it was pretty plain that Thrain thought I set too great store on being your brother-in-law.”
Then they dropped talking about it, and thought they saw that things looked ugly, and so they asked their father for his counsel as to what was to be done, but they told him they would not let things rest as they then stood.
“Such things,” said Njal, “are not so strange. It will be thought that they are slain without a cause, if they are slain now, and my counsel is, that as many men as may be should be brought to talk with them about these things, and thus as many as we can find may be ear-witnesses if they answer ill as to these things. Then Kari shall talk about them too, for he is just the man with the right turn of mind for this; then the dislike between you will grow and grow, for they will heap bad words on bad words when men bring the matter forward, for they are foolish men. It may also well be that it may be said that my sons are slow to take up a quarrel, but ye shall bear that for the sake of gaining time, for there are two sides to everything that is done, and ye can always pick a quarrel; but still ye shall let so much of your purpose out, as to say that if any wrong be put upon you that ye do mean something. But if ye had taken counsel from me at first, then these things should never have been spoken about at all, and then ye would have gotten no disgrace from them; but now ye have the greatest risk of it, and so it will go on ever growing and growing with your disgrace, that ye will never get rid of it until ye bring yourselves into a strait, and have to fight your way out with weapons; but in that there is a long and weary night in which ye will have to grope your way.”
After that they ceased speaking about it; but the matter became the daily talk of many men.
One day it happened that those brothers spoke to Kari and bade him go to Gritwater. Kari said he thought he might go elsewhither on a better journey, but still he would go if that were Njal’s counsel. So after that Kari fares to meet Thrain, and then they talk over the matter, and they did not each look at it in the same way.
Kari comes home, and Njal’s sons ask how things had gone between Thrain and him. Kari said he would rather not repeat the words that had passed, “But,” he went on, “it is to be looked for that the like words will be spoken when ye yourselves can hear them.”
Thrain had fifteen house-carles trained to arms in his house, and eight of them rode with him whithersoever he went. Thrain was very fond of show and dress, and always rode in a blue cloak, and had on a gilded helm, and the spear — the earl’s gift — in his band, and a fair shield, and a sword at his belt. Along with him always went Gunnar Lambi’s son, and Lambi Sigurd’s son, and Grani Gunnar of Lithend’s son. But nearest of all to him went Killing-Hrapp. Lodinn was the name of his serving-man, he too went with Thrain when he journeyed; Tjorvi was the name of Lodinn’s brother, and he too was one of Thrain’s band. The worst of all, in their words against Njal’s sons, were Hrapp and Grani; and it was mostly their doing that no atonement was offered to them.
Njal’s sons often spoke to Kari that he should ride with them; and it came to that at last, for he said it would be well that they heard Thrain’s answer.
Then they busked them, four of Njal’s sons, and Kari the fifth, and so they fare to Gritwater.
There was a wide porch in the homestead there, so that many men might stand in it side by side. There was a woman out of doors, and she saw their coming, and told Thrain of it; he bade them to
go out into the porch, and take their arms, and they did so.
Thrain stood in mid-door, but Killing-Hrapp and Grani Gunnar’s son stood on either hand of him; then next stood Gunnar Lambi’s son, then Lodinn and Tjorvi, then Lambi Sigurd’s son; then each
of the others took his place right and left; for the house-carles were all at home.
Skarphedinn and his men walk up from below, and he went first, then Kari, then Hauskuld, then Grim, then Helgi. But when they had come up to the door, then not a word of welcome passed the lips of those who stood before them.
“May we all be welcome here?” said Skarphedinn.
Hallgerda stood in the porch, and had been talking low to Hrapp, then she spoke out loud: “None of those who are here will say that ye are welcome.”
Then Skarphedinn sang a song:
“Prop of sea-waves’ fire, thy fretting
Cannot cast a weight on us,
Warriors wight; yes, wolf and eagle
Willingly I feed to-day;
Carline thrust into the ingle,
Or a tramping whore, art thou;
Lord of skates that skim the sea-belt,
Odin’s mocking cup I mix”
“Thy words,” said Skarphedinn, “will not be worth much, for thou art either a hag, only fit to sit in the ingle, or a harlot.”
“These words of thine thou shalt pay for,” she says, “ere thou farest home.”
“Thee am I come to see, Thrain,” said Helgi, “and to know if thou wilt make me any amends for those wrongs and hardships which befell me for thy sake in Norway.”
“I never knew,” said Thrain, “that ye two brothers were wont to measure your manhood by money; or, how long shall such a claim for amends stand over?”
“Many will say,” says Helgi, “that thou oughtest to offer us atonement, since thy life was at stake.”
Then Hrapp said, “‘Twas just luck that swayed the balance, when he got stripes who ought to bear them; and she dragged you under disgrace and hardships, but us away from them.”
“Little good luck was there in that,” says Helgi, “to break faith with the earl, and to take to thee instead.”
“Thinkest thou not that thou hast some amends to seek from me,” says Hrapp. “I will atone thee in a way that, methinks, were fitting.”
“The only dealings we shall have,” says Helgi, “will be those which will not stand thee in good stead.”
“Don’t bandy words with Hrapp,” said Skarphedinn, “but give him a red skin for a grey.”
“Hold thy tongue, Skarphedinn,” said Hrapp, “or I will not spare to bring my axe on thy head.”
“‘Twill be proved soon enough, I dare say,” says Skarphedinn, “which of us is to scatter gravel over the other’s head.”
“Away with you home, ye `Dungbeardlings!'” says Hallgerda, “and so we will call you always from this day forth; but your father we will call `the Beardless Carle.'”
They did not fare home before all who were there had made themselves guilty of uttering those words, save Thrain; he forbade men to utter them.
Then Njal’s sons went away, and fared till they came home, then they told their father.
“Did ye call any men to witness of those words?” says Njal.
“We called none,” says Skarphedinn; “we do not mean to follow that suit up except on the battle-field.”
“No one will now think,” says Bergthora, “that ye have the heart to lift your weapons.”
“Spare thy tongue, mistress!” says Kari, “in egging on thy sons, for they will be quite eager enough.”
After that they all talk long in secret, Njal and his sons, and Kari Solmund’s son, their brother-in-law.
THRAIN SIGFUS’ SON’S SLAYING
Now there was great talk about this quarrel of theirs, and all seemed to know that it would not settle down peacefully.
Runolf, the son of Wolf Aurpriest, east in the Dale, was a great friend of Thrain’s, and had asked Thrain to come and see him, and it was settled that he should come east when about three weeks or
a month were wanting to winter.
Thrain bade Hrapp, and Grani, and Gunnar Lambi’s son, and Lambi Sigurd’s son, and Lodinn, and Tjorvi, eight of them in all, to go on this journey with him. Hallgerda and Thorgerda were to go too. At the same time Thrain gave it out that he meant to stay in the Mark with his brother Kettle, and said how many nights he meant to be away from home.
They all of them had full arms. So they rode east across Markfleet, and found there some gangrel women, and they begged them to put them across the Fleet west on their horses, and they did so.
Then they rode into the Dale, and had a hearty welcome; there Kettle of the Mark met them, and there they sate two nights.
Both Runolf and Kettle besought Thrain that he would make up his quarrel with Njal’s sons; but he said he would never pay any money, and answered crossly, for he said he thought himself quite a match for Njal’s sons wherever they met.
“So it may be,” says Runolf; “but so far as I can see, no man has been their match since Gunnar of Lithend died and it is likelier that ye will both drag one another down to death.”
Thrain said that was not to be dreaded.
Then Thrain fared up into the Mark, and was there two nights more; after that he rode down into the Dale, and was sent away from both houses with fitting gifts.
Now the Markfleet was then flowing between sheets of ice on both sides, and there were tongues of ice bridging it across every here and there.
Thrain said that he meant to ride home that evening, but Runolf said that he ought not to ride home; he said, too, that it would be more wary not to fare back as he had said he would before he left home.
“That is fear, and I will none of it,” answers Thrain.
Now those gangrel women whom they had put across the Fleet came to Bergthorsknoll, and Bergthora asked whence they came, but they answered, “Away east under Eyjafell.”
“Then, who put you across Markfleet?” said Bergthora.
“Those,” said they, “who were the most boastful and bravest clad of men.”
“Who?” asked Bergthora.
“Thrain Sigfus’ son,” said they, “and his company, but we thought it best to tell thee that they were so full-tonged towards this house, against thy husband and his sons.”
“Listeners do not often hear good of themselves,” says Bergthora. After that they went their way, and Bergthora gave them gifts on their going, and asked them when Thrain might be coming home.
They said that he would be from home four or five nights.
After that Bergthora told her sons and her son-in-law Kari, and they talked long and low about the matter.
But that same morning when Thrain and his men rode from the east, Njal woke up early and heard how Skarphedinn’s axe came against the panel.
Then Njal rises up, and goes out, and sees that his sons are all there with their weapons, and Kari, his son-in-law too. Skarphedinn was foremost. He was in a blue cape, and had a targe, and his axe aloft on his shoulder. Next to him went Helgi; he was in a red kirtle, had a helm on his head, and a red shield, on which a hart was marked. Next to him went Kari; he had on a silken jerkin, a gilded helm and shield, and on it was drawn a lion. They were all in bright holiday clothes.
Njal called out to Skarphedinn, “Whither art thou going, kinsman?”
“On a sheep hunt,” he said.
“So it was once before,” said Njal, “but then ye hunted men.”
Skarphedinn laughed at that, and said, “Hear ye what the old man says? He is not without his doubts.”
“When was it that thou spokest thus before,” asks Kari.
“When I slew Sigmund the White,” says Skarphedinn, “Gunnar of Lithend’s kinsman.”
“For what?” asks Kari.
“He had slain Thord Freedmanson, my foster-father.”
Njal went home, but they fared up into the Redslips, and bided there; thence they could see the others as soon as ever they rode from the east out of the Dale.
There was sunshine that day and bright weather.
Now Thrain and his men ride down out of the Dale along the river bank.
Lambi Sigurd’s son said, “Shields gleam away yonder in the Redslips when the sun shines on them, and there must be some men lying in wait there.”
“Then,” says Thrain, “we will turn our way lower down the Fleet, and then they will come to meet us if they have any business with us.”
So they turn down the Fleet. “Now they have caught sight of us,” said Skarphedinn, “for lo! they turn their path elsewhither, and now we have no other choice than to run down and meet them.”
“Many men,” said Kari, “would rather not lie in wait if the balance of force were not more on their side than it is on ours; they are eight, but we are five.”
Now they turn down along the Fleet, and see a tongue of ice bridging the stream lower down and mean to cross there.
Thrain and his men take their stand upon the ice away from the tongue, and Thrain said, “What can these men want? They are five, and we are eight.”
“I guess,” said Lambi Sigurd’s son, “that they would still run the risk though more men stood against them.”
Thrain throws off his cloak, and takes off his helm.
Now it happened to Skarphedinn, as they ran down along the Fleet, that his shoe-string snapped asunder, and he stayed behind.
“Why so slow, Skarphedinn?” quoth Grim.
“I am tying my shoe,” he says.
“Let us get on ahead,” says Kari; “methinks he will not be slower than we.”
So they turn off to the tongue, and run as fast as they can. Skarphedinn sprang up as soon as he was ready, and had lifted his axe, “the ogress of war,” aloft, and runs right down to the Fleet. But the Fleet was so deep that there was no fording it for a long way up or down.
A great sheet of ice had been thrown up by the flood on the other side of the Fleet as smooth and slippery as glass, and there Thrain and his men stood in the midst of the sheet.
Skarphedinn takes a spring into the air, and leaps over the stream between the icebanks, and does not check his course, but rushes still onwards with a slide. The sheet of ice was very slippery, and so he went as fast as a bird flies. Thrain was just about to put his helm on his head; and now Skarphedinn bore down on them, and hews at Thrain with his axe, “the ogress of war,” and smote him on the head, and clove him down to the teeth, so that his jaw-teeth fell out on the ice. This feat was done with such a quick sleight that no one could get a blow at him; he glided away from them at once at full speed. Tjorvi, indeed, threw his shield before him on the ice, but he leapt over it, and still kept his feet, and slid quite to the end of the sheet of ice.
There Kari and his brothers came to meet him.
“This was done like a man,” says Kari.
“Your share is still left,” says Skarphedinn, and sang a song:
“To the strife of swords not slower,
After all, I came than you,
For with ready stroke the sturdy
Squanderer of wealth I felled;
But since Grim’s and Helgi’s sea-stag
Norway’s Earl erst took and stripped,
Now ’tis time for sea-fire bearers
Such dishonour to avenge.”
And this other song he sang:
“Swiftly down I dashed my weapon,
Gashing giant, byrnie-breacher,
She, the noisy ogre’s namesake,
Soon with flesh the ravens glutted;
Now your words to Hrapp remember,
On broad ice now rouse the storm,
With dull crash war’s eager ogress
Battle’s earliest note hath sung.”
“That befits us well, and we will do it well,” says Helgi.
Then they turn up towards them. Both Grim and Helgi see where Hrapp is, and they turned on him at once. Hrapp hews at Grim there and then with his axe; Helgi sees this and cuts at Hrapp’s arm, and cut it off, and down fell the axe.
“In this,” says Hrapp, “thou hast done a most needful work, for this hand hath wrought harm and death to many a man.”
“And so here an end shall be put to it,” says Grim; and with that he ran him through with a spear, and then Hrapp fell down dead.
Tjorvi turns against Kari and hurls a spear at him. Kari leapt up in the air, and the spear flew below his feet. Then Kari rushes at him, and hews at him on the breast with his sword, and the blow passed at once into his chest, and he got his death there and then.
Then Skarphedinn seizes both Gunnar Lambi’s son, and Grani Gunnar’s son, and said, “Here have I caught two whelps! but what shall we do with them?
“It is in thy power,” says Helgi, “to slay both or either of them, if you wish them dead.”
“I cannot find it in my heart to do both — help Hogni and slay his brother,” says Skarphedinn.
“Then the day will once come,” says Helgi, “when thou wilt wish that thou hadst slain him, for never will he be true to thee, nor will any one of the others who are now here.”
“I shall not fear them,” answers Skarphedinn.
After that they gave peace to Grani Gunnar’s son, and Gunnar Lambi’s son, and Lambi Sigurd’s son, and Lodinn.
After that they went down to the Fleet where Skarphedinn had leapt over it, and Kari and the others measured the length of the leap with their spear-shafts, and it was twelve ells.
Then they turned homewards, and Njal asked what tidings. They told him all just as it had happened, and Njal said, “These are great tidings, and it is more likely that hence will come the
death of one of my sons, if not more evil.”
Gunnar Lambi’s son bore the body of Thrain with him to Gritwater, and he was laid in a cairn there.
KETTLE TAKES HAUSKULD AS HIS FOSTER-SON
Kettle of the Mark had to wife Thorgerda Njal’s daughter, but he was Thrain’s brother, and he thought he was come into a strait, so he rode to Njal’s house, and asked whether he were willing to atone in any way for Thrain’s slaying?
“I will atone for it handsomely,” answered Njal; “and my wish is that thou shouldst look after the matter with thy brothers who have to take the price of the atonement, that they may be ready to join in it.”
Kettle said he would do so with all his heart, and Kettle rode home first; a little after, he summoned all his brothers to Lithend, and then he had a talk with them; and Hogni was on his side all through the talk; and so it came about that men were chosen to utter the award; and a meeting was agreed on, and the fair price of a man was awarded for Thrain’s slaying, and they all had a share in the blood-money who had a lawful right to it. After that pledges of peace and good faith were agreed to, and they were settled in the most sure and binding way.
Njal paid down all the money out of hand well and bravely; and so things were quiet for a while.
One day Njal rode up into the Mark, and he and Kettle talked together the whole day; Njal rode home at even, and no man knew of what they had taken counsel.
A little after Kettle fares to Gritwater, and he said to Thorgerda, “Long have I loved my brother Thrain much, and now I will shew it, for I will ask Hauskuld Thrain’s son to be my foster-child.”
“Thou shalt have thy choice of this,” she says; “and thou shalt give this lad all the help in thy power when he is grown up, and avenge him if he is slain with weapons, and bestow money on him for his wife’s dower; and besides, thou shalt swear to do all this.”
Now Hauskuld fares home with Kettle, and is with him some time.
NJAL TAKES HAUSKULD TO FOSTER
Once on a time Njal rides up into the Mark, and he had a hearty welcome. He was there that night, and in the evening Njal called out to the lad Hauskuld, and he went up to him at once.
Njal had a ring of gold on his hand, and showed it to the lad. He took hold of the gold, and looked at it, and put it on his finger.
“Wilt thou take the gold as a gift?” said Njal.
“That I will,” said the lad.
“Knowest thou,” says Njal, “what brought thy father to his death?”
“I know,” answers the lad, “that Skarphedinn slew him; but we need not keep that in mind, when an atonement has been made for it, and a full price paid for him.”
“Better answered than asked,” said Njal; “and thou wilt live to be a good man and true,” he adds.
“Methinks thy forecasting,” says Hauskuld, “is worth having, for I know that thou art foresighted and unlying.”
“Now will I offer to foster thee,” said Njal, “if thou wilt take the offer.”
He said he would be willing to take both that honour and any other good offer which he might make. So the end of the matter was, that Hauskuld fared home with Njal as his foster-son.
He suffered no harm to come nigh the lad, and loved him much. Njal’s sons took him about with them, and did him honour in every way. And so things go on till Hauskuld is full grown. He was both tall and strong; the fairest of men to look on, and well haired; blithe of speech, bountiful, well behaved; as well trained to arms as the best; fairspoken to all men, and much beloved.
Njal’s sons and Hauskuld were never apart, either in word or deed.
OF FLOSI THORD’S SON
There was a man named Flosi, he was the son of Thord Freyspriest. Flosi had to wife Steinvora, daughter of Hall of the Side. She was base born, and her mother’s name was Solvora, daughter of Herjolf the White. Flosi dwelt at Swinefell, and was a mighty chief. He was tall of stature, and strong, withal, the most forward and boldest of men. His brother’s name was Starkad; he was not by the same mother as Flosi.
The other brothers of Flosi were Thorgeir and Stein, Kolbein and Egil. Hildigunna was the name of the daughter of Starkad Flosi’s brother. She was a proud, high-spirited maiden, and one of the fairest of women. She was so skilful with her hands, that few women were equally skilful. She was the grimmest and hardest-hearted of all women; but still a woman of open hand and heart when any fitting call was made upon her.
OF HALL OF THE SIDE
Hall was the name of a man who was called Hall of the Side. He was the son of Thorstein Baudvar’s son. Hall had to wife Joreida, daughter of Thidrandi the Wise. Thorstein was the name of Hall’s brother, and he was nick-named Broad-paunch. His son was Kol, whom Kari slays in Wales. The sons of Hall of the Side were Thorstein and Egil, Thorwald and Ljot, and Thidrandi, whom, it is said, the goddesses slew.
There was a man named Thorir, whose surname was Holt-Thorir; his sons were these: — Thorgeir Craggeir, and Thorleif Crow, from whom the Wood-dwellers are come, and Thorgrim the Big.
OF THE CHANGE OF FAITH
There had been a change of rulers in Norway, Earl Hacon was dead and gone, but in his stead was come Olaf Tryggvi’s son. That was the end of Earl Hacon, that Kark the thrall cut his throat at Rimul in Gaulardale.
Along with that was heard that there had been a change of faith in Norway; they had cast off the old faith, but King Olaf had christened the western lands, Shetland, and the Orkneys, and the Faroe Isles.
Then many men spoke so that Njal heard it, that it was a strange and wicked thing to throw off the old faith.
Then Njal spoke and said, “It seems to me as though this new faith must be much better, and he will be happy who follows this rather than the other; and if those men come out hither who preach this faith, then I will back them well.”
He went often alone away from other men and muttered to himself.
That same harvest a ship came out into the firths east to Berufirth, at a spot called Gautawick. The captain’s name was Thangbrand. He was a son of Willibald, a count of Saxony. Thangbrand was sent out hither by King Olaf Tryggvi’s son, to preach the faith. Along with him came that man of Iceland whose name was Gudleif. Gudleif was a great man-slayer, and one of the strongest of men, and hardy and forward in everything.
Two brothers dwelt at Beruness; the name of the one was Thorleif, but the other was Kettle. They were sons of Holmstein, the son of Auzur of Broaddale. These brothers held a meeting and forbade men to have any dealings with them. This Hall of the Side heard. He dwelt at Thvattwater in Alftafirth; he rode to the ship with twenty-nine men, and he fares at once to find Thangbrand, and spoke to him and asked him, “Trade is rather dull, is it not?”
He answered that so it was.
“Now will I say my errand,” says Hall; “it is, that I wish to ask you all to my house, and run the risk of my being able to get rid of your wares for you.”
Thangbrand thanked him, and fared to Thvattwater that harvest.
It so happened one morning that Thangbrand was out early and made them pitch a tent on land, and sang mass in it, and took much pains with it, for it was a great high day.
Hall spoke to Thangbrand and asked, “In memory of whom keepest thou this day?”
“In memory of Michael the archangel,” says Thangbrand.
“What follows that angel?” asks Hall.
“Much good,” says Thangbrand. “He will weigh all the good that thou doest, and he is so merciful, that whenever any one pleases him, he makes his good deeds weigh more.”
“I would like to have him for my friend,” says Hall.
“That thou mayest well have,” says Thangbrand, “only give thyself over to him by God’s help this very day.”
“I only make this condition,” says Hall, “that thou givest thy word for him that he will then become my guardian angel.”
“That I will promise,” says Thangbrand.
Then Hall was baptized, and all his household.
OF THANGBRAND’S JOURNEYS
The spring after Thangbrand set out to preach Christianity, and Hall went with him. But when they came west across Lonsheath to Staffell, there they found a man dwelling named Thorkell. He spoke most against the faith, and challenged Thangbrand to single combat. Then Thangbrand bore a rood-cross before his shield, and the end of their combat was that Thangbrand won the day and slew Thorkell.
Thence they fared to Hornfirth and turned in as guests at Borgarhaven, west of Heinabergs sand. There Hilldir the Old dwelt, and then Hilldir and all his household took upon them the new faith.
Thence they fared to Fellcombe, and went in as guests to Calffell. There dwelt Kol Thorstein’s son, Hall’s kinsman, and he took upon him the faith and all his house.
Thence they fared to Swinefell, and Flosi only took the sign of the cross, but gave his word to back them at the Thing.
Thence they fared west to Woodcombe, and went in as guests at Kirkby. There dwelt Surt Asbjorn’s son, the son of Thorstein, the son of Kettle the Foolish. These had all of them been Christians from father to son.
After that they fared out of Woodcombe on to Headbrink. By that time the story of their journey was spread far and wide. There was a man named Sorcerer-Hedinn who dwelt in Carlinedale. There heathen men made a bargain with him that he should put Thangbrand to death with all his company. He fared upon Arnstacksheath, and there made a great sacrifice when Thangbrand was riding from the east. Then the earth burst asunder under his horse, but he sprang off his horse and saved himself on the brink of the gulf, but the earth swallowed up the horse and all his harness, and they never saw him more.
Then Thangbrand praised God.
OF THANGBRAND AND GUDLEIF
Gudleif now searches for Sorcerer-Hedinn and finds him on the heath, and chases him down into Carlinedale, and got within spearshot of him, and shoots a spear at him and through him.
Thence they fared to Dyrholms and held a meeting there, and preached the faith there, and there Ingialld, the son of Thorsteinn Highbankawk, became a Christian.
Thence they fared to the Fleetlithe and preached the faith there. There Weatherlid the Skald, and Ari his son, spoke most against the faith, and for that they slew Weatherlid, and then this song was sung about it —
“He who proved his blade on bucklers,
South went through the land to whet
Brand that oft hath felled his foeman,
‘Gainst the forge which foams with song;
Mighty wielder of war’s sickle
Made his sword’s avenging edge
Hard on hero’s helm-prop rattle,
Skull of Weatherlid the Skald.”
Thence Thangbrand fared to Bergthorsknoll, and Njal took the faith and all his house, but Mord and Valgard went much against it, and thence they fared out across the rivers; so they went on into Hawkdale and there they baptized Hall, and he was then three winters old.
Thence Thangbrand fared to Grimsness, there Thorwald the Scurvy gathered a band against him, and sent word to Wolf Uggi’s son that he must fare against Thangbrand and slay him, and made this song on him —
“To the wolf in Woden’s harness,
Uggi’s worthy warlike son,
I, steel’s swinger dearly loving,
This my dimple bidding send;
That the wolf of Gods he chaseth —
Man who snaps at chink of gold —
Wolf who base our Gods blasphemeth,
I the other wolf will crush.”
Wolf sang another song in return:
“Swarthy skarf from mouth that skimmeth
Of the man who speaks in song
Never will I catch, though surely
Wealthy warrior it hath sent;
Tender of the sea-horse snorting,
E’en though ill deeds are on foot,
Still to risk mine eyes are open;
Harmful ’tis to snap at flies.”
“And,” says he, “I don’t mean to be made a catspaw by him, but let him take heed lest his tongue twists a noose for his own neck.”
And after that the messenger fared back to Thorwald the Scurvy and told him Wolf’s words. Thorwald had many men about him, and gave it out that he would lie in wait for them on Bluewood-heath.
Now those two, Thangbrand and Gudleif, ride out of Hawkdale, and there they came upon a man who rode to meet them. That man asked for Gudleif, and when he found him he said, “Thou shalt gain by being the brother of Thorgil of Reykiahole, for I will let thee know that they have set many ambushes, and this too, that Thorwald the Scurvy is now with his band at Hestbeck on Grimsness.”
“We shall not the less for all that ride to meet him,” says Gudleif, and then they turned down to Hestbeck. Thorwald was then come across the brook, and Gudleif said to Thangbrand, “Here is now Thorwald; let us rush on him now.”
Thangbrand shot a spear through Thorwald, but Gudleif smote him on the shoulder and hewed his arm off, and that was his death.
After that they ride up to the Thing, and it was a near thing that the kinsmen of Thorwald had fallen on Thangbrand, but Njal and the eastfirthers stood by Thangbrand.
Then Hjallti Skeggi’s son sang this rhyme at the Hill of Laws:
“Ever will I Gods blaspheme
Freyja methinks a bitch does seem,
Freyja a bitch? Aye! let them be
Both dogs together Odin and she.”
Hjallti fared abroad that summer and Gizur the White with him, but Thangbrand’s ship was wrecked away east at Bulandsness, and the ship’s name was Bison.
Thangbrand and his messmate fared right through the west country, and Steinvora, the mother of Ref the Skald, came against him; she preached the heathen faith to Thangbrand and made him a long speech. Thangbrand held his peace while she spoke, but made a long speech after her, and turned all that she had said the wrong way against her.
“Hast thou heard,” she said, “how Thor challenged Christ to single combat, and how he did not dare to fight with Thor?”
“I have heard tell,” says Thangbrand, “that Thor was naught but dust and ashes, if God had not willed that he should live.”
“Knowest thou,” she says, “who it was that shattered thy ship?”
“What hast thou to say about that?” he asks.
“That I will tell thee,” she says:
“He that giant’s offspring slayeth
Broke the mew-field’s bison stout,
Thus the Gods, bell’s warder grieving,
Crushed the falcon of the strand;
To the courser of the causeway
Little good was Christ I ween,
When Thor shattered ships to pieces
Gylfi’s hart no God could help.”
And again she sung another song:
“Thangbrand’s vessel from her moorings,
Sea-king’s steed, Thor wrathful tore,
Shook and shattered all her timbers,
Hurled her broadside on the beach;
Ne’er again shall Viking’s snow-shoe,
On the briny billows glide,
For a storm by Thor awakened,
Dashed the bark to splinters small.”
After that Thangbrand and Steinvora parted, and they fared west to Skaldastrand.
OF GEST ODDLEIF’S SON
Gest Oddleit’s son dwelt at Hagi on Skaldastrand. He was one of the wisest of men, so that he foresaw the fates and fortunes of men. He made a feast for Thangbrand and his men. They fared to Hagi with sixty men. Then it was said that there were two hundred heathen men to meet them, and that a Baresark was looked for to come thither, whose name was Otrygg, and all were afraid of him. Of him such great things as these were said, that he feared neither fire nor sword, and the heathen men were sore afraid at his coming. Then Thangbrand asked if men were willing to take the faith, but all the heathen met spoke against it.
“Well,” says Thangbrand, “I will give you the means whereby ye shall prove whether my faith is better. We will hallow two fires. The heathen men shall hallow one and I the other, but a third shall be unhallowed; and if the Baresark is afraid of the one that I hallow, but treads both the others, then ye shall take the faith.”
“That is well spoken,” says Gest, “and I will agree to this for myself and my household.”
And when Gest had so spoken, then many more agreed to it.
Then it was said that the Baresark was coming up to the homestead, and then the fires were made and burnt strong. Then men took their arms and sprang up on the benches, and so waited.
The Baresark rushed in with his weapons. He comes into the room, and treads at once the fire which the heathen men had hallowed, and so comes to the fire that Thangbrand had hallowed, and dares not to tread it, but said that he was on fire all over. He hews with his sword at the bench, but strikes a crossbeam as he brandished the weapon aloft. Thangbrand smote the arm of the Baresark with his crucifix, and so mighty a token followed that the sword fell from the Baresark’s hand.
Then Thangbrand thrusts a sword into his breast, and Gudleif smote him on the arm and hewed it off. Then many went up and slew the Baresark.
After that Thangbrand asked if they would take the faith now?
Gest said he had only spoken what he meant to keep to.
Then Thangbrand baptized Gest and all his house and many others. Then Thangbrand took counsel with Gest whether he should go any further west among the firths, but Gest set his face against that, and said they were a hard race of men there, and ill to deal with, “but if it be foredoomed that this faith shall make its way, then it will be taken as law at the Althing, and then all the chiefs out of the districts will be there.”
“I did all that I could at the Thing,” says Thangbrand, “and it was very uphill work.”
“Still thou hast done most of the work,” says Gest, “though it may be fated that others shall make Christianity law; but it is here as the saying runs, `No tree falls at the first stroke.'”
After that Gest gave Thangbrand good gifts, and he fared back south. Thangbrand fared to the Southlander’s Quarter, and so to the Eastfirths. He turned in as a guest at Bergthorsknoll, and Njal gave him good gifts. Thence he rode east to Alftafirth to meet Hall of the Side. He caused his ship to be mended, and heathen men called it “Iron-basket.” On board that ship Thangbrand fared abroad, and Gudleif with him.
OF GIZUR THE WHITE AND HJALLTI
That same summer Hjallti Skeggi’s son was outlawed at the Thing for blasphemy against the Gods.
Thangbrand told King Olaf of all the mischief that the Icelanders had done to him, and said that they were such sorcerers there that the earth burst asunder under his horse and swallowed up the horse.
Then King Olaf was so wroth that he made them seize all the men from Iceland and set them in dungeons, and meant to slay them.
Then they, Gizur the White and Hjallti, came up and offered to lay themselves in pledge for those men, and fare out to Iceland and preach the faith. The king took this well, and they got them all set free again.
Then Gizur and Hjallti busked their ship for Iceland, and were soon “boun.” They made the land at Eyrar when ten weeks of summer had passed; they got them horses at once, but left other men to strip their ship. Then they ride with thirty men to the Thing, and sent word to the Christian men that they must be ready to stand by them.
Hjallti stayed behind at Reydarmull, for he had heard that he had been made an outlaw for blasphemy, but when they came to the “Boiling Kettle” down below the brink of the Rift, there came Hjallti after them, and said he would not let the heathen men see that he was afraid of them.
Then many Christian men rode to meet them, and they ride in battle array to the Thing. The heathen men had drawn up their men in array to meet them, and it was a near thing that the whole body of the Thing had come to blows, but still it did not go so far.
OF THORGEIR OF LIGHTWATER
There was a man named Thorgeir who dwelt at Lightwater; he was the son of Tjorfi, the son of Thorkel the Long, the son of Kettle Longneck. His mother’s name was Thoruna, and she was the daughter of Thorstein, the son of Sigmund, the son of Skald of the Nip. Gudrida was the name of his wife; she was a daughter of Thorkel the Black of Hleidrargarth. His brother was Worm Wallet-back, the father of Hlenni the Old of Saurby.
The Christian men set up their booths, and Gizur the White and Hjallti were in the booths of the men from Mossfell. The day after both sides went to the Hill of Laws, and each, the Christian men as well as the heathen, took witness, and declared themselves out of the other’s laws, and then there was such an uproar on the Hill of Laws that no man could hear the other’s voice.
After that men went away, and all thought things looked like the greatest entanglement. The Christian men chose as their Speaker Hall of the Side, but Hall went to Thorgeir, the priest of Lightwater, who was the old Speaker of the law, and gave him three marks of silver to utter what the law should be, but still that was most hazardous counsel, since he was an heathen.
Thorgeir lay all that day on the ground, and spread a cloak over his head, so that no man spoke with him; but the day after men went to the Hill of Laws, and then Thorgeir bade them be silent and listen, and spoke thus: “It seems to me as though our matters were come to a dead lock, if we are not all to have one and the same law; for if there be a sundering of the laws, then there will be a sundering of the peace, and we shall never be able to live in the land. Now, I will ask both Christian men and heathen whether they will hold to those laws which I utter?”
They all said they would.
He said he wished to take an oath of them, and pledges that they would hold to them, and they all said “yea” to that, and so he took pledges from them.
“This is the beginning of our laws,” he said, “that all men shall be Christian here in the land, and believe in one God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, but leave off all idol-worship, not expose children to perish, and not eat horseflesh. It shall be outlawry if such things are proved openly against any man; but if these things are done by stealth, then it shall be blameless.”
But all this heathendom was all done away with within a few years’ space, so that those things were not allowed to be done either by stealth or openly.
Thorgeir then uttered the law as to keeping the Lord’s day and fast days, Yuletide and Easter, and all the greatest highdays and holidays.
The heathen men thought they had been greatly cheated; but still the true faith was brought into the law, and so all men became Christian here in the land.
After that men fare home from the Thing.
THE WEDDING OF HAUSKULD, THE PRIEST OF WHITENESS
Now we must take up the story, and say that Njal spoke thus to Hauskuld, his foster-son, and said, “I would seek thee a match.”
Hauskuld bade him settle the matter as he pleased, and asked whether he was most likely to turn his eyes.
“There is a woman called Hildigunna,” answers Njal, “and she is the daughter of Starkad, the son of Thord Freyspriest. She is the best match I know of.”
“See thou to it, foster-father,” said Hauskuld; “that shall be my choice which thou choosest.”
“Then we will look thitherward,” says Njal.
A little while after, Njal called on men to go along with him. Then the sons of Sigfus, and Njal’s sons, and Kari Solmund’s son, all of them fared with him and they rode east to Swinefell.
There they got a hearty welcome.
The day after, Njal and Flosi went to talk alone, and the speech of Njal ended thus, that he said, “This is my errand here, that we have set out on a wooing-journey, to ask for thy kinswoman Hildigunna.”
“At whose hand?” says Flosi.
“At the hand of Hauskuld, my foster-son,” says Njal.
“Such things are well meant,” says Flosi, “but still ye run each of you great risk, the one from the other; but what hast thou to say of Hauskuld?”
“Good I am able to say of him,” says Njal; “and besides, I will lay down as much money as will seem fitting to thy niece and thyself, if thou wilt think of making this match.
“We will call her hither,” says Flosi, “and know how she looks on the man.”
Then Hildigunna was called, and she came thither.
Flosi told her of the wooing, but she said she was a proudhearted woman.
“And I know not how things will turn out between me and men of like spirit; but this, too, is not the least of my dislike, that this man has no priesthood or leadership over men, but thou hast always said that thou wouldest not wed me to a man who had not the priesthood.”
“This is quite enough,” says Flosi, “if thou wilt not be wedded to Hauskuld, to make me take no more pains about the match.”
“Nay! ” she says, “I do not say that I will not be wedded to Hauskuld if they can get him a priesthood or a leadership over men; but otherwise I will have nothing to say to the match.”
“Then,” said Njal, “I will beg thee to let this match stand over for three winters, that I may see what I can do.”
Flosi said that so it should be.
“I will only bargain for this one thing,” says Hildigunna, “if this match comes to pass, that we shall stay here away east.”
Njal said he would rather leave that to Hauskuld, but Hauskuld said that he put faith in many men, but in none so much as his foster-father.
Now they ride from the east.
Njal sought to get a priesthood and leadership for Hauskuld, but no one was willing to sell his priesthood, and now the summer passes away till the Althing.
There were great quarrels at the Thing that summer, and many a man then did as was their wont, in faring to see Njal; but he gave such counsel in men’s lawsuits as was not thought at all likely, so that both the pleadings and the defence came to naught, and out of that great strife arose, when the lawsuits could not be brought to an end, and men rode home from the Thing unatoned.
Now things go on till another Thing comes. Njal rode to the Thing, and at first all is quiet until Njal says that it is high time for men to give notice of their suits.
Then many said that they thought that came to little, when no man could get his suit settled, even though the witnesses were summoned to the Althing, “and so,” say they, “we would rather seek our rights with point and edge.”
“So it must not be,” says Njal, “for it will never do to have no law in the land. But yet ye have much to say on your side in this matter, and it behoves us who know the law, and who are bound to guide the law, to set men at one again, and to ensue peace. ‘Twere good counsel, then, methinks, that we call together all the chiefs and talk the matter over.”
Then they go to the Court of Laws, and Njal spoke and said, “Thee, Skapti Thorod’s son and you other chiefs, I call on, and say, that methinks our lawsuits have come into a dead lock, if we have to follow up our suits in the Quarter Courts, and they get so entangled that they can neither be pleaded nor ended. Methinks, it were wiser if we had a Fifth Court, and there pleaded those suits which cannot be brought to an end in the Quarter Courts.”
“How,” said Skapti, “wilt thou name a Fifth Court, when the Quarter Court is named for the old priesthoods, three twelves in each quarter?”
“I can see help for that,” says Njal, “by setting up new priesthoods, and filling them with the men who are best fitted in each Quarter, and then let those men who are willing to agree to it, declare themselves ready to join the new priest’s Thing.”
“Well,” says Skapti, “we will take this choice; but what weighty suits shall come before the court?”
“These matters shall come before it,” says Njal, — “all matters of contempt of the Thing, such as if men bear false witness, or utter a false finding; hither, too, shall come all those suits in which the judges are divided in opinion in the Quarter Court; then they shall be summoned to the Fifth Court; so, too, if men offer bribes, or take them, for their help in suits. In this court all the oaths shall be of the strongest kind, and two men shall follow every oath, who shall support on their words of honour what the others swear. So it shall be also, if the pleadings on one side are right in form, and the other wrong, that the judgment shall be given for those that are right in form. Every suit in this court shall be pleaded just as is now done in the Quarter Court, save and except that when four twelves are named in the Fifth Court, then the plaintiff shall name and set aside six men out of the court, and the defendant other six; but if he will not set them aside, then the plaintiff shall name them and set them aside as he has done with his own six; but if the plaintiff does not set them aside, then the suit comes to naught, for three twelves shall utter judgment on all suits. We shall also have this arrangement in the Court of Laws, that those only shall have the right to make or change laws who sit on the middle bench, and to this bench those only shall be chosen who are wisest and best. There, too, shall the Fifth Court sit; but if those who sit in the Court of Laws are not agreed as to what they shall allow or bring in as law, then they shall clear the court for a division, and the majority shall bind the rest; but if any man who has a seat in the Court be outside the Court of Laws and cannot get inside it, or thinks himself overborne in the suit, then he shall forbid them by a protest, so that they can hear it in the Court, and then he has made all their grants and all their decisions void and of none effect, and stopped them by his protest.”
After that, Skapti Thorod’s son brought the Fifth Court into the law, and all that was spoken of before. Then men went to the Hill of Laws, and men set up new priesthoods: In the Northlanders’ Quarter were these new priesthoods. The priesthood of the Melmen in Midfirth, and the Laufesingers’ priesthood in the Eyjafirth.
Then Njal begged for a hearing, and spoke thus: “It is known to many men what passed between my sons and the men of Gritwater when they slew Thrain Sigfus’ son. But for all that we settled the matter; and now I have taken Hauskuld into my house, and planned a marriage for him if he can get a priesthood anywhere; but no man will sell his priesthood, and so I will beg you to give me leave to set up a new priesthood at Whiteness for Hauskuld.”
He got this leave from all, and after that he set up the new priesthood for Hauskuld; and he was afterwards called Hauskuld, the Priest of Whiteness.
After that, men ride home from the Thing, and Njal stayed but a short time at home ere he rides east to Swinefell, and his sons with him, and again stirs in the matter of the marriage with Flosi; but Flosi said he was ready to keep faith with them in everything.
Then Hildigunna was betrothed to Hauskuld, and the day for the wedding feast was fixed, and so the matter ended. They then ride home, but they rode again shortly to the bridal, and Flosi paid down all her goods and money after the wedding, and all went off well.
They fared home to Bergthorsknoll, and were there the next year, and all went well between Hildigunna and Bergthom. But the next spring Njal bought land in Ossaby, and hands it over to Hauskuld, and thither he fares to his own abode. Njal got him all his household, and there was such love between them all, that none of them thought anything that he said or did any worth unless the others had a share in it.
Hauskuld dwelt long at Ossaby, and each backed the other’s honour, and Njal’s sons were always in Hauskuld’s company. Their friendship was so warm, that each house bade the other to a feast
every harvest, and gave each other great gifts; and so it goes on for a long while.
THE SLAYING OF HAUSKULD NJAL’S SON
There was a man named Lyting; he dwelt at Samstede, and he had to wife a woman named Steinvora; she was a daughter of Sigfus, and Thrain’s sister. Lyting was tall of growth and a strong man, wealthy in goods and ill to deal with.
It happened once that Lyting had a feast in his house at Samstede, and he had bidden thither Hauskuld and the sons of Sigfus, and they all came. There, too, was Grani Gunnar’s son, and Gunnar Lambi’s son, and Lambi Sigurd’s son.
Hauskuld Njal’s son and his mother had a farm at Holt, and he was always riding to his farm from Bergthorsknoll, and his path lay by the homestead at Samstede. Hauskuld had a son called Amund; he had been born blind, but for all that he was tall and strong. Lytina had two brothers — the one’s name was Hallstein, and the other’s Hallgrim. They were the most unruly of men, and they were ever with their brother, for other men could not bear their temper.
Lyting was out of doors most of that day, but every now and then he went inside his house. At last he had gone to his seat, when in came a woman who had been out of doors, and she said, “You were too far off to see outside how that proud fellow rode by the farm-yard!”
“What proud fellow was that,” says Lyting “of whom thou speakest?”
“Hauskuld Njal’s son rode here by the yard,” she says.
“He rides often here by the farm-yard,” said Lyting, “and I can’t say that it does not try my temper; and now I will make thee an offer, Hauskuld, to go along with thee if thou wilt avenge thy father and slay Hauskuld Njal’s son.”
“That I will not do,” says Hauskuld, “for then I should repay Njal, my foster-father, evil for good, and mayst thou and thy feasts never thrive henceforth.”
With that he sprang up away from the board, and made them catch his horses, and rode home.
Then Lyting said to Grani Gunnar’s son, “Thou wert by when Thrain was slain, and that will still be in thy mind; and thou, too, Gunnar Lambi’s son, and thou, Lambi Sigurd’s son. Now, my will is that we ride to meet him this evening, and slay him.”
“No,” says Grani, “I will not fall on Njal’s son, and so break the atonement which good men and true have made.”
With like words spoke each man of them, and so, too, spoke all the sons of Sigfus; and they took that counsel to ride away.
Then Lyting said, when they had gone away, “All men know that I have taken no atonement for my brother-in-law Thrain, and I shall never be content that no vengeance — man for man — shall be taken for him.”
After that he called on his two brothers to go with him, and three house-carles as well. They went on the way to meet Hauskuld as he came back, and lay in wait for him north of the farm-yard in a pit; and there they bided till it was about mideven. Then Hauskuld rode up to them. They jump up all of them with their arms, and fall on him. Hauskuld guarded himself well, so that for a long while they could not get the better of him; but the end of it was at last that he wounded Lyting on the arm, and slew two of his serving-men, and then fell himself. They gave Hauskuld sixteen wounds, but they hewed not off the head from his body. They fared away into the wood east of Rangriver, and hid themselves there.
That same evening, Rodny’s shepherd found Hauskuld dead, and went home and told Rodny of her son’s slaying.
“Was he surely dead?” she asks; “was his head off?”
“It was not,” he says.
“I shall know if I see,” she says; “so take thou my horse and driving gear.”
He did so, and got all things ready, and then they went thither where Hauskuld lay.
She looked at the wounds, and said, “‘Tis even as I thought, that he could not be quite dead, and Njal no doubt can cure greater wounds.”
After that they took the body and laid it on the sledge and drove to Bergthorsknoll, and drew it into the sheepcote, and made him sit upright against the wall.
Then they went both of them and knocked at the door, and a house-carle went to the door. She steals in by him at once, and goes till she comes to Njal’s bed.
She asked whether Njal were awake? He said he had slept up to that time, but was then awake.
“But why art thou come hither so early?”
“Rise thou up,” said Rodny, “from thy bed by my rival’s side, and come out, and she too, and thy sons, to see thy son Hauskuld.”
They rose and went out.
“Let us take our weapons,” said Skarphedinn, “and have them with us.”
Njal said naught at that, and they ran in and came out again armed.
She goes first till they come to the sheepcote; she goes in and bade them follow her. Then she lit a torch, and held it up and said, “Here, Njal, is thy son Hauskuld, and he hath gotten many wounds upon him, and now he will need leechcraft.”
“I see death marks on him,” said Njal, “but no signs of life; but why hast thou not closed his eyes and nostrils? see, his nostrils are still open!”
“That duty I meant for Skarphedinn,” she says.
Then Skarphedinn went to close his eyes and nostrils, and said to his father, “Who, sayest thou, hath slain him?”
“Lyting of Samstede and his brothers must have slain him,” says Njal.
Then Rodny said, “Into thy hands, Skarphedinn, I leave it to take vengeance for thy brother, and I ween that thou wilt take it well, though he be not lawfully begotten, and that thou wilt not be slow to take it.”
“Wonderfully do ye men behave,” said Bergthora, “when ye slay men for small cause, but talk and tarry over such as this until no vengeance at all is taken; and now of this will soon come to Hauskuld, the Priest of Whiteness, and he will be offering you atonement, and you will grant him that, but now is the time to set about it, if ye seek for vengeance.”
“Our mother eggs us on now with a just goading,” said Skarphedinn, and sang a song.
“Well we know the warrior’s temper,
One and all, well, father thine,
But atonement to the mother,
Snake-land’s stem and thee were base;
He that hoardeth ocean’s fire
Hearing this will leave his home;
Wound of weapon us hath smitten,
Worse the lot of those that wait!”
After that they all ran out of the sheepcote, but Rodny went indoors with Njal, and was there the rest of the night.
THE SLAYING OF LYTING’S BROTHERS
Now we must speak of Skarphedinn and his brothers, how they bend their course up to Rangriver. Then Skarphedinn said, “Stand we here and listen, and let us go stilly, for I hear the voices of men up along the river’s bank. But will ye, Helgi and Grim, deal with Lyting single-handed, or with both his brothers?”
They said they would sooner deal with Lyting alone.
“Still,” says Skarphedinn, “there is more game in him, and methinks it were ill if he gets away, but I trust myself best for not letting him escape.”
“We will take such steps,” says Helgi, “if we get a chance at him, that he shall not slip through our fingers.”
Then they went thitherward, where they heard the voices of men, and see where Lyting and his brothers are by a stream.
Skarphedinn leaps over the stream at once, and alights on the sandy brink on the other side. There upon it stands Hallgrim and his brother. Skarphedinn smites at Hallgrim’s thigh, so that he cut the leg clean off, but he grasps Hallstein with his left hand. Lyting thrust at Skarphedinn, but Helgi came up then and threw his shield before the spear, and caught the blow on it. Lyting took up a stone and hurled it at Skarphedinn, and he lost his hold on Hallstein. Hallstein sprang up the sandy bank, but could get up it in no other way than by crawling on his hands and knees. Skarphedinn made a side blow at him with his axe, “the ogress of war,” and hews asunder his backbone. Now Lyting turns and flies, but Helgi and Grim both went after him, and each gave him a wound, but still Lyting got across the river away from them, and so to the horses, and gallops till he comes to Ossaby.
Hauskuld was at home, and meets him at once. Lyting told him of these deeds.
“Such things were to be looked for by thee,” says Hauskuld. “Thou hast behaved like a madman, and here the truth of the old saw will be proved; `but a short while is hand fain of blow.’ Methinks what thou hast got to look to now is whether thou wilt be able to save thy life or not.”
“Sure enough,” says Lyting, “I had hard work to get away, but still I wish now that thou wouldest get me atoned with Njal and his sons, so that I might keep my farm.”
“So it shall be,” says Hauskuld.
After that Hauskuld made them saddle his horse, and rode to Bergthorsknoll with five men. Njal’s sons were then come home and had laid them down to sleep.
Hauskuld went at once to see Njal, and they began to talk.
“Hither am I come,” said Hauskuld to Njal, “to beg a boon on behalf of Lyting, my uncle. He has done great wickedness against you and yours, broken his atonement and slain thy son.”
“Lyting will perhaps think,” said Njal, “that he has already paid a heavy fine in the loss of his brothers, but if I grant him any terms, I shall let him reap the good of my love for thee, and I will tell thee before I utter the award of atonement, that Lyting’s brothers shall fall as outlaws. Nor shall Lyting have any atonement for his wounds, but on the other hand, he shall pay the full blood-fine for Hauskuld.”
“My wish,” said Hauskuld, “is, that thou shouldest make thine own terms.”
“Well,” says Njal, “then I will utter the award at once if thou wilt.”
“Wilt thou,” says Hauskuld, “that thy sons should be by?”
“Then we should be no nearer an atonement than we were before,” says Njal, “but they will keep to the atonement which I utter.”
Then Hauskuld said, “Let us close the matter then, and handsel him peace on behalf of thy sons.”
“So it shall be,” says Njal. “My will then is, that he pays two hundred in silver for the slaying of Hauskuld, but he may still dwell at Samstede; and yet I think it were wiser if he sold his land and changed his abode; but not for this quarrel; neither I nor my sons will break our pledges of peace to him; but methinks it may be that some one may rise up in this country against whom he may have to be on his guard. Yet, lest it should seem that I make a man an outcast from his native place, I allow him to be here in this neighbourhood, but in that case he alone is answerable for what may happen.”
After that Hauskuld fared home, and Njal’s sons woke up as he went and asked their father who had come, but he told them that his foster-son Hauskuld had been there.
“He must have come to ask a boon for Lyting then,” said
“So it was,” says Njal.
“Ill was it then,” says Grim.
“Hauskuld could not have thrown his shield before him,” says Njal, “if thou hadst slain him, as it was meant thou shouldst.”
“Let us throw no blame on our father,” says Skarphedinn.
Now it is to be said that this atonement was kept between them afterwards.
OF AMUND THE BLIND
That event happened three winters after at the Thingskala-Thing that Amund the Blind was at the Thing; he was the son of Hauskuld Njal’s son. He made men lead him about among the booths, and so he came to the booth inside which was Lyting of Samstede. He made them lead him into the booth till he came before Lyting.
“Is Lyting of Samstede here?” he asked.
“What dost thou want?” says Lyting.
“I want to know,” says Amund, “what atonement thou wilt pay me for my father. I am base-born, and I have touched no fine.”
“I have atoned for the slaying of thy father,” says Lyting, “with a full price, and thy father’s father and thy father’s brothers took the money; but my brothers fell without a price as outlaws; and so it was that I had both done an ill deed, and paid dear for it.”
“I ask not,” says Amund, “as to thy having paid an atonement to them. I know that ye two are now friends, but I ask this, what atonement thou wilt pay to me?”
“None at all,” says Lyting.
“I cannot see,” says Amund, “how thou canst have right before God, when thou hast stricken me so near the heart; but all I can say is, that if I were blessed with the sight of both my eyes, I would have either a money fine for my father, or revenge man for man, and so may God judge between us.”
After that he went out; but when he came to the door of the booth, he turned short round towards the inside. Then his eyes were opened, and he said, “Praised be the Lord! Now I see what his will is.”
With that he ran straight into the booth until he comes before Lyting, and smites him with an axe on the head, so that it sunk in up to the hammer, and gives the axe a pull towards him.
Lyting fell forwards and was dead at once.
Amund goes out to the door of the booth, and when he got to the very same spot on which he had stood when his eyes were opened, lo! they were shut again, and he was blind all his life after.
Then he made them lead him to Njal and his sons, and he told them of Lyting’s slaying.
“Thou mayest not be blamed for this,” says Njal, “for such things are settled by a higher power; but it is worth while to take warning from such events, lest we cut any short who have such near claims as Amund had.”
After that Njal offered an atonement to Lyting’s kinsmen. Hauskuld the Priest of Whiteness had a share in bringing Lyting’s kinsmen to take the fine, and then the matter was put to an award, and half the fines fell away for the sake of the claim which he seemed to have on Lyting.
After that men came forward with pledges of peace and good faith, and Lyting’s kinsmen granted pledges to Amund. Men rode home from the Thing; and now all is quiet for a long while.
OF VALGARD THE GUILEFUL
Valgard the Guileful came back to Iceland that summer; he was then still heathen. He fared to Hof to his son Mord’s house, and was there the winter over. He said to Mord, “Here I have ridden far and wide all over the neighbourhood, and methinks I do not know it for the same. I came to Whiteness, and there I saw many tofts of booths and much ground levelled for building. I came to Thingskala-Thing, and there I saw all our booths broken down. What is the meaning of such strange things?
“New priesthoods,” answers Mord, “have been set up here, and a law for a Fifth Court, and men have declared themselves out of my Thing, and have gone over to Hauskuld’s Thing.”
“Ill hast thou repaid me,” said Valgard, “for giving up to thee my priesthood, when thou hast handled it so little like a man, and now my wish is that thou shouldst pay them off by something that will drag them all down to death; and this thou canst do by setting them by the ears by talebearing, so that Njal’s sons may slay Hauskuld; but there are many who will have the blood-feud after him, and so Njal’s sons will be slain in that quarrel.”
“I shall never be able to get that done,” says Mord.
“I will give thee a plan,” says Valgard; “thou shalt ask Njal’s sons to thy house, and send them away with gifts, but thou shalt keep thy tale-bearing in the background until great friendship has sprung up between you, and they trust thee no worse than their own selves. So wilt thou be able to avenge thyself on Skarphedinn for that he took thy money from thee after Gunnar’s death; and in this wise, further on, thou wilt be able to seize the leadership when they are all dead and gone.”
This plan they settled between them should be brought to pass; and Mord said, “I would, father, that thou wouldst take on thee the new faith. Thou art an old man.
“I will not do that,” says Valgard. “I would rather that thou shouldst cast off the faith, and see what follows then.”
Mord said he would not do that. Valgard broke crosses before Mord’s face, and all holy tokens. A little after Valgard took a sickness and breathed his last, and he was laid in a cairn by Hof.
OF MORD AND NJAL’S SONS
Some while after Mord rode to Bergthorsknoll and saw Skarphedinn there; he fell into very fair words with them, and so he talked the whole day, and said he wished to be good friends with them, and to see much of them.
Skarphedinn took it all well, but said he had never sought for anything of the kind before. So it came about that he got himself into such great friendship with them, that neither side thought they had taken any good counsel unless the other had a share in it.
Njal always disliked his coming thither, and it often happened that he was angry with him.
It happened one day that Mord came to Bergthorsknoll, and Mord said to Njal’s sons, “I have made up my mind to give a feast yonder, and I mean to drink in my heirship after my father, but to that feast I wish to bid you, Njal’s sons, and Kari; and at the same time I give you my word that ye shall not fare away giftless.”
They promised to go, and now he fares home and makes ready the feast. He bade to it many householders, and that feast was very crowded.
Thither came Njal’s sons and Kari. Mord gave Skarphedinn a brooch of gold, and a silver belt to Kari, and good gifts to Grim and Helgi.
They come home and boast of these gifts, and show them to Njal. He said they would be bought full dear, “and take heed that ye do not repay the giver in the coin which he no doubt wishes to get.”
OF THE SLANDER OF MORD VALGARD’S SON
A little after Njal’s sons and Hauskuld were to have their yearly feasts, and they were the first to bid Hauskuld to come to them.
Skarphedinn had a brown horse four winters old, both tall and sightly. He was a stallion, and had never yet been matched in fight. That horse Skarphedinn gave to Hauskuld, and along with him two mares. They all gave Hauskuld gifts, and assured him of their friendship.
After that Hauskuld bade them to his house at Ossaby, and had many guests to meet them, and a great crowd.
It happened that he had just then taken down his hall, but he had built three outhouses, and there the beds were made.
So all that were bidden came, and the feast went off very well. But when men were to go home Hauskuld picked out good gifts for them, and went a part of the way with Njal’s sons.
The sons of Sigfus followed him and all the crowd, and both sides said that nothing should ever come between them to spoil their friendship.
A little while after Mord came to Ossaby and called Hauskuld out to talk with him, and they went aside and spoke.
“What a difference in manliness there is,” said Mord, “between thee and Njal’s sons! Thou gavest them good gifts, but they gave thee gifts with great mockery.”
“How makest thou that out?” says Hauskuld.
“They gave thee a horse which they called a `dark horse,’ and that they did out of mockery to thee, because they thought thee too untried. I can tell thee also that they envy thee the priesthood. Skarphedinn took it up as his own at the Thing when thou camest not to the Thing at the summoning of the Fifth Court, and Skarphedinn never means to let it go.”
“That is not true,” says Hauskuld, “for I got it back at the Folkmote last harvest.”
“Then that was Njal’s doing,” says Mord. “They broke, too, the atonement about Lyting.”
“I do not mean to lay that at their door,” says Hauskuld.
“Well,” says Mord, “thou canst not deny that when ye two, Skarphedinn and thou, were going east towards Markfleet, an axe fell out from under his belt, and he meant to have slain thee then and there.”
“It was his woodman’s axe,” says Hauskuld, “and I saw how he put it under his belt; and now, Mord, I will just tell thee this right out, that thou canst never say so much ill of Njal’s sons as to make me believe it; but though there were aught in it, and it were true as thou sayest, that either I must slay them or they me, then would I far rather suffer death at their hands than work them any harm. But as for thee, thou art all the worse a man for having spoken this.”
After that Mord fares home. A little after Mord goes to see Njal’s sons, and he talks much with those brothers and Kari.
“I have been told,” says Mord, “that Hauskuld has said that thou, Skarphedinn, hast broken the atonement made with Lyting; but I was made aware also that he thought that thou hadst meant some treachery against him when ye two fared to Markfleet. But still, methinks that was no less treachery when he bade you to a feast at his house, and stowed you away in an outhouse that was farthest from the house, and wood was then heaped round the outhouse all night, and he meant to burn you all inside; but it so happened that Hogni Gunnar’s son came that night, and naught came of their onslaught, for they were afraid of him. After that he followed you on your way and great band of men with him, then he meant to make another onslaught on you, and set Grani Gunnar’s son, and Gunnar Lambi’s son to kill thee; but their hearts failed them, and they dared not to fall on thee.”
But when he had spoken thus, first of all they spoke against it, but the end of it was that they believed him, and from that day forth a coldness sprung up on their part towards Hauskuld, and they scarcely ever spoke to him when they met; but Hauskuld showed them little deference, and so things went on for a while.
Next harvest Hauskuld fared east to Swinefell to a feast, and Flosi gave him a hearty welcome. Hildigunna was there too. Then Flosi spoke to Hauskuld and said, “Hildigunna tells me that there is great coldness with you and Njal’s sons, and methinks that is ill, and I will beg thee not to ride west, but I will get thee a homestead in Skaptarfell, and I will send my brother, Thorgeir, to dwell at Ossaby.”
“Then some will say,” says Hauskuld, “that I am flying thence for fear’s sake, and that I will not have said.”
“Then it is more likely that great trouble will arise,” says Flosi.
“Ill is that then,” says Hauskuld, “for I would rather fall unatoned, than that many should reap ill for my sake.”
Hauskuld busked him to ride home a few nights after, but Flosi gave him a scarlet cloak, and it was embroidered with needlework down to the waist.
Hauskuld rode home to Ossaby, and now all is quiet for a while.
Hauskuld was so much beloved that few men were his foes, but the same ill-will went on between him and Njal’s sons the whole winter through.
Njal had taken as his foster-child, Thord, the son of Kari. He had also fostered Thorhall, the son of Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son. Thorhall was a strong man, and hardy both in body and mind, he had learnt so much law that he was the third greatest lawyer in Iceland.
Next spring was an early spring, and men are busy sowing their corn.
OF MORD AND NJAL’S SONS
It happened one day that Mord came to Berathorsknoll. He and Kari and Njal’s sons fell a-talking at once, and Mord slanders Hauskuld after his wont, and has now many new tales to tell, and does naught but egg Skarphedinn and them on to slay Hauskuld, and said he would be beforehand with them if they did not fall on him at once.
“I will let thee have thy way in this,” says Skarphedinn, “if thou wilt fare with us, and have some hand in it.”
“That I am ready to do,” says Mord, and so they bound that fast with promises, and he was to come there that evening.
Bergthora asked Njal, “What are they talking about out of doors?”
“I am not in their counsels,” says Njal, “but I was seldom left out of them when their plans were good.”
Skarphedinn did not lie down to rest that evening, nor his brothers, nor Kari.
That same night, when it was well-nigh spent, came Mord Valgard’s son, and Njal’s sons and Kari took their weapons and rode away. They fared till they came to Ossaby, and bided there by a fence. The weather was good, and the sun just risen.