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Grettir The Strong

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When the summer was passing away, Steinvor at Sandhaugar gave
birth to a son who was named Skeggi. He was at first fathered on
Kjartan, the son of Steinn the priest at Eyjardalsa. Skeggi was
unlike all his family in his strength and stature. When he was
fifteen years old he was the strongest man in the North, and then
they put him down to Grettir. There seemed a prospect of his
growing into something quite extraordinary, but he died when he
was seventeen and there is no saga about him.



After the death of Thorsteinn Kuggason, Snorri the Godi was on
bad terms with his son Thorodd and with Sam the son of Bork the
Fat. It is not clearly stated what they had done to displease
him except that they had refused to undertake some important work
which he had given them to do; what is known is that Snorri
turned off his son Thorodd and told him not to come back until he
had slain some forest-man, and so it remained. Thorodd then went
to Dalir. There dwelt at Breidabolstad in Sokkolfsdal a certain
widow named Geirlaug; she kept as her shepherd a grown-up youth
who had been outlawed for wounding some one. Thorodd Snorrason
heard of this, rode to Breidabolstad and asked where the shepherd
was. The woman said he was with the sheep and asked what Thorodd
wanted with him.

"I want to take his life," he said; "he is an outlaw and a

She said: "Such a warrior as you has nothing to gain by killing a
miserable creature like him. I will show you a much doughtier
deed, should you have a mind to try it."

"What is that?" he asked.

"Up there in the mountains," she said, "is Grettir the son of
Asmund; deal with him; that will be more fitting for you."

Thorodd liked the proposal and said he would do it. Then he put
spurs to his horse and rode up along the valleys. On reaching
the hills below the Austra river he saw a light-coloured horse
saddled, with a big man in armour, and at once directed his steps
towards them. Grettir hailed him and asked who he was. Thorodd
told his name and asked: "Why do you not rather ask my business
than my name?"

"Because," he said, "it is not likely to be very weighty. Are
you a son of Snorri the Godi?"

"So it is indeed; we shall now try which of us is the stronger."

"That is easily done," said Grettir, "but have you not heard
that I have not proved a mound of wealth to most of those who
have had to do with me?"

"I know that; but I mean to risk something on it now."

Then he drew his sword and went valiantly for Grettir, who
defended himself with his shield but would not use his weapons
against Thorodd. They fought for a time without his being
wounded. Grettir then said:

"Let us stop this play; you will not gain the victory in a battle
with me."

Thorodd struck at him most furiously. Grettir was tired of it,
so he took hold of him and set him down next to himself, saying:
"I could do what I liked with you; but I have no fear of your
killing me. I am much more afraid of your grey-headed father,
Snorri the Godi, and of his counsels, which have brought many a
man to his knees. You should take up tasks which you are able to
accomplish; it is no child's play to fight with me."

When Thorodd saw that there was nothing to be done he quieted
down, and then they parted. He rode home to Tunga and told his
father of his encounter witb Grettir. Snorri smiled and said:
"Many a man has a high opinion of himself; but the odds against
you were too great. While you were aiming blows at him he was
doing what he pleased with you. But he was wise not to kill you,
for it would not have been my purpose to leave you unavenged. I
will now rather use my influence on his side if I ever have to do
with his affairs."

Snorri showed his approval of Grettir's action towards Thorodd,
for his counsels were always friendly to Grettir.



Soon after Thorodd left him Grettir rode North to Bjarg and
remained there in hiding for a time. His fear of the dark grew
so upon him that he dared go nowhere after dusk. His mother
offered to keep him there, but said she saw that it would not do
for him because of the feuds which he had throughout the land.
Grettir said she should not fall into trouble through him, "but,"
he said, "I can no longer live alone even to save my life."

Illugi his brother was then fifteen years old and was a most
goodly young man. He heard what they were saying. Grettir told
his mother what Gudmund the Mighty had advised him to do, and
declared he would try to get to Drangey if he could. Yet, he
said, he could not go there unless he could find some faithful
man to stay with him. Then Illugi said: "I will go with you,
brother. I know not whether I shall be a support to you, but I
will be faithful to you and will not run from you so long as you
stand upright. And I shall know the better how it fares with you
if I am with you."

Grettir answered: "You are such an one amongst men as I most
rejoice in. And if my mother be not against it I would indeed
that you should go with me."

Asdis then said: "It has now come to this, that I see two
difficulties meeting each other. It is hard for me to lose
Illugi, but I know that so much may be said for Grettir's
condition that he will find some way out. And though it is much
for one to bid farewell to both of you, yet I will consent to it
if Grettir's lot is bettered thereby."

Illugi was pleased at her words, for his heart was set upon going
with Grettir. She gave them plenty of money to take with them
and they made ready for their journey. Asdis took them along the
road, and before they parted she said: "Go forth now, my sons
twain. Sad will be your death together, nor may any man escape
that which is destined for him. I shall see neither of you
again; let one fate befall you both. I know not what safety you
seek in Drangey, but there shall your bones be laid, and many
will begrudge you your living there. Beware of treachery; yet
shall you be smitten with weapons, for strange are the dreams
which I have had. Guard yourselves against witchcraft, for few
things are stronger than the ancient spells."

Thus she spoke and wept much. Grettir said: "Weep not, my
mother. It shall be said that you had sons and not daughters if
we are attacked with arms. Live well, and farewell."

Then they parted. The two travelled North through the districts
and visited their kinsmen while the autumn passed into winter.
Then they turned their steps to Skagafjord, then North to
Vatnsskard on to Reykjaskard below Saemundarhlid to Langholt,
reaching Glaumbaer as the day was waning. Grettir had slung his
hat over his shoulder; so he always went when out of doors
whether the weather was good or bad. Thence they continued their
journey, and when they had gone a short way they met a man with a
big head, tall and thin and ill clad. He greeted them and each
asked the other's name. They told theirs and he said his name
was Thorbjorn. He was a vagrant, had no mind to work and
swaggered much. It was the habit of some to make game of him or
fool him. He became very familiar and told them much gossip
about the district and the people therein. Grettir was much
amused. He asked whether they did not want a man to work for
them and said he would much like to go with them. So much he got
from his talk that they let him join them. It was very cold and
there was a driving snow-storm. As the man was so fussy and
talkative they gave him a nickname and called him Glaum.

"The people in Glaumbaer," he said, "were much exercised about
your going without a hat in this weather, and wanted to know
whether you were any the braver for being proof against the cold.

There were two sons of bondis there, men of great distinction;
the shepherd told them to come out and mind the sheep with him,
but they could scarcely get their clothes on for the cold."

Grettir said: "I saw a young man inside the door putting on his
mittens, and another going between the cow-house and the dung-
heap. Neither of them will frighten me."

Then they went on to Reynines and stayed the night there; then to
the sea-shore to a farm called Reykir where a man, a good farmer,
named Thorvald, lived. Grettir asked him for shelter and told
him of his intention of going to Drangey. The bondi said that
men of Skagafjord would not think his a very friendly visit and
drew back. Then Grettir took the purse of money which his mother
had given him and gave it to the bondi. The man's brows unbent
when he saw the money and he told three of his servants to take
them out in the night by the moonlight. From Reykir is the
shortest distance to the island, about one sea-mile.

When they reached the island Grettir thought it looked quite
pleasant; it was all overgrown with grass and had steep cliffs
down to the sea so that no one could get on to it except where
the ladders were. If the upper ladder was pulled up it was
impossible for any one to get on to the island. There was also a
large crag full of sea birds in the summer, and there were eighty
sheep in the island belonging to the bondis, mostly rams and
ewes, which were meant for slaughter.

There Grettir quietly settled down. He had been fifteen or
sixteen years an outlaw, so Sturla the son of Thord has recorded.



When Grettir came to Drangey the following chiefs were in

Hjalti lived at Hof in Hjaltadal, the son of Thord, the son of
Hjalti, the son of Thord Skalp. He was a great chief, very
distinguished and very popular. His brother was named Thorbjorn
Angle, a big man, strong and hardy and rather quarrelsome. Thord
their father had married in his old age, and his then wife was
not the mother of these two. She was very much against her
stepsons, especially Thorbjorn, because he was intractable and
headstrong. One day when he was playing at "tables", his
stepmother came up and saw that he was playing at "hnettafl";
they played with big peg pieces. She considered that very lazy
of him and spoke some words to which he answered hastily. She
took up the piece and struck him on the cheek bone with the peg,
and it glanced into his eye which hung down on his cheek. He
started up and handled her mercilessly so that she was confined
to her bed and soon afterwards died; they say that she was
pregnant at the time. After that he became a regular ruffian.
He took over his property and went first to live in Vidvik.

Halldor the son of Thorgeir, the son of Thord of Hofdi, lived at
Hof in Hofdastrand. He married Thordis the daughter of Thord,
the sister of Hjalti and Thorbjorn Angle. Halldor was a worthy
bondi and wealthy.

Bjorn was the name of a man who lived at Haganes in Fljot, a
friend of Halldor of Hof, and the two held together in every

Tungu-Steinn dwelt at Steinsstadir. He was the son of Bjorn, the
son of Ofeig Thinbeard, the son of Crow-Hreidar, to whom Eirik of
Guddal gave Tunga below Skalamyr. He was a man of renown.

Eirik was the son of Holmgang-Starri, the son of Eirik of Guddal,
the son of Hroald, the son of Geirmund Straightbeard. He lived
at Hof in Guddal.

All these were men of high rank. Two brothers dwelt at a place
called Breida in Slettahlid, both named Thord. They were very
strong men, but peaceable.

All the men now named had a share in Drangey. It is said that
the island was owned by no fewer than twenty men, and none of
them would part with his share to the others. The largest share
belonged to the sons of Thord since they were the richest.



Midwinter was passed, and the bondis prepared to bring in their
animals from the island for slaughter. They manned a boat and
each had a man of his own on board, some two.

When they reached the island they saw men on it moving about.
They thought it very strange, but supposed that some one had been
wrecked and had gone on shore there. So they rowed to where the
ladders were. The people on the shore pulled the ladders up.
This seemed very strange behaviour and they hailed the men and
asked who they were. Grettir told his name and those of his
companions. The bondis asked who had taken them out to the

Grettir answered: "He brought me out who took me here, and had
hands, and was more my friend than yours."

The bondis said: "Let us take our animals and come to the land
with us. You shall have freely whatever you have taken of our

Grettir said: "That is a good offer; but each of us shall have
that which he has got. I may tell you at once that hence I go
not, unless I am dead or dragged away; nor will I let go that
which my hands have taken."

The bondis said no more, but thought that most unhappy visitors
had come to Drangey. They offered money and made many fair
promises, but Grettir refused them all, and so they had to return
home much disgusted, having accomplished nothing. They told all
the people of the district of the wolves who had come into the
island. This had come upon them unawares and nothing could be
done. They talked it over that winter but could think of no way
of getting Grettir out of the island.



The time passed on until the spring, when men assembled at the
Hegranes Thing. They came in great numbers from all the
districts under its jurisdiction, and stayed there a long time,
both palavering and merry-making, for there were many who loved
merriment in the country round.

When Grettir heard that everybody had gone to the Thing he laid a
plan with his friends, for he was always on good terms with those
who were nearest to him, and for them he spared nothing which he
was able to get. He said he would go to the land to get supplies
and that Illugi and Glaum should remain behind. Illugi thought
it very imprudent but he let Grettir have his way. He told them
to guard the ladder well since everything depended upon that.
Then he went to the land and obtained what he wanted. He kept
his disguise wherever he went and no one knew that he had come.
He heard of the festivities that were going on at the Thing and
was curious to see them, so he put on some old clothes that were
rather shabby and arrived just as they were going from the
Logretta home to their booths. Some of the young men were
talking about the weather, said it was good and fair, and that it
would be a good thing to have some games and wrestling; they
thought it a good proposal. So they sat down in front of their
booths. The foremost men in the games were the sons of Thord.
Thorbjorn Angle was very uppish and was arranging everything
himself for the sports. Every one had to do as he bade, and he
took them each by the shoulders and pushed them into the field.
The wrestling was begun by the less strong ones in pairs, and
there was great sport. When most of them had wrestled except the
strongest, there was much talk as to who should tackle the two
Thords mentioned above, and there was no one who would do it.
They went round inviting men to wrestle, but the more they asked
the more their invitation was declined. Thorbjorn Angle looked
round and saw a big man sitting there, but could not clearly see
his face. He seized hold of him and gave a violent tug, but the
man sat still and did not move.

Thorbjorn said: "Nobody has held so firm against me to-day as
you. But who is this fellow?"

"My name is Gest."

Thorbjorn said: "You will be wanting to play with us. You are a
welcome Guest."

"Things may change quickly," he said. "I cannot join in your
games for I have no knowledge of them."

Many of them said that they would take it kindly of him if he, a
stranger, would play a little with the men. He asked what they
wanted him to do, and they asked him to wrestle with some one.
He said he had given up wrestling, though he once used to take
pleasure in it. As he did not directly refuse they pressed him
all the more.

"Well," he said, "if you want to drag me in you must do one thing
for me and grant me peace here at the Thing until I reach my

They all shouted and said they would gladly do that. The man who
was foremost in urging that peace should be given was one Haf the
son of Thorarin, the son of Haf, the son of Thord Knapp, who had
settled in the land between Stifla in Fljot and Tungua. He lived
at Knappsstad and was a man of many words. He spoke in favour of
the peace with great authority and said:

"Hereby do I declare PEACE between all men, in particular between
this man here seated who is named Gest and all Godord's men, full
bondis, all men of war and bearers of arms, all other men of this
district of the Hegranes Thing whencesoever they have come, both
named and unnamed. I declare PEACE and full Immunity in behoof
of this newcomer to us unknown, Gest yclept, for the practice of
games, wrestling and all kinds of sport, while abiding here, and
during his journey home, whether he sail or whether he travel,
whether by land or whether by sea. He shall have PEACE in all
places, named and unnamed, for such time as he needeth to reach
his home in safety, by our faith confirmed. And I establish this
PEACE on the part of ourselves and of our kinsmen, our friends
and belongings, alike of women and of men, bondsmen and thralls,
youths and adults. Be there any truce-breaker who shall violate
this PEACE and defile this faith, so be he rejected of God and
expelled from the community of righteous men; be he cast out from
Heaven and from the fellowship of the holy; let him have no part
amongst mankind and become an outcast from society. A vagabond
he shall be and a wolf in places where Christians pray and where
heathen worship, where fire burneth, where the earth bringeth
forth, where the child lispeth the name of mother, where the
mother beareth a son, where men kindle fire, where the ship
saileth, where shields blink, sun shineth, snow lieth, Finn
glideth, fir-tree groweth, falcon flieth the live-long day and
the fair wind bloweth straight under both her wings, where Heaven
rolleth and earth is tilled, where the breezes waft mists to the
sea, where corn is sown. Far shall he dwell from church and
Christian men, from the sons of the heathen, from house and cave
and from every home, in the torments of Hel. At PEACE we shall
be, in concord together, each with other in friendly mind,
wherever we meet, on mountain or strand, on ship or on snow-
shoes, on plains or on glaciers, at sea or on horseback, as
friends meet in the water, or brothers by the way, each at PEACE
with other, as son with father, or father with son, in all our

"Our hands we lay together, all and every to hold well the PEACE
and the words we have spoken in this our faith, in the presence
of God and of holy men, of all who hear my words and here are

Many said that a great word had been spoken. Gest said: "You
have declared and spoken well; if you go not back upon it, I will
not delay to show that of which I am capable."

Then he cast off his hood and after that all his upper garments.
Each looked at the other and woe spread over their lips; for they
knew that it was Grettir who had come to them, by his excelling
all other men in stature and vigour. All were silent and Haf
looked foolish. The men of the district went two and two
together, each blaming the other, and most of all blaming him who
had declared the peace. Then Grettir said: "Speak plainly to me
and declare what is in your minds, for I will not sit here long
without my clothes. You have more at stake than I have, whether
you hold the peace or not."

They answered little and sat themselves down. The sons of Thord
and their brother-in-law Halldor then talked together. Some
wished to uphold the peace and some not. Each nodded to the
other. Then Grettir spoke a verse:

"Many a man is filled with doubt.
A twofold mask has the prover of shields.
The skilful tongue is put to shame.
They doubt if they shall hold the troth."

Then said Tungu-Steinn: "Think you so, Grettir? Which then will
the chieftains do? But true it is that you excel all men in
courage. See you not how they are putting their noses together?"

Grettir then said:

"Together they all their noses laid;
they wagged their beards in close converse.
They talked with each other by two and two,
regretting the peace they afore declared."

Then said Hjalti the son of Thord: "It shall not be so; we will
hold the peace with you although our minds have altered. I would
not that men should have the example of our having broken the
peace which we ourselves gave and declared. Grettir shall depart
unhindered whithersoever he will, and shall have peace till such
time as he reach his home from this journey. And then this truce
shall have expired whatever happen with us." They all thanked
him for his speech, and thought he had acted as a chieftain
should under such circumstances. Thorbjorn Angle was silent.
Then it was proposed that one or the other of the Thords should
close with Grettir, and he said that they might do as they chose.

One of the two brothers Thord then came forward. Grettir stood
upright before him and Thord went for him with all his might, but
Grettir never moved from his place. Then Grettir stretched over
across his back and seizing his breeches tripped up his foot and
cast him backwards over his head so that he fell heavily upon his
shoulders. Then the people said that both the brothers should
tackle him together, and they did so. There arose a mighty
tussle, each in turn having the advantage, although Grettir
always had one of them down. Now one, now the other was brought
to his knees or met with a reverse. So fiercely they gripped
that all of them were bruised and bloody. Everybody thought it
splendid sport, and when they ceased thanked them for their
wrestling. Those that were sitting near judged that the two
together were no stronger than Grettir alone, although each had
the strength of two strong men. They were so equal that when
they strove together neither gained the advantage. Grettir did
not stay long at the Thing. The bondis asked him to give up the
island, but this he refused to do, and they accomplished nothing.

Grettir returned to Drangey where Illugi rejoiced much at seeing
him again. They stayed there in peace and Grettir told them of
his journeys; so the summer passed. All thought the men of
Skagafjord had acted most honourably in upholding their peace,
and from this may be seen what trusty men lived in those days,
after all that Grettir had done against them. The less wealthy
ones among the bondis began to talk amongst themselves and say
that there was little profit in keeping a small share of the
island, and now offered to sell their holdings to the sons of
Thord, but Hjalti said he did not want to buy them. The bondis
stipulated that any one who wanted to buy a share should either
kill Grettir or get him away. Thorbjorn Angle said that he was
ready to take the lead, and would spare no pains to attack
Grettir if they would pay him for it. Hjalti his brother
resigned to him his share of the island because Thorbjorn was the
more violent and was unpopular. Several other bondis did the
same, so that Thorbjorn Angle got a large part of the island at a
small price, but he bound himself to get Grettir away.



At the end of the summer Thorbjorn Angle went with a boat fully
manned to Drangey. Grettir and his party came forward on the
cliff and they talked together. Thorbjorn begged Grettir to do
so much for his asking as to quit the island. Grettir said there
was not much hope of that. Thorbjorn said: "It may be that I can
give you some assistance which will make it worth your while to
do this. Many of the bondis have now given up the shares which
they had in the island to me."

Grettir said: "Now for the very reason that you have just told
me, because you own the greater part of the island, I am
determined never to go hence. We may now divide the cabbage. It
is true that I thought it irksome to have the whole of Skagafjord
against me, but now neither need spare the other, since neither
is suffocated with the love of his fellows. You may as well put
off your journeys hither, for the matter is settled so far as I
am concerned."

"All abide their time," he said, "and you abide evil."

"I must risk that," he said. And so they parted. Thorbjorn
returned home again.



Grettir had, it is said, been two years in Drangey, and they had
slaughtered nearly all the sheep. One ram, it is told, they
allowed to live; it was grey below and had large horns. They had
much sport with it, for it was very tame and would stand outside
and follow them wherever they went. It came to the hut in the
evening and rubbed its horns against the door. They lived very
comfortably, having plenty to eat from the birds on the island
and their eggs, nor had they much trouble in gathering wood
for fire. Grettir always employed the man to collect the drift,
and there were often logs cast ashore there which he brought home
for fuel. The brothers had no need to work beyond going to the
cliffs, which they did whenever they chose. The thrall began to
get very slack at his work; he grumbled much and was less careful
than before. It was his duty to mind the fire every night, and
Grettir bade him be very careful of it as they had no boat with
them. One night it came to pass that the fire went out. Grettir
was very angry and said it would only be right that Glaum should
have a hiding. The thrall said he had a very poor life of it to
have to lie there in exile and be ill-treated and beaten if
anything went wrong. Grettir asked Illugi what was to be done,
and he said he could think of nothing else but to wait until a
ship brought them some fire.

Grettir said that would be a very doubtful chance to wait for.
"I will venture it," he said, "and see whether I can reach the

"That is a desperate measure," said Illugi. "We shall be done
for if you miscarry."

"I shall not drown in the channel," he said. "I shall trust the
thrall less in future since he has failed in a matter of such
moment to us."

The shortest passage from the island to the mainland is one



Grettir then prepared for his swim. He wore a cloak of coarse
material with breeches and had his fingers webbed. The weather
was fine; he left the island towards the evening. Illugi thought
his journey was hopeless. Grettir had the current with him and
it was calm as he swam towards the fjord. He smote the water
bravely and reached Reykjanes after sunset. He went into the
settlement at Reykir, bathed in the night in a warm spring, and
then entered the hall, where it was very hot and a little smoky
from the fire which had been burning there all day. He was very
tired and slept soundly, lying on right into the day. When it
was a little way on in the morning the servants rose, and the
first to enter the room were two women, the maid with the bondi's
daughter. Grettir was asleep, and his clothes had all fallen off
on to the floor. They saw a man lying there and recognised him.
The maid said:

"As I wish for salvation, sister, here is Grettir the son of
Asmund come. He really is large about the upper part of his
body, and is lying bare. But he seems to me unusually small
below. It is not at all in keeping with the rest of him."

The bondi's daughter said: "How can you let your tongue run on
so? You are more than half a fool! Hold your tongue!"

"I really cannot be silent, my dear sister," said the maid; "I
would not have believed it if any one had told me."

Then she went up to him to look more closely, and kept running
back to the bondi's daughter and laughing. Grettir heard what
she said, sprang up and chased her down the room. When he had
caught her he spoke a verse:


Soon afterwards Grettir went to the bondi Thorvald, told him his
difficulty and asked him to take him out to the island again,
which he did, lending him a ship and taking him over. Grettir
thanked him for his courtesy. When it became known that Grettir
had swum a sea-mile, every one thought his courage extraordinary
both on sea and on land. The men of Skagafjord blamed Thorbjorn
Angle much for not having ridded Drangey of Grettir, and all
wanted their shares back again. That did not suit him and he
asked them to have patience.



That summer a ship came to Gonguskardsos, on board of which was a
man named Haering. He was a young man and very active; he could
climb any cliff. He went to visit Thorbjorn Angle and stayed
there into the autumn. He pressed Thorbjorn much to take him to
Drangey, that he might see whether the cliff was so high that he
could not get up there. Thorbjorn said it should not be for
nothing if he succeeded in getting up on to the island and either
killing or wounding Grettir; he made it appear attractive as a
task for Haering to undertake.

One day they went to Drangey and he put the Easterner ashore in a
certain place, telling him not to let himself be seen if he got
to the top. Then they set up the ladder and began a conversation
with Grettir's people. Thorbjorn asked him whether he would not
leave the island. He said there was nothing on which he was so

"You have played much with us," said Thorbjorn, "and we do not
seem likely to have our revenge, but you have not much fear for

Thus they disputed for long, but came to no agreement.

We have now to tell of Haering. He climbed all about on the
cliffs and got to the top in a place which no other man ever
reached before or since. On reaching the top he saw the two
brothers standing with their backs turned to him. He hoped in a
short time to win money and glory from both. They had no inkling
of his being there, and thought that nobody could get up except
where the ladders were. Grettir was occupied with Thorbjorn's
men, and there was no lack of derisive words on both sides. Then
Illugi looked round and saw a man coming towards them, already
quite close. He said: "Here is a man coming towards us with his
axe in the air; he has a rather hostile appearance." "You deal
with him," said Grettir, "while I look after the ladder." Illugi
then advanced against the Easterner, who on seeing him turned and
ran about all over the island. Illugi chased him to the furthest
end of the island; on reaching the edge he leaped down and broke
every bone in his body; thus his life ended. The place where he
perished was afterwards called Haering's leap. Illugi returned
and Grettir asked him how he had parted with his man.

"He would not trust me to manage for him," he said. "He broke
his neck over the cliff. The bondis may pray for him as for a
dead man."

When Angle heard that he told his men to shove off. "I have now
been twice to meet Grettir," he said. "I may come a third time,
and if then I return no wiser than I am now, it is likely that
they may stay in Drangey, so far as I am concerned. But methinks
Grettir will not be there so long in the future as he has been in
the past."

They then returned home and this journey seemed even worse than
the one before. Grettir stayed in Drangey and saw no more of
Thorbjorn that winter. Skapti the Lawman died during the winter,
whereby Grettir suffered a great loss, for he had promised to
press for a removal of his sentence when he had been twenty years
an outlaw, and the events just related were in the nineteenth
year. In the spring died Snorri the Godi, and much more happened
during this winter season which does not belong to our saga.



That summer at the All-Thing Grettir's friends spoke much about
his outlawry, and some held that his term was fulfilled when he
had completed any portion of the twentieth year. This was
disputed by the opposite party, who declared that he had
committed many acts deserving of outlawry since, and that,
therefore, his sentence ought to be all the longer. A new Lawman
had been appointed, Steinn the son of Thorgest, the son of Steinn
the Far-traveller, the son of Thorir Autumn-mist. The mother of
Steinn the Lawman was Arnora, the daughter of Thord the Yeller.
He was a wise man, and was asked for his opinion. He told them
to make a search to find out whether this was the twentieth year
of his outlawry, and they did so. Then Thorir of Gard went to
work to put every possible difficulty in the way, and found out
that Grettir had spent one year of the time in Iceland, during
which he must be held to have been free of his outlawry.
Consequently it had only lasted nineteen years.

The Lawman declared that no man could be outlawed for longer than
twenty years in all, even though he committed an outlaw's acts
during that time. But before that he would allow no man to be

Thus the endeavour to remove his sentence broke down for the
moment, but there seemed a certainty of his being freed in the
following summer. The men of Skagafjord were little pleased at
the prospect of Grettir being freed, and they told Thorbjorn
Angle that he must do one of the two, resign his holding in the
island or kill Grettir. He was in great straits, for he saw no
way of killing Grettir, and yet he wanted to keep the island. He
tried everything he could think of to get the better of Grettir
by force or by fraud or in any other way that he could.



Thorbjorn Angle had a foster-mother named Thurid. She was very
old and of little use to mankind, but she had been very skilled
in witchcraft and magic when she was young and the people were
heathen. Now she seemed to have lost it all. Still, although
the land was Christian, many sparks of heathendom remained. It
was not forbidden by the law of the land to sacrifice or perform
other heathen rites in private; only the one who performed them
openly was sentenced to the minor exile. Now it happened to many
as it is said: The hand turns to its wonted skill, and that which
we have learned in youth is always most familiar to us. So
Thorbjorn Angle, baffled in all his plans, turned for help to the
quarter where it would have been least looked for most people,
namely, to his foster-mother, and asked her what she could do for

She replied, "Now it seems to me to have come to this, as the
saying is: Many go to the goat-house to get wool. What would I
less than to think myself above the other men of the country, and
then to be as nothing when it comes to the trial? I see not that
it fares worse with me than with you, even though I scarce rise
from my bed. If you will have my counsel then I must have my way
in all that is done."

He consented, and said that she had long given him counsel for
his good. The "double month" of the summer was now approaching.
One fine day the old woman said to Angle: "The weather is now
calm and bright; I will that you go to Drangey and pick a quarrel
with Grettir. I will go with you and learn what caution is in
his words. I shall have some surety when I see how far they are
prospering, and then I will speak over them such words as I

Angle said: "Let us not go to Drangey. It is always worse in my
mind when I leave that place than when I arrive."

The woman said: "I will not help you if you will not let me do as
I like."

"Far be that from me, my foster-mother. I have said that I will
go there a third time, that something may come of it for us."

"You may venture it," she said, "much labour will you have before
Grettir is laid in the earth; often your lot will be doubtful and
hard will it go with you before it is finished. And yet you are
so bound that somehow you must get yourself out of it."

Then Thorbjorn Angle had a ten-oared boat manned and went on
board with eleven men. The woman was with them and they rowed
out to Drangey. When the brothers saw them coming they came
forward to the ladder and began once more to talk about their
case. Thorbjorn said he had come once more to hear their answer
whether Grettir would leave the place. He said he would treat
the destruction of his property and Grettir's stay there as a
light thing, provided they parted in peace. Grettir said he had
no intention of coming to any terms about his going away. "I
have often told you," he said, "that there is no use in talking
to me about it. You may do whatever you please; I mean to stay
here and abide what happens."

Thorbjorn saw that his end would not be gained this time, and
said: "I knew very well with what men of Hel I had to do. It is
most likely that some days will pass before I come here again."

"It would not hurt me if you never came at all," said Grettir.

The woman was lying in the stern sheets covered up with clothes.
Then she began to stir and said:

"These men are brave and unfortunate; there is much difference
between you; you offer them good and they refuse everything.
There are few more certain tokens of evil than not to know how to
accept the good. Now I say this of you, Grettir, that you be
deprived of health, of all good luck and fortune, of all
protection and counsel, ever the more the longer you live. I
wish that your days may be less happy in the future than they
have been in the past."

When Grettir heard that he started violently and said: "What
fiend is that in the ship with them?"

Illugi said: "I think that must be the old woman, Thorbjorn's

"Curse the hag!" he said. "I could have thought of nothing
worse! Nothing that was ever said startled me more than her
words, and I know that some evil will befall me from her and her
spells. She shall have something to remind her of her visit

Then he took up an enormous stone and threw it down into the
boat. It fell into the heap of clothes. Thorbjorn had not
thought that any man could throw so far. A loud scream was
heard, for the stone had struck her thigh and broken it.

Illugi said: "I wish you had not done that."

"Do not blame me for it," said Grettir. "I fear it has been just
too little. One old woman would not have been too great a price
for us two."

"How will she pay for us? That will be a small sum for the pair
of us."

Thorbjorn then returned home; no greeting passed between them
when he left. He spoke to the old woman and said: "It has
happened as I expected. Little credit has the journey to the
island brought you. You have been injured for the rest of your
life, and we have no more honour than we had before; we have to
endure unatoned one insult after another."

She answered: "This is the beginning of their destruction; I say
that from this time onwards they will go downwards. I care not
whether I live or not, if I do not have vengeance for the injury
they have done me."

"You seem to be in high spirits, foster-mother," he said. Then
they arrived home. The woman lay in bed for nearly a month
before her leg was set and she was able to walk again. Men
laughed much over the journey of Thorbjorn and the old woman.
Little luck had come from the meetings with Grettir, first at the
peace declaration at the Thing, next when Haering was killed, and
now the third time when the woman's thigh was broken, while
nothing had been done on their side. Thorbjorn Angle suffered
much from their talk.



The autumn passed and but three weeks remained till the winter.
The old woman asked to be driven to the sea-shore. Thorbjorn
asked what she was going to do.

"A small thing only," she said, "yet maybe the signal of greater
things to come."

They did as she asked them. When they reached the shore she
hobbled on by the sea as if directed to a spot where lay a great
stump of a tree as large as a man could bear on his shoulder.
She looked at it and bade them turn it over before her; the other
side looked as if it had been burned and smoothed. She had a
small flat surface cut on its smooth side; then she took a knife,
cut runes upon it, reddened them with her blood and muttered some
spells over it. After that she walked backwards against the sun
round it, and spoke many potent words. Then she made them push
the tree into the sea, and said it should go to Drangey and that
Grettir should suffer hurt from it. Then she went back to
Vidvik. Thorbjorn said he did not know what would come of it.
The woman said he would know more clearly some day. The wind was
towards the land up the fjord, but the woman's stump drifted
against the wind, and not more slowly than would have been

Grettir was sitting in Drangey with his companions very
comfortably, as has been told. On the day following that on
which the old woman had cast her spells upon the tree they went
down from the hill to look for firewood. When they got to the
western side of the island they found a great stump stranded

"Here is a fine log for fuel," cried Illugi, "let us carry it
home." Grettir gave it a kick with his foot and said: "An ill
tree and ill sent. We must find other wood for the fire."

He pushed it out into the sea and told Illugi to beware of
carrying it home, for it was sent for their destruction. Then
they returned to their hut and said nothing about the tree to the
thrall. The next day they found the tree again, nearer to the
ladder than on the day before. Grettir put it back into the sea
and said he would never carry it home. That night passed and
dirty weather set in with rain, so that they did not care to go
out and told Glaum to fetch fuel. He grumbled very much and
declared it was cruel to make him plague himself to death in
every kind of weather. He descended the ladder and found there
the woman's log. He thought himself lucky, laboured home with it
to the hut and threw it down with a great noise which Grettir

"Glaum has got something; I must go out and see what it is," he
said, and went out, taking his wood-cutting axe with him.

"Let your cutting up of it be no worse than my carrying of it
home!" said Glaum.

Grettir was irritated with the thrall; he used his axe with both
hands and did not notice what tree it was. Directly the axe
touched the tree it turned flat and glanced off into Grettir's
right leg. It entered above his right knee and pierced to the
bone, making a severe wound. Grettir turned to the tree and
said: "He who meant me evil has prevailed; it will not end with
this. This is the very log which I twice rejected. Two
disasters have you now brought about, Glaum; first you let
our fire go out, and now you have brought in this tree of
ill-fortune. A third mistake will be the death of you and of us

Illugi then bound the wound. It bled little; Grettir slept well
that night and three days passed without its paining him. When
they opened the bandages the flesh had grown together and the
wound was almost healed. Illugi said: "I do not think that you
will suffer very long with this wound."

"That would be well," said Grettir; "it has happened strangely
however it ends; but my mind tells me otherwise."



One evening they all went to bed, and about midnight Grettir
began to toss about. Illugi asked him why he was so restless.
Grettir said his leg was hurting him and he thought there must be
some change in its appearance. They fetched a light, unbound the
wound and found it swollen and blue as coal. It had opened again
and was much worse than at first. He had much pain after that
and could not keep quiet, nor would any sleep come to his eyes.

Grettir said: "We must be prepared for it. This illness of mine
is not for nothing; there is witchcraft in it. The old woman has
meant to punish me for the stone which I threw at her." Illugi
said: "I told you that no good would come of that old woman."

"It will be all the same in the end," said Grettir, and spoke a

"Often when men have threatened my life
I have known to defend it against the foe:
but now 'tis a woman has done me to death.
Truly the spells of the wicked are mighty."

"Now we must be on the watch; Thorbjorn Angle will not leave it
to end here. You, Glaum, must in future guard the ladder every
day and pull it up in the evening. Do this trustily, for much
depends thereon. If you betray us your end will be a short one."

Glaum promised most faithfully. The weather now became severe.
A north-easterly wind set in and it was very cold. Every evening
Grettir asked if the ladder was drawn in.

"Are we now to look for men?" said Glaum. "Is any man so anxious
to take your life that he will lose his own for it? This weather
is much worse than impossible. Your warlike mood seems to have
left you utterly if you think that everything is coming to kill

"You will always bear yourself worse than either of us," said
Grettir, "whatever happens. But now you must mind the ladder
however unwilling you may be."

They drove him out every morning, much to his disgust. The pain
of the wound increased, and the whole leg was swollen; the thigh
began to fester both above and below the wound, which spread all
round, and Grettir thought he was likely to die. Illugi sat with
him night and day, paying no heed to anything else. They were
now in the second week of his illness.



Thorbjorn Angle was now at home in Vidvik, much put out at not
having been able to overcome Grettir. When about a week had
passed from the day when the old woman had bewitched the log,
she came to speak with Thorbjorn and asked whether he did not
mean to visit Grettir. He said there was nothing about which he
was more determined.

"But do you wish to meet him, foster-mother?" he asked.

"I have no intention of meeting him," she said; "I have sent him
my greeting, which I expect he has received. But I advise you to
set off at once and go quickly to see him, otherwise it will not
be your fate to overcome him."

He replied: "I have made so many inglorious journeys there that
I am not going again. This weather is reason enough; it would
not be possible, however pressing it were."

"You are indeed without counsel if you see not through these
wiles. Now, I will advise you. First go and collect men; ride
to your brother-in-law Halldor in Hof and get help from him. Is
it too wild a thing to suppose that I may have to do with this
breeze that is now playing?"

Thorbjorn thought it might be that the woman saw further than he
supposed, so he sent through the country for men. Answer came
very quickly that none of those who had given up their shares
would do anything to help him. They said that both the island
and the Grettir affair were Thorbjorn's. Tungu-Steinn gave him
two men, Hjalti his brother three, Eirik in Guddal sent him one.
Of his own he had six. These twelve rode out from Vidvik to Hof,
where Halldor invited them to stay and asked their news.
Thorbjorn told him everything fully. Halldor asked who had done
it all; he said his foster-mother had urged him much.

"That will lead to no good. She is a sorceress, and sorcery is
now forbidden."

"I cannot overlook everything," said Thorbjorn; "I am determined
that it shall now be brought to an end somehow. But how shall I
go to work to get on to the island?"

"It seems to me," said Halldor, "that you are relying upon
something, but I know not whether it is anything good. If you
want to accomplish anything go out to my friend Bjorn in Haganes
in Fljot. He has a good boat; ask him from me to lend it to you,
and then you will be able to sail on to Drangey. It seems to me
that if you find Grettir well and hearty your journey will have
been in vain. One thing know for certain: do not slay him in
open fight, for there are enough men to avenge him. Do not slay
Illugi if you can help it. I fear that my counsel may not appear
altogether Christian."

Halldor then gave him six men; one was named Kar, another
Thorleif, the third Brand. The names of the others are not

These eighteen men then went to Fljot, reached Haganes, and gave
Halldor's message to Bjorn. He said it was his duty to do it for
Halldor's sake, but that he was under no obligation to Thorbjorn.

He said it was an insane journey to make, and tried hard to
dissuade them. They answered that they could not turn back, so
they went down to the sea and launched the boat, which was ready
with all her gear in the boat-house. Then they made ready to
sail. All those who were standing on the shore thought it
impossible to cross. They hoisted the sail and the boat was soon
under way, far out in the fjord. When they got right out to sea
the weather quieted and was no longer too heavy. In the evening
as it was getting dark they reached Drangey.



It has now to be told how Grettir became so ill that he could not
stand on his feet. Illugi sat with him and Glaum had to hold
watch. He still continued to object, and said they might think
their lives were going to fall out of them, but there was no
reason for it. He went out, but most unwillingly. When he came
to the ladder he said to himself that there was no need to draw
it up. He felt very sleepy, lay down and slept all day, and did
not wake until Thorbjorn reached the island. They saw then that
the ladder was not drawn up. Thorbjorn said: "The situation has
changed from what it used to be; there are no men moving about,
and the ladder is in its place. It may be that more will come of
our journey than we expected at first. Now let us go to the hut
and not let our courage slacken. If they are well we may know
for certain that there will be need for each to do his very

They went up the ladder, looked round and saw close to the ascent
a man lying and snoring aloud. Thorbjorn recognised Glaum, went
up to the rascal and told him to wake up, striking his ear with
the hilt of his sword and saying: "Truly he is in a bad case
whose life is entrusted to your keeping."

Glaum looked up and said: "They are going on as usual. Do you
think my freedom such a great thing while I am lying here in the

Angle said: "Have you lost your wits? Don't you see that your
enemies are upon you and about to kill you all?"

Glaum said nothing, but on recognising the men cried out as loud
as he could.

"Do one thing or the other," said Angle; "either be silent this
moment and tell me all about your household, or be killed."

Glaum was as silent as if he had been dipped in water.

Thorbjorn said: "Are the brothers in the hut? Why are they not

"That would not be so easy," said Glaum, "for Grettir is sick and
nigh to death and Illugi is sitting with him."

Thorbjorn asked about his condition, and what had happened. Then
Glaum told him all about Grettir's wound.

Angle laughed and said: "True is the ancient saying that Old
friends are the last to break away, and also this, that It is ill
to have a thrall for your friend -- such a one as you, Glaum!
You have shamefully betrayed your liege lord, though there was
little good in him."

Then the others cast reproaches at him for his villainy; they
beat him almost helpless and left him lying there. Then they
went on to the hut and knocked violently at the door.

Illugi said: "Greybelly (1) is knocking at the door, brother."

"He is knocking rather loud," said Grettir; "most unmercifully."
Then the door broke in pieces. Illugi rushed to his arms and
defended the door so that they could not get in. They assailed
it long, but could get nothing in but the points of their spears,
all of which Illugi severed from their shafts. Seeing that they
could do nothing, they sprang on to the roof and began to break
it in. Then Grettir got on to his feet, seized a spear and
thrust it between the rafters. It struck Kar, Halldor's man from
Hof, and went right through him. Angle told them to go to work
warily and be careful of themselves. "We shall only overcome
them," he said, "if we act with caution."

Then they laid open the end of one of the timbers and bore upon
it until it broke. Grettir was unable to rise from his knees,
but he seized the sword Karsnaut at the moment when they all
sprang in from the roof, and a mighty fray began. Grettir struck
with his sword at Vikar, a man of Hjalti the son of Thord,
reaching his left shoulder as he sprang from the roof. It passed
across his shoulder, out under his right arm, and cut him right
in two. His body fell in two parts on the top of Grettir and
prevented him from recovering his sword as quickly as he wished,
so that Thorbjorn Angle was able to wound him severely between
the shoulders. Grettir said: "Bare is his back who has no

Illugi threw his shield before Grettir and defended him so
valiantly that all men praised his prowess.

Grettir said to Angle: "Who showed you the way to the island?"

"Christ showed us the way," he said.

"I guess," said Grettir, "that it was the wicked old woman, your
foster-mother, who showed you; hers were the counsels that you
relied upon."

"It shall now be all the same to you," said Angle, "upon whom I

They returned to the attack; Illugi defended himself and Grettir
courageously, but Grettir was unfit for fighting, partly from his
wounds, partly from his illness. Angle then ordered them to bear
Illugi down with their shields, saying he had never met with his
like amongst older men than he. They did so, and pressed upon
him with a wall of armour against which resistance was
impossible. They took him prisoner and kept him. He had wounded
most of those who were attacking him and killed three. Then they
went for Grettir, who had fallen forward on his face. There was
no resistance in him for he was already dead from his wounded
leg; his thigh was all mortified up to the rectum. Many more
wounds they gave him, but little or no blood flowed.

When they thought he was quite dead Angle took hold of his sword,
saying he had borne it long enough, but Grettir's fingers were so
tightly locked around the hilt that he could not loosen them.
Many tried before they gave it up, eight of them in turn, but all
failed. Angle then said: "Why should we spare a forest-man? Lay
his hand upon the log."

They did so, and he hewed off the hand at the wrist. Then the
fingers straightened and were loosed from the hilt. Angle took
his sword in both hands and hewed at Grettir's head. So mighty
was the blow that the sword could not hold against it, and a
piece was broken out of the edge. When asked why he spoilt a
good weapon, he replied: "It will be more easily known if there
be any question."

They said this was unnecessary, as the man was dead before. "I
will do more," he said, and struck two or three blows at
Grettir's neck before he took off his head. Then he said:

"Now I know for certain that Grettir is dead; a great man of war
have we laid even with the earth. We will take his head with us,
for I have no wish to lose the money which was put upon it.
There shall not be any doubt that it was I who slew Grettir."

They said he might do as he pleased, but they felt much
disgusted, and thought his conduct contemptible.

Then Angle said to Illugi: "It is a great pity that a man so
valiant as you should have committed such a folly as to cast in
your lot with this outlaw and follow his evil ways, at last to
die unatoned."

Illugi answered: "When the All-Thing is over next summer you
shall know who are outlawed. Neither you nor the woman, your
foster-mother, shall judge this case, for it is your spells and
sorcery that have killed Grettir, though you bore your iron
weapons against him when he was at the door of death. Many a
base deed did you do over and above your witchcraft."

Angle said: "You speak bravely, but it shall not be so. I will
show how I value you by sparing your life if you will swear by
your honour to take no vengeance upon any person who has been
with us on this occasion."

"I might have thought of it," he said, "if Grettir had been able
to defend himself or if you had killed him in honourable battle.
But now you need not hope that I will try to save my life by
becoming a poltroon like you. I tell you at once that if I live
no man shall be more burdensome to you than I. Long will it be
before I forget how you have dealt with Grettir; far sooner will
I choose to die."

Then Thorbjorn consulted with his companions whether they should
allow Illugi to live. They said he should decide their doings
himself, as he was the leader of the expedition. Angle said he
was not going to have a man threatening his head who would not
promise to hold faith. When Illugi knew that they intended to
slay him he laughed and said: "Now you have resolved upon that
which was nearest to my heart."

When the day broke they led him to the eastern side of the island
and there slew him. All praised his courage, and said there was
no man of his years who was like him. They buried both the
brothers in the island, but took Grettir's head with all weapons
and clothes which had any value away with them. His good sword
Angle would not allow to come amongst the spoils for division,
but bore it long himself. They took Glaum with them, still
complaining and resisting. The weather had calmed down in the
night, and in the morning they rowed to the mainland. Angle
sailed for the most convenient place, and sent the ship on to
Bjorn. When they came near to Osland, Glaum became so
obstreperous that they refused to carry him any further and slew
him there where he was, crying as loud as he could until he was
killed. Angle went home to Vidvik and considered that on this
journey he had been successful. They laid Grettir's head in salt
and put it for the winter in the out-house called Grettisbur in
Vidvik. Angle was much blamed for this affair when men came to
know that Grettir had been overcome by sorcery. He remained
quietly at home till after Yule. Then he went to seek Thorir in
Gard and told him of the slayings, adding that he considered that
he had a right to the money which had been put on Grettir's head.

Thorir said that he would not deny that he had brought about
Grettir's sentence. "I have often suffered wrong from him; but I
would not to take his life have become an evil-doer as you have
done. I will not pay the money to you, for you seem to me as one
who will be doomed to death for magic and witchcraft."

Angle said: "I think it is much more avarice and meanness on your
part than any scruples about the way in which Grettir was

Thorir said there was an easy way of settling it between them;
they need only wait for the All-Thing and accept what seemed
right to the Lawman. They then parted with nothing but ill-
feeling between Thorir and Thorbjorn Angle.


(1) The tame ram, see ch. lxxiv.



The kinsmen of Grettir and Illugi were deeply grieved when they
heard of their death. They held that Angle had done a dastardly
deed in slaying a man at the point of death, and they also
accused him of practising sorcery. They applied to the most
learned men, and Angle's case was ill-spoken of.

Four weeks after the beginning of summer he rode Westwards to
Midfjord. When Asdis heard of his being in the neighbourhood she
gathered her men around her. She had many friends, Gamli and
Glum, Skeggi, called Short-hand, and Ospak, who was mentioned
before. So much beloved was she that the whole of Midfjord rose
to help her, even those who had once been Grettir's enemies.
Chief among these was Thorodd Drapustuf, who was joined by most
of the Hrutafjord men.

Angle reached Bjarg with a following of twenty men, bringing
Grettir's head with him. All those who had promised their
support had not yet come in. Angle's party entered the room with
the head and set it on the floor. The mistress of the house was
there and several others; no greeting passed between them. Angle
spoke a verse:

"Grettir's head I bring thee here.
Weep for the red-haired hero, lady.
On the floor it lies; 'twere rotten by this,
but I laid it in salt. Great glory is mine."

She sat silent while he spoke his verse; then she said:

"The swine would have fled like sheep from the fox
if Grettir had stood there hearty and strong.
Shame on the deeds that were done in the North!
Little the glory you gain from my lay."

Many said it was small wonder that she had brave sons, so brave
was she herself before the insults which she had received. Ospak
was outside and was talking with those of Angle's men who had not
gone in. He asked about the fray, and they all praised Illugi
for the defence that he had made. They also told of Grettir's
firm grip on his sword after he was dead, and the men thought it
marvellous. Then a number of men were seen riding from the West;
they were the friends of Asdis with Gamli and Skeggi, who had
come from Melar.

Angle had intended to have an execution against Illugi and to
claim all his property, but when all these men came up he saw
that it would not do. Ospak and Gamli were very forward in
wanting to fight with Angle, but the wiser heads told them to get
the advice of their kinsmen Thorvald and other chiefs, and said
that the more men of knowledge occupied themselves with the
affair the worse it would be for Angle. Through their
intervention Angle got away and took with him Grettir's head,
which he intended to produce at the All-Thing. He rode home
thinking that matters were going badly for him, for nearly all
the chiefs in the land were either relations or connections of
Grettir and Illugi.

That summer Skeggi Short-hand married the daughter of Thorodd
Drapustuf, who then took part in the case on the side of
Grettir's kinsmen.



Men now rode to the Thing. Angle's party was smaller than he had
expected, because the matter had come to be badly spoken of.
Halldor asked whether they were to take Grettir's head with them
to the All-Thing. Angle said he meant to take it.

"That is an ill-advised thing to do," said Halldor; "there are
quite enough men against you as it is, without your doing such a
thing as that to re-awaken their grief."

They were then on the road, and meant to ride South by Sand, so
Angle let him take the head and bury it in a sand-hill, which is
now called Grettisthuf.

The Thing was very full. Angle brought forward his case, making
the most of his own deeds. He told them how he had killed the
forest-man on whose head the highest price had been laid, and he
claimed the money. Thorir replied as before. Then the Lawman
was asked for his opinion. He said that he wished to hear
whether any counter-charge was made, by which Angle should
forfeit the outlaw money; if not, the money offered for Grettir's
head must be paid. Then Thorvald the son of Asgeir asked Short-
hand to bring the case before the court, and he declared a first
summons against Thorbjorn Angle for witchcraft and sorcery
through which Grettir had met with his death, and a second for
having killed a man who was half dead, crimes which he said were
punishable with outlawry.

There was a great division of parties, but those who supported
Thorbjorn were few. It went very unexpectedly for him, for
Thorvald and his son-in-law Isleif held that to do a man to death
by sorcery was a crime worthy of death. Finally, by the counsel
of wise men sentence was passed that Thorbjorn was to leave
Iceland that summer and not to return during the lifetime of any
of the men concerned in the case on the side of Illugi and
Grettir. It was enacted as a law that all sorcerers should be

When Thorbjorn saw what his fate was going to be he got away from
the Thing, for Grettir's friends were making preparations to
attack him. None of the money that was set upon Grettir's head
did he get; Steinn the Lawman would not allow it because of his
dishonourable conduct; nor was any bloodmoney paid for the men
who had fallen on his side in Drangey; they were set off against
Illugi, an arrangement, however, with which Illugi's kinsmen were
not at all pleased.

Men rode home from the Thing, and all the feuds which had arisen
on Grettir's account were now at an end. Skeggi the son of
Gamli, son-in-law of Thorodd Drapustuf and sister's son of
Grettir, went North to Skagafjord with the assistance of Thorvald
Asgeirsson and of his son-in-law Isleif, who afterwards became
bishop of Skalaholt. After obtaining the consent of the whole
community he took ship and went to Drangey, where he found the
bodies of Grettir and Illugi and brought them to Reykir in
Reykjastrand and buried them in the church. Testimony of Grettir
lying there is in the fact that in the days of the Sturlungs,
when the church at Reykir was moved to another place, Grettir's
bones were dug up, and were found to be enormously big and
strong. Illugi was buried later on the north side of the church,
and Grettir's head was buried in the church at his home in Bjarg.

Asdis remained in Bjarg and was so beloved that no one molested
her any more than they did while Grettir was an outlaw. The
property at Bjarg passed after her death to Skeggi Short-hand,
who became a great man. His son was Gamli, the father of Skeggi
of Skarfsstad and of Alfdis the mother of Odd the Monk, from whom
many are descended.



Thorbjorn Angle embarked at Gasar with as much of his own
property as he was able to get. His lands went to his brother
Hjalti, including Drangey, which Angle gave him. Hjalti became a
great chief later on, but is not mentioned again in our story.

Angle went to Norway and still made himself very important. He
was supposed to have done a great deed of valour in slaying
Grettir, and many who did not know how it really happened
honoured him accordingly; but there were some to whom Grettir's
fame was known. He only told so much of the story as tended to
his own glory, but whatever was less creditable to him he
omitted. In the autumn his account reached Tunsberg and came to
the ears of Thorsteinn Dromund, who kept very quiet, for he had
been told that Angle was a very doughty man and valiant. He
remembered the talk which he had had with Grettir in days long
past about his arms, and obtained news of Angle's movements.
They were both in Norway that winter, but Thorbjorn was in the
North and Thorsteinn in Tunsberg, so that they did not see each
other. Angle knew, however, that Grettir had a brother in
Norway, and did not feel very secure in a strange country; so he
asked advice as to what he had better do. In those days many of
the Norsemen used to go to Mikligard (1) to take service.
Thorbjorn thought it would suit him very well to go there and
earn wealth and glory instead of staying in the northern parts
where there were relations of Grettir. So he made ready to leave
Norway, embarked, and did not stop until he reached
Constantinople, and obtained service there.


(1) Constantinople.



Thorsteinn Dromund was a wealthy man and highly thought of. On
hearing of Angle's departure to Constantinople he handed over his
property to his kinsmen and followed him, dogging his movements
as he went, without Angle knowing. He reached Constantinople
very soon after Angle, intending at all costs to kill him.
Neither knew of the other.

Both wanted to be received into the Varangian Guards, and their
offer was well received directly it was known that they were
Norsemen. At that time Michael Catalactus was king over
Constantinople. Thorsteinn Dromund watched for an opportunity of
meeting Angle where he might recognise him, but failed amidst the
crowd, so he kept on the watch, caring little for his own well-
being and ever thinking how much he had lost.

The next thing that happened was that the Varangians were ordered
on field service for the defence of the country. The custom and
the law were that before they marched a review was held for the
inspection of their weapons; this was done on the present
occasion. On the day appointed for the review all the Varangians
and all who were marching with them had to appear and show their
arms. Thorsteinn and Angle both presented themselves. Thorbjorn
was the first to show his weapons and he presented the sword
Grettisnaut. As he showed it all marvelled and declared that it
was indeed a noble weapon, but said it was a bad fault that a
piece was out of the middle of the edge, and they asked how that
had come about. Angle said that was a tale worth telling.

"The first thing I must tell you," he said, "is that out in
Iceland I slew a hero named Grettir the Strong. He was a
tremendous warrior and so valorous that no one could succeed in
killing him until I came. But as I was destined to be his
slayer, I overcame him, although he was many times stronger than
I am. I cut off his head with this sword and broke a piece out
of the edge."

Those who stood by said he must have had a hard skull, and they
showed the sword round. From this Thorsteinn came to know which
was Angle, and asked to be shown the sword with the others.
Angle willingly showed it to him, for they were all praising his
strength and courage, and he, having no notion of its being
Thorsteinn or any relation of Grettir, thought he would do
likewise. Dromund took the sword, at once raised it aloft and
struck a blow at Angle. It came into his head with such force
that it penetrated to his jaw and Thorbjorn fell dead to the
ground. Thereupon all the men became silent. The officer of the
place put Thorsteinn under arrest and asked him why he had
committed such a breach of discipline in the sanctity of the
Assembly. Thorsteinn said he was a brother of Grettir the Strong
and that he had never been able to obtain his vengeance till that
moment. Then many of them stood up for him and said there was
much excuse for a man who had come such a long way to avenge his
brother. The elders of the town thought that this might be true,
but as there was no one present to bear out his word they fell
back upon their own law, which declared that any man who slew
another should lose nothing else than his life.

Judgment was quickly passed upon Thorsteinn, and it was rather
hard. He was to sit in a dark chamber in a dungeon and there
await his death unless some one came to pay a ransom for him.
When he reached the dungeon he found a man who had been there a
long time and was all but dead from misery. It was both foul and
cold. Thorsteinn asked him: "How do you find your life?"

"Most evil," he replied; "no one will help me, for I have no
kinsmen to pay a ransom."

"There are many ways out of a difficulty," said Thorsteinn, "let
us be happy and do something to cheer ourselves."

The man said he had no joy in anything.

"We will try it," said Thorsteinn.

Then he began to sing songs. He was such a singer that it would
be hard to find his like, and he spared nothing. The dungeon was
close to the public road and Thorsteinn sang so loud that it
resounded from the walls; the man who before was half dead had
much joy therefrom. In this way he sang every evening.



There was a very distinguished lady in that town, the owner of a
large establishment, very rich and highly born. Her name was
Spes. Her husband's name was Sigurd; he too was wealthy, but of
lower birth than she was. She had been married to him for his
money. There was not much love between them, and the marriage
was thought an unhappy one. She was very proud, and had much

One evening when Thorsteinn was diverting himself she happened to
pass along the street near the dungeon and heard singing so sweet
that she declared she had never heard the like. She was walking
with several retainers, and told them to go in and find out who
it was that had such a magnificent voice. They called out and
asked who was there in such close confinement. Thorsteinn told
his name. Spes said:

"Are you as good at other things as you are at singing?"

He said there was not much in that.

"What have you done," she asked, "that they should torture you
here to death?"

He said he had killed a man and avenged his brother; "but I have
no witness to prove it," he said; "so I have been put here unless
some one comes to release me, of which there seems little hope,
since I have no relations here."

"A great loss would it be if you were killed," she said. "Was
your brother then a man of such renown, he whom you avenged?"

Thorsteinn said he was half as good a man again as himself.

She asked what token there was of that. Then Thorsteinn spoke
this verse:

"Goddess of rings! No eight could meet him,
or gain the sword from his vanquished hand.
Brave was Grettir; his foemen doughty
severed the hand of the ruler of ships."

Those who understood the song declared that it told of great
nobility. When she heard that she asked:

"Will you receive your life at my hands if the choice is offered

"Indeed I will," he said, "if this companion of mine sitting here
is released along with me. If not, we must both remain sitting
here together."

She answered: "I think you are more worth paying for than he is."

"However that may be," he said, "either we both of us come out
from here together or neither of us comes out."

So she went to the Varangians' quarters and asked for the release
of Thorsteinn, offering money. They agreed. With her interest
and her wealth she brought it about that both of them were
released. Directly Thorsteinn came out of the dungeon he went to
pay his respects to the lady Spes. She welcomed him and kept him
there secretly. From time to time he went campaigning with the
Varangians, and was distinguished for his courage in all their



At that time Harald the son of Sigurd (1) was in Constantinople,
and Thorsteinn became friendly with him. Thorsteinn was now a
very great personage, for Spes kept him well supplied with money,
and they became very much attached to one another. She was a
great admirer of his skill. Her expenses were very great because
she tried to keep up many friends. Her husband noticed a great
change in her character and her behaviour, and especially that
she had become very extravagant. Treasures of gold and other
property which were in her keeping disappeared. One day her
husband Sigurd spoke with her and said that he was much surprised
at her conduct. "You pay no attention to our affairs," he said,
"and squander money in many ways. You seem as if you were in a
dream, and never wish to be where I am. I am certain that
something is going on."

She replied: "I told you as I told my kinsmen when we married
that I meant to be my own mistress in all matters which concern
myself; that is why I do not spare your money. Or is there
anything more than this that you wish to speak about with me? Do
you accuse me of anything shameful?"

He said : "I am not without my suspicions that you are keeping
some man whom you prefer to me."

"I do not know," she said, "that there would be very much in
that; and yet of a surety there is no truth in what you say. I
will not speak with you alone if you bring such improper
accusations against me."

He dropped the subject for the time. She and Thorsteinn
continued to carry on as before, and were not very heedful of the
talk of evil-minded people; they relied upon her wits and her
popularity. They were often sitting together and diverting

One evening when they were sitting in an upper room in which her
treasures were kept she asked Thorsteinn to sing something, and
thinking that her husband was as usual sitting at drink she
fastened the door. When he had sung for a time there was a
banging at the door, and some one called to them to open it. It
was her husband with a number of his followers. The lady had
opened a large chest to show Thorsteinn the treasures. When she
knew who was outside she refused to open the door, and said to
Thorsteinn: "Quickly! Jump into the chest and keep very quiet."

He did so. She locked the chest and sat upon it. Her husband
then entered, having forced his way in. She said:

"What are you coming here for with all this uproar? Are there
robbers after you?"

He said: "Now it is well that you yourself give proof of what you
are. Where is the man who was letting his voice run on so
grandly? No doubt you think his voice is better than mine."

"No man is a fool if he keeps silence," she said; "that applies
to you. You think yourself very cunning, and would like to
fasten your lies on to me, as in this case. Well, if you have
spoken the truth, find the man. He will not escape through the
walls or the roof."

He searched all through the room and found nothing.

"Why don't you take him," she said, "if you are so certain?"

He was silent and knew not how he could have been deceived. He
asked his men whether they had not heard what he heard, but when
they saw that the lady was displeased there was nothing to be got
out of them; they said that one was often mistaken about sounds.
He then went away, not doubting that he knew the truth, though he
could not find the man. After that he ceased for some time to
pry into his wife's concerns.

On another occasion, much later, Thorsteinn and Spes were sitting
in a tiring-room where dresses were kept which belonged to them,
both made up and in the piece. She showed many of the cloths to
Thorsteinn and spread them out. When they were least expecting
it her husband came up with a troop of men and broke into the
room. While they were forcing their way in she covered
Thorsteinn up with a bundle of clothes and leaned against the
heap when they entered.

"Do you again deny," he said, "that there was a man here with
you? There are those present here now who saw you both."

She told him not to be so violent. "You will not fail to catch
him now," she said. "Only leave me in peace and do not push me

They searched the room, but finding nothing had to give it up.

"It is always good to have better proofs than people suppose. It
was only to be expected that you would not find what was not
there. Now, my husband, will you admit your folly and free me
from this slanderous accusation?"

"By no means will I free you," he said, "for I know that what I
have accused you of is true, and it will cost you an effort to
free yourself of the charge."

She said she was quite ready to do that, and there. with they

After this Thorsteinn remained entirely with the Varangians. Men
say that he acted by the advice of Harald the son of Sigurd, and
it is thought that they would not have got out of it as they did
if they had not made use of him and his wits.

After a time Sigurd gave out that he was about to go abroad on
some business. His wife did not try to dissuade him. When he
was gone Thorsteinn came to Spes and they were always together.
Her house was built on the very edge of the sea and there were
some of the rooms under which the sea flowed.

Here it was that Spes and Thorsteinn always sat. There was a
small trap-door in the floor, known to no one but these two, and
it was kept open in case of its being wanted in a hurry.

Sigurd, it must be told, did not go away, but concealed himself
so as to be able to watch his wife's doings. One evening when
they were sitting unconcernedly in the room over the sea and
enjoying themselves, in came her husband with a party of men,
taking them by surprise. He had taken some of the men to the
window of the room that they might see whether it was not as he
had said. They all said that he had spoken truly, and that it
must have been so too on the former occasions. Then they rushed
into the room.

On hearing the noise Spes said to Thorsteinn: "You must go down
here whatever it costs. Give me some sign that you have got away
from the house."

He promised that he would, and descended through the floor. The
lady closed the trap-door with her foot, and it fell back into
its place so that no one could see any mark of the floor having
been touched. Sigurd entered the room with his men, searched,
and of course found nothing. The room was uninhabited and there
was no furniture in it, but only the bare floor and a bed, on
which the lady was sitting and twirling her fingers. She paid
little attention to them and seemed as if their business did not
concern her. Sigurd thought it altogether ridiculous and asked
his followers if they had not seen the man. They declared that
they had seen him most assuredly.

The lady said: "Now we may say as the proverb has it: A11 good
things are in threes. This is your case, Sigurd. Three times
you have disturbed me, if I remember rightly; and now are you any
the wiser than you were in the beginning?"

"This time I am not alone to tell the story," he said. "For all
that you will have to clear yourself, for on no terms will I
allow your shameful deeds to go unpunished."

"It seems," she said, "that you require the very thing which I
would myself propose. It will please me well to show the
falsehood of this accusation, which has been so thoroughly aired
that I shall be disgraced if I cannot refute it."

"At the same time," he said, "you will have to deny that you have
expended my money and my property."

She replied: "At the time when I clear myself I will refute all
the matters which you brought against me, and you may consider
how it will all end. I mean to go at once, to-morrow morning,
before the bishop that he may grant me full compurgation from
this charge."

Her husband was satisfied with this and went away with his men.

In the meantime Thorsteinn had swum away from the house and
landed at a convenient place, where he got a firebrand and held
it aloft so that it could be seen from the lady's house. She
stayed long outside in the evening and the night, for she was
anxious to know whether Thorsteinn had reached the land. When
she saw the light she knew that he had landed, for that was the
signal which they had agreed upon.

The next morning Spes proposed to her husband that they should
speak with the bishop on their matter. This he was quite ready
to do, so they went before the bishop and Sigurd repeated his
accusation. The bishop asked whether she had ever been accused
of misbehaviour before, but nobody had heard of such a thing.
Then he asked upon what evidence this charge was brought against
her, and Sigurd produced the men who had seen her sitting in a
room with the door locked and a man with her. Her husband said
that this was ground enough for supposing that the man meant to
seduce her.

The bishop said that she might very well purge herself from this
accusation if she so desired. She replied that she desired it
very much. "I hope," she said, "that I shall have many women to
swear for me on this charge."

The form of the oath which she was to swear was then communicated
to her and the day for the compurgation fixed. She returned home
and was quite happy. She and Thorsteinn met and laid their


(1) The same Harald who, as King of Norway, would later
challenge King Harald I for the throne of England. He lost
at the Battle of Stamford Bridge -- three weeks before
Hastings (A.D. 1066).



The day now arrived when Spes was to make oath. She invited all
her friends and relations, and appeared in the finest clothes
that she possessed, with many a fine lady in her train. It was
raining heavily and the roads were flooded; on the way to the
church there was a swamp to be passed. When Spes came with her
company to the swamp there was a great crowd on the high road,
and a multitude of poor people asking for alms, for all who knew
her thought it a duty to give her a greeting and wish her well
because of the kindnesses which they had often received from her.

Amongst these poor people there was a beggar very large of
stature and with a long beard. The women halted at the swamp;
being people of high rank they did not like to cross the dirty
slough. The big beggar, seeing that Spes was better dressed than
the other ladies, said to her: "Good lady, have the condescension
to allow me to carry you over the swamp. It is the duty of us
gaberlunzies to serve you in whatever way we can."

"How can you carry me," she said, "when you can scarcely carry

"Nevertheless, it would be a great condescension. I cannot offer
you more than I have, and you will prosper the better in other
things for having had no pride with a poor man."

"Know then for a surety," she said, "that if you carry me not
properly the skin shall be flayed from your back."

"Gladly will I venture upon that," he said, and waded out into
the stream. She pretended to dislike very much being carried by
him; nevertheless, she got upon his back. He staggered along
very slowly, using two crutches, and when they reached the middle
he was reeling in every direction. She told him to pull himself
together. "If you drop me here," she said, "it shall be the
worst journey that you ever made."

The poor wretch gathered up all his strength and still went on.
By dint of a valiant effort he had all but reached the shore when
he struck his foot against something and fell forwards,
projecting her on to the bank while he himself fell into the mire
up to his armpits. There as he lay he put out his hands, not on
her clothes, but on her legs. She sprang up cursing and said she
always suffered ill from low vagabonds. "It would only be right
that you should have a good beating," she said, "were I not
ashamed to beat such a miserable creature as you are."

He said: "Unequal is the lot of man. I thought to earn some
benefit and to receive alms from you, and you only give me abuse
and insult without any reward." And he pretended to be very much
disgusted. Many felt pity for him, but she said he was a very
cunning rascal. When they all began to beg for him she took out
her purse, wherein was many a golden penny. She shook out the
money, saying: "Take that, fellow! It would not be right that
you should go unpaid for all my scoldings. You are now paid for
what you have done."

He gathered up the money and thanked her for her liberality.
Spes then went to the church, which was full of people. Sigurd
proceeded with energy and told her to clear herself of the charge
which he had brought against her.

"I pay no heed to your accusation," she said; "but I want to know
what man it was whom you pretend to have seen in the room with
me, because there is always some proper man near me; there is
nothing to be ashamed of in that. But this I will swear, that to
no man have I given money and that by no man has my body been
defiled excepting by my husband and by that beggar, who put his
muddy hands upon my leg to-day when I was carried over the

Many then were satisfied and declared that her oath was perfectly
good and that she was in no way disgraced by a man having touched
her unwittingly. She said she had to tell the story just as it
happened, and then she swore the oath in the words appointed for
her. Many said that she would be observing the saying that:
Nothing should be omitted from an oath. But she replied that
wise men would hold that there was no cause for suspicion. Then
her relations began to talk with her and said that it was a great
insult to a woman of high birth that such lies should be told
about her and go unpunished, for they said it was an offence
punishable with death if a woman were proved to have been
unfaithful to her husband. So Spes asked the bishop to divorce
her from Sigurd, saying that she would not endure the lies which
he had told. Her kinsmen supported her, and with their help her
request was granted. Sigurd got little of the property and had
to leave the country. So it happened as usual that the weaker
had to bow, nor could he accomplish anything although the right
was on his side. Spes took all the money and was held in high
esteem, but when men came to consider her oath they thought it
was not altogether above suspicion, and they concluded that very
skilful men had composed the Latin formula for her. They
ferreted out that the beggar who carried her was Thorsteinn
Dromund. But Sigurd got no redress.



While the affair was being talked about Thorsteinn Dromund
remained with the Varangians, where he was held in such high
estimation that his prowess was considered to be beyond that of
nearly every man who had come to them. Especially Harald the son
of Sigurd did him honour, and claimed kinship with him; it was
supposed to have been by his advice that Thorsteinn had acted.

Soon after Sigurd was driven from the country Thorsteinn proposed
marriage to Spes; she was quite agreeable, but referred it to her
kinsmen. There were family meetings and all agreed that she
herself ought to decide. Matters were settled between them;
their union was most prosperous and they had plenty of money.
Thorsteinn was considered lucky to have got out of his
difficulties in such a way. After they had lived together for
two years in Constantinople, Thorsteinn told her that he would
like to visit his property once more in Norway. She said he
should do as he pleased, and he then sold his property so as to
have some ready money. They left the country with a good company
of followers and sailed all the way to Norway. Thorsteinn's
kinsmen welcomed them both, and soon saw that Spes was both
generous and noble; accordingly she quickly became very popular.
They had three children, and remained on their property very well
contented with their condition.

The king of Norway was at that time Magnus the Good. Thorsteinn
soon went to meet him, and was well received because of the fame
which he had earned through having avenged Grettir the Strong.
Scarcely an example was known of a man from Iceland having been
avenged in Constantinople, excepting Grettir the son of Asmund.
It is said that Thorsteinn entered his bodyguard. Thorsteinn
remained nine years in Norway, both he and his wife being in high
honour. After that King Harald the son of Sigurd returned from
Constantinople, and King Magnus gave him the half of Norway.
Both kings were together in Norway for a time. After Magnus's
death some who had been his friends were less contented, for he
was beloved of all, but Harald was not easy to get on with, since
he was hard and severe. Thorsteinn Dromund then began to grow
old, but was still very vigorous. Sixteen winters had now passed
since the death of Grettir.



There were many who urged Thorsteinn to visit King Harald and
become his man, but he would not. Spes said to him: "I would
not, Thorsteinn, that you go to Harald, for a larger debt remains
unpaid to another King, whereto we must now turn our thoughts.
Our youth is now passed; we are both becoming old, and we have
lived more after our desires than after Christian doctrine or
regard for righteousness. Now I know that neither kinsmen nor
wealth may pay this debt if we pay it not ourselves. I would
therefore that we now change our way of life and leave the
country to betake ourselves to Pafagard.(1) I have hope that so
I shall be absolved from my sin."

Thorsteinn answered: "The matter of which you speak is as well
known to me as it is to you. It is right that you should rule
now, and most seemly, since you allowed me to rule when our
matter was much less hopeful. And so shall it be now in all that
you say."

This resolve of theirs took men by surprise. Thorsteinn was then
two years past of sixty-five, but still vigorous in all that he
undertook. He summoned all his kinsmen and connections to him
and told them his plans. The wiser men approved of his resolve,
while holding his departure a great misfortune for themselves.
Thorsteinn said there was no certainty of his return. He said:

"I wish now to thank you all for the care of my goods which you
took while I was absent. Now I ask you to take over my children
along with my property, and to bring them up in your own ways;
for I am now come to such an age that even if I live there is
much doubt about whether I shall return. Manage all that I leave
behind as if I should never return to Norway."

The men answered that matters would be more easily managed if his
wife remained to look after them.

She answered: "I left my own country and came from Mikligard with
Thorsteinn, I bade farewell to my kinsmen and my possessions,
because I wished that one fate should befall us both. And now it
has seemed pleasant to me here, but no desire have I to remain in
Norway or in these Northern lands after he has departed. There
has always been goodwill between us and no dissension. Now we
must both depart together; for we ourselves know best about many
things which have happened since we first met."

When they had thus dealt with their own condition, Tborsteinn
appointed certain impartial men to divide his property in two

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