Part 2 out of 9
Glut the wolf with manly gore,
Worse the lot of both would be."
Hrut answered, "III will be thy meed for this."
"Be that as it may," says Gunnar.
Then Hauskuld and his brother went home to their booth, and he
had much upon his mind, and said to Hrut, "Will this unfairness
of Gunnar's never be avenged?"
"Not so," says Hrut; "'twill be avenged on him sure enough, but
we shall have no share nor profit in that vengeance. And after
all it is most likely that he will turn to our stock to seek for
After that they left off speaking of the matter. Gunnar showed
Njal the money, and he said, "The suit has gone off well."
"Ay," says Gunnar, "but it was all thy doing."
Now men rode home from the Thing, and Gunnar got very great
honour from the suit. Gunnar handed over all the money to Unna,
and would have none of it, but said he thought he ought to look
more for help from her and her kin hereafter than from other men.
She said, so it should be.
25. UNNA'S SECOND WEDDING
There was a man named Valgard, he kept house at Hof by Rangriver,
he was the son of Jorund the Priest, and his brother was Wolf
Aurpriest (1). Those brothers, Wolf Aurpriest, and Valgard the
Guileful, set off to woo Unna, and she gave herself away to
Valgard without the advice of any of her kinsfolk. But Gunnar
and Njal, and many others thought ill of that, for he was a
cross-grained man and had few friends. They begot between them a
son, whose name was Mord, and he is long in this story. When he
was grown to man's estate, he worked ill to his kinsfolk but
worst of all to Gunnar. He was a crafty man in his temper, but
spiteful in his counsels.
Now we will name Njal's sons. Skarphedinn was the eldest of
them. He was a tall man in growth, and strong withal; a good
swordsman; he could swim like a seal, the swiftest-looted of men,
and bold and dauntless; he had a great flow of words and quick
utterance; a good skald too; but still for the most part he kept
himself well in hand; his hair was dark brown, with crisp curly
locks; he had good eyes; his features were sharp, and his face
ashen pale, his nose turned up and his front teeth stuck out, and
his mouth was very ugly. Still he was the most soldierlike of
Grim was the name of Njal's second son. He was fair of face and
wore his hair long. His hair was dark, and he was comelier to
look on than Skarphedinn. A tall strong man.
Helgi was the name of Njal's third son. He too was fair of face
and had fine hair. He was a strong man and well-skilled in arms.
He was a man of sense and knew well how to behave. They were all
unwedded at that time, Njal's sons.
Hauskuld was the fourth of Njal's sons. He was baseborn. His
mother was Rodny, and she was Hauskuld's daughter, the sister of
Ingialld of the Springs.
Njal asked Skarphedinn one day if he would take to himself a
wife. He bade his father settle the matter. Then Njal asked for
his hand Thorhilda, the daughter of Ranvir of Thorolfsfell, and
that was why they had another homestead there after that.
Skarphedinn got Thorhilda, but he stayed still with his father to
the end. Grim wooed Astrid of Deepback; she was a widow and very
wealthy. Grim got her to wife, and yet lived on with Njal.
(1) The son of Ranveig the Silly, the son of Valgard, the son of
Aefar, the son of Vemund Wordstopper, the son of Thorolf
Hooknose, the son of Thrand the Old, the son of Harold
Hilditann, the son of Hraereck Ringscatterer. The mother of
Harold Hilditann, was Aud the daughter of Ivar Widefathom,
the son of Halfdan the Clever. The brother of Valgard the
Guileful was Wolf Aurpriest -- from whom the Pointdwellers
sprung -- Wolf Aurpriest was the father of Swart, the father
of Lodmund, the father of Sigfus, the father of Saemund the
Wise. But from Valgard is sprung Kolbein the Young.
26. OF ASGRIM AND HIS CHILDREN
There was a man named Asgrim (1). He was Ellidagrim's son. The
brother of Asgrim Ellidagrim's son was Sigfus (2). Gauk
Trandil's son was Asgrim's foster-brother, who is said to have
been the fairest man of his day, and best skilled in all things;
but matters went ill with them, for Asgrim slew Gauk.
Asgrim had two sons, and each of them was named Thorhall. They
were both hopeful men. Grim was the name of another of Asgrim's
sons, and Thorhalla was his daughter's name. She was the fairest
of women, and well behaved.
Njal came to talk with his son Helgi, and said, "I have thought
of a match for thee, if thou wilt follow my advice."
"That I will surely," says he, "for I know that thou both meanest
me well, and canst do well for me; but whither hast thou turned
"We will go and woo Asgrim Ellidagrim's son's daughter, for that
is the best choice we can make."
(1) Ellidagrim was Asgrim's son, Aundot the Crow's son. His
mother's name was Jorunn, and she was the daughter of Teit,
the son of Kettlebjorn the Old of Mossfell. The mother of
Teit was Helga, daughter of Thord Skeggi's son, Hrapp's son,
Bjorn's son the Roughfooted, Grim's son, the Lord of Sogn in
Norway. The mother of Jorunn was Olof Harvest-heal,
daughter of Bodvar, Viking-Kari's son.
(2) His daughter was Thorgerda, mother of Sigfus, the father of
Saemund the Learned.
27. HELGI NJAL'S SON'S WOOING
A little after they rode out across Thurso water, and fared till
they came into Tongue. Asgrim was at home, and gave them a
hearty welcome; and they were there that night. Next morning
they began to talk, and then Njal raised the question of the
wooing, and asked for Thorhalla for his son Helgi's hand. Asgrim
answered that well, and said there were no men with whom he would
be more willing to make this bargain than with them. They fell
a-talking then about terms, and the end of it was that Asgrim
betrothed his daughter to Helgi, and the bridal day was named.
Gunnar was at that feast, and many other of the bestmen. After
the feast Njal offered to foster in his house Thorhall, Asgrim's
son, and he was with Njal long after. He loved Njal more than
his own father. Njal taught him law, so that he became the
greatest lawyer in Iceland in those days.
28. HALLVARD COMES OUT TO ICELAND
There came a ship out from Norway, and ran into Arnbael's Oyce
(1), and the master of the ship was Hallvard the White, a man
from the Bay (2). He went to stay at Lithend, and was with
Gunnar that winter, and was always asking him to fare abroad with
him. Gunnar spoke little about it, but yet said more unlikely
things might happen; and about spring he went over to
Bergthorsknoll to find out from Njal whether he thought it a wise
step in him to go abroad.
"I think it is wise," says Njal; "they will think thee there an
honourable man, as thou art."
"Wilt thou perhaps take my goods into thy keeping while I am
away, for I wish my brother Kolskegg to fare with me; but I would
that thou shouldst see after my household along with my mother."
"I will not throw anything in the way of that," says Njal; "lean
on me in this thing as much as thou likest."
"Good go with thee for thy words," says Gunnar, and he rides
The Easterling (3) fell again to talk with Gunnar that he should
fare abroad. Gunnar asked if he had ever sailed to other lands?
He said he had sailed to every one of them that lay between
Norway and Russia, and so, too, I have sailed to Biarmaland (4).
"Wilt thou sail with me eastward ho?" says Gunnar.
"That I will of a surety," says he.
Then Gunnar made up his mind to sail abroad with him. Njal took
all Gunnar's goods into his keeping.
(1) "Oyce," a north country word for the mouth of a river, from
(2) "The Bay" (comp. ch. ii., and other passages), the name
given to the great bay in the east of Norway, the entrance
of which from the North Sea is the Cattegat, and at the end
of which is the Christiania Firth. The name also applies to
the land round the Bay, which thus formed a district, the
boundary of which, on the one side, was the promontory
called Lindesnaes, or the Naze, and on the other, the
Gota-Elf, the river on which the Swedish town of Gottenburg
stands, and off the mouth of which lies the island of
Hisingen, mentioned shortly after.
(3) Easterling, i.e., the Norseman Hallvard.
(4) Permia, the country one comes to after doubling the North
29. GUNNAR GOES ABROAD
So Gunnar fared abroad, and Kolskegg with him. They sailed first
to Tonsberg (1), and were there that winter. There had then been
a shift of rulers in Norway. Harold Grayfell was then dead, and
so was Gunnhillda. Earl Hacon the Bad, Sigurd's son, Hacon's
son, Gritgarth's son, then ruled the realm. The mother of Hacon
was Bergliot, the daughter of Earl Thorir. Her mother was Olof
Harvest-heal. She was Harold Fair-hair's daughter.
Hallvard asks Gunnar if he would make up his mind to go to Earl
"No; I will not do that," says Gunnar. "Hast thou ever a long-
"I have two," he says.
"Then I would that we two went on warfare; and let us get men to
go with us."
"I will do that," says Hallvard.
After that they went to the Bay, and took with them two ships,
and fitted them out thence. They had good choice of men, for
much praise was said of Gunnar.
"Whither wilt thou first fare?" says Gunnar.
"I wish to go south-east to Hisingen, to see my kinsman Oliver,"
"What dost thou want of him?" says Gunnar.
He answered, "He is a fine brave fellow, and he will be sure to
get us some more strength for our voyage."
"Then let us go thither," says Gunnar.
So, as soon as they were "boun," they held on east to Hisingen,
and had there a hearty welcome. Gunnar had only been there a
short time ere Oliver made much of him. Oliver asks about his
voyage, and Hallvard says that Gunnar wishes to go a-warfaring to
gather goods for himself.
"There's no use thinking of that," says Oliver, "when ye have no
"Well" says Hallvard, "then you may add to it."
"So I do mean to strengthen Gunnar somewhat," says Oliver; "and
though thou reckonest thyself my kith and kin, I think there is
more good in him."
"What force, now, wilt thou add to ours?" he asks.
"Two long-ships, one with twenty, and the other with thirty seats
"Who shall man them?" asks Hallvard.
"I will man one of them with my own house-carles, and the freemen
around shall man the other. But still I have found out that
strife has come into the river, and I know not whether ye two
will be able to get away; for they are in the river."
"Who?" says Hallvard.
"Brothers twain," says Oliver; "one's name is Vandil, and the
other's Karli, sons of Sjolf the Old, east away out of Gothland."
Hallvard told Gunnar that Oliver had added some ships to theirs,
and Gunnar was glad at that. They busked them for their voyage
thence, till they were "allboun." Then Gunnar and Hallvard went
before Oliver, and thanked him; he bade them fare warily for the
sake of those brothers.
(1) A town at the mouth of the Christiania Firth. It was a
great place for traffic in early times, and was long the
only mart in the south-east of Norway.
30. GUNNAR GOES A-SEA-ROVING
So Gunnar held on out of the river, and he and Kolskegg were both
on board one ship. But Hallvard was on board another. Now, they
see the ships before them, and then Gunnar spoke, and said, "Let
us be ready for anything if they turn towards us! but else let
us have nothing to do with them."
So they did that, and made all ready on board their ships. The
others parted their ships asunder, and made a fareway between the
ships. Gunnar fared straight on between the ships, but Vandil
caught up a grappling-iron, and cast it between their ships and
Gunnar's ship, and began at once to drag it towards him.
Oliver had given Gunnar a good sword; Gunnar now drew it, and had
not yet put on his helm. He leapt at once on the forecastle of
Vandil's ship, and gave one man his death-blow. Karli ran his
ship alongside the other side of Gunnar's ship, and hurled a
spear athwart the deck, and aimed at him about the waist. Gunnar
sees this, and turned him about so quickly that no eye could
follow him, and caught the spear with his left hand, and hurled
it back at Karli's ship, and that man got his death who stood
before it. Kolskegg snatched up a grapnel and cast it at Karli's
ship, and the fluke fell inside the hold, and went out through
one of the planks and in rushed the coal-blue sea, and all the
men sprang on board other ships.
Now Gunnar leapt back to his own ship, and then Hallvard came up,
and now a great battle arose. They saw now that their leader was
unflinching, and every man did as well as he could. Sometimes
Gunnar smote with the sword, and sometimes he hurled the spear,
and many a man had his bane at his hand. Kolskegg backed him
well. As for Karli, he hastened in a ship to his brother Vandil,
and thence they fought that day. During the day Kolskegg took a
rest on Gunnar's ship, and Gunnar sees that. Then he sung a
"For the eagle ravine-eager,
Raven of my race, to-day
Better surely hast thou catered,
Lord of gold, than for thyself;
Here the morn come greedy ravens
Many any a rill of wolf (1) to sup,
But thee burning thirst down-beareth,
Prince of battle's Parliament!"
After that Kolskegg took a beaker full of mead, and drank it off,
and went on fighting afterwards; and so it came about that those
brothers sprang up on the ship of Vandil and his brother, and
Kolskegg went on one side, and Gunnar on the other. Against
Gunnar came Vandil, and smote at once at him with his sword, and
the blow fell on his shield. Gunnar gave the shield a twist as
the sword pierced it, and broke it short off at the hilt. Then
Gunnar smote back at Vandil, and three swords seemed to be aloft,
and Vandil could not see how to shun the blow. Then Gunnar cut
both his legs from under him, and at the same time Kolskegg ran
Karli through with a spear. After that they took great war
Thence they held on south to Denmark, and thence east to Smoland,
(2) and had victory wherever they went. They did not come back
in autumn. The next summer they held on to Reval, and fell in
there with sea-rovers, and fought at once, and won the fight.
After that they steered east to Osel,(3) and lay there somewhile
under a ness. There they saw a man coming down from the ness
above them; Gunnar went on shore to meet the man, and they had a
talk. Gunnar asked him his name, and he said it was Tofi.
Gunnar asked again what he wanted.
"Thee I want to see," says the man. " Two warships lie on the
other side under the ness, and I will tell thee who command them:
two brothers are the captains -- one's name is Hallgrim, and the
other's Kolskegg. I know them to be mighty men of war; and I
know too that they have such good weapons that the like are not
to be had. Hallgrim has a bill which he had made by seething-
spells; and this is what the spells say, that no weapon shall
give him his death-blow save that bill. That thing follows
it too that it is known at once when a man is to be slain with
that bill, for something sings in it so loudly that it may be
heard along way off -- such a strong nature has that bill in it."
Then Gunnar sang a song --
"Soon shall I that spearhead seize,
And the bold sea-rover slay,
Him whose blows on headpiece ring,
Heaper up of piles of dead.
Then on Endil's courser (4) bounding,
O'er the sea-depths I will ride,
While the wretch who spells abuseth,
Life shall lose in Sigar's storm." (5)
"Kolskegg has a short sword; that is also the best of weapons.
Force, too, they have -- a third more than ye. They have also
much goods, and have stowed them away on land, and I know clearly
where they are. But they have sent a spy-ship off the ness, and
they know all about you. Now they are getting themselves ready
as fast as they can; and as soon as they are `boun,' they mean
to run out against you. Now you have either to row away at once,
or to busk yourselves as quickly as ye can; but if ye win the day
then I will lead you to all their store of goods."
Gunnar gave him a golden finger-ring, and went afterwards to his
men and told them that war-ships lay on the other side of the
ness, "and they know all about us; so let us take to our arms and
busk us well, for now there is gain to be got."
Then they busked them; and just when they were `boun' they see
ships coming up to them. And now a fight sprung up between them,
and they fought long, and many men fell. Gunnar slew many a man.
Hallgrim and his men leapt on board Gunnar's ship. Gunnar turns
to meet him, and Hallgrim thrust at him with his bill. There was
a boom athwart the ship, and Gunnar leapt nimbly back over it.
Gunnar's shield was just before the boom, and Hallgrim thrust his
bill into it, and through it, and so on into the boom. Gunnar
cut at Hallgrim's arm hard, and lamed the forearm, but the sword
would not bite. Then down fell the bill, and Gunnar seized the
bill, and thrust Hallgrim through, and then sang a song --
"Slain is he who spoiled the people,
Lashing them with flashing steel;
Heard have I how Hallgrim's magic
Helm-rod forged in foreign land;
All men know, of heart-strings doughty,
How this bill hath come to me,
Deft in fight, the wolf's dear feeder,
Death alone us two shall part."
And that vow Gunnar kept, in that he bore the bill while he
lived. Those namesakes the two Kolskeggs fought together, and
it was a near thing which would get the better of it. Then
Gunnar came up, and gave the other Kolskegg his death-blow.
After that the sea-rovers begged for mercy. Gunnar let them have
that choice, and he let them also count the slain, and take the
goods which the dead men owned, but he gave the others whom he
spared their arms and their clothing, and bade them be off to the
lands that fostered them. So they went off, and Gunnar took all
the goods that were left behind.
Tofi came to Gunner after the battle, and offered to lead him to
that store of goods which the sea-rovers had stowed away, and
said that it was both better and larger than that which they had
Gunnar said he was willing to go, and so he went ashore, and Tofi
before him, to a wood, and Gunnar behind him. They came to a
place where a great heap of wood was piled together. Tofi says
the goods were under there, then they tossed off the wood, and
found under it both gold and silver, clothes, and good weapons.
They bore those goods to the ships, and Gunnar asks Tofi in what
way he wished him to repay him.
Tofi answered, "I am a Dansk man by race, and I wish thou wouldst
bring me to my kinsfolk."
Gunnar asks why he was there away east?
"I was taken by sea-rovers," says Tofi, "and they put me on land
here in Osel, and here I have been ever since."
(1) Rill of wolf -- stream of blood.
(2) A province of Sweden.
(3) An island in the Baltic, off the coast of Esthonia.
(4) "Endil's courser" -- periphrasis for a ship.
(5) "Sigar's storm" -- periphrasis for a sea-fight.
31. GUNNAR GOES TO KING HAROLD GORM'SSON AND EARL HACON
Gunnar took Tofi on board, and said to Kolskegg and Hallvard,
"Now we will hold our course for the north lands."
They were well pleased at that, and bade him have his way. So
Gunnar sailed from the east with much goods. He had ten ships,
and ran in with them to Heidarby in Denmark. King Harold Gorm's
son was there up the country, and he was told about Gunnar, and
how too that there was no man his match in all Iceland. He sent
men to him to ask him to come to him, and Gunnar went at once to
see the king, and the king made him a hearty welcome, and sat him
down next to himself. Gunnar was there half a month. The king
made himself sport by letting Gunnar prove himself in divers
feats of strength against his men, and there were none that were
his match even in one feat.
Then the king said to Gunnar, "It seems to me as though thy peer
is not to be found far or near," and the king offered to get
Gunnar a wife, and to raise him to great power if he would settle
Gunnar thanked the king for his offer and said, "I will first of
all sail back to Iceland to see my friends and kinsfolk."
"Then thou wilt never come back to us," says the king.
"Fate will settle that, lord," says Gunnar.
Gunnar gave the king a good long-ship, and much goods besides,
and the king gave him a robe of honour, and golden-seamed gloves,
and a fillet with a knot of gold on it, and a Russian hat.
Then Gunnar fared north to Hisingen. Oliver welcomed him with
both hands, and he gave back to Oliver his ships, with their
lading, and said that was his share of the spoil. Oliver took
the goods, and said Gunnar was a good man and true, and bade him
stay with him some while. Hallvard asked Gunnar if he had a mind
to go to see Earl Hacon. Gunnar said that was near his heart,
"for now I am somewhat proved, but then I was not tried at all
when thou badest me do this before."
After that they fared north to Drontheim to see Earl Hacon, and
he gave Gunnar a hearty welcome, and bade him stay with him that
winter, and Gunnar took that offer, and every man thought him a
man of great worth. At Yule the Earl gave him a gold ring.
Gunnar set his heart on Bergliota, the Earl's kinswoman, and it
was often to be seen from the Earl's way, that he would have
given her to him to wife if Gunnar had said anything about that.
32. GUNNAR COMES OUT TO ICELAND
When the spring came, the Earl asks Gunnar what course he meant
to take. He said he would go to Iceland. The Earl said that had
been a bad year for grain, "and there will be little sailing out
to Iceland, but still thou shalt have meal and timber both in thy
Gunnar fitted out his ship as early as he could, and Hallvard
fared out with him and Kolskegg. They came out early in the
summer, and made Arnbael's Oyce before the Thing met.
Gunnar rode home from the ship, but got men to strip her and lay
her up. But when they came home all men were glad to see them.
They were blithe and merry to their household, nor had their
haughtiness grown while they were away.
Gunnar asks if Njal were at home; and he was told that he was at
home; then he let them saddle his horse, and those brothers rode
over to Bergthorsknoll.
Njal was glad at their coming, and begged them to stay there that
night, and Gunnar told him of his voyages.
Njal said he was a man of the greatest mark, "and thou hast been
much proved; but still thou wilt be more tried hereafter; for
many will envy thee."
"With all men I would wish to stand well," says Gunnar.
"Much bad will happen," said Njal, "and thou wilt always have
some quarrel to ward off."
"So be it, then," says Gunnar, "so that I have a good ground on
"So will it be too," says NjaI, "if thou hast not to smart for
Njal asked Gunnar if he would ride to the Thing. Gunnar said he
was going to ride thither, and asks Njal whether he were going to
ride; but he said he would not ride thither, "and if I had my
will thou wouldst do the like."
Gunnar rode home, and gave Njal good gifts, and thanked him for
the care he had taken of his goods. Kolskegg urged him on much
to ride to the Thing, saying, "There thy honour will grow, for
many will flock to see thee there."
"That has been little to my mind," says Gunnar, "to make a show
of myself; but I think it good and right to meet good and worthy
Hallvard by this time was also come thither, and offered to ride
to the thing with them.
33. GUNNAR'S WOOING
So Gunnar rode, and they all rode. But when they came to the
Thing they were so well arrayed that none could match them in
bravery; and men came out of every booth to wonder at them.
Gunnar rode to the booths of the men of Rangriver, and was there
with his kinsmen. Many men came to see Gunnar, and ask tidings
of him; and he was easy and merry to all men, and told them all
they wished to hear.
It happened one day that Gunnar went away from the Hill of Laws,
and passed by the booths of the men from Mossfell; then he saw a
woman coming to meet him, and she was in goodly attire; but when
they met she spoke to Gunnar at once. He took her greeting well,
and asks what woman she might be. She told him her name was
Hallgerda, and said she was Hauskuld's daughter, Dalakoll's son.
She spoke up boldly to him, and bade him tell her of his voyages;
but he said he would not gainsay her a talk. Then they sat them
down and talked. She was so clad that she had on a red kirtle,
and had thrown over her a scarlet cloak trimmed with needlework
down to the waist. Her hair came down to her bosom, and was both
fair and full. Gunnar was clad in the scarlet clothes which King
Harold Gorm's son had given him; he had also the gold ring on his
arm which Earl Hacon had given him.
So they talked long out loud, and at last it came about that he
asked whether she were unmarried. She said, so it was, "and
there are not many who would run the risk of that."
"Thinkest thou none good enough for thee?"
"Not that," she says, "but I am said to be hard to please in
"How wouldst thou answer, were I to ask for thee?"
"That cannot be in thy mind," she says.
"It is though," says he.
"If thou hast any mind that way, go and see my father."
After that they broke off their talk.
Gunnar went straightway to the Dalesmen's booths, and met a man
outside the doorway, and asks whether Hauskuld were inside the
The man says that he was. Then Gunnar went in, and Hauskuld and
Hrut made him welcome. He sat down between them, and no one
could find out from their talk that there had ever been any
misunderstanding between them. At last Gunnar's speech turned
thither; how these brothers would answer if he asked for
"Well," says Hauskuld, "if that is indeed thy mind."
Gunnar says that he is in earnest, "but we so parted last time,
that many would think it unlikely that we should ever be bound
"How thinkest thou, kinsman Hrut?" says Hauskuld.
Hrut answered, "Methinks this is no even match."
"How dost thou make that out?" says Gunnar.
Hrut spoke, "In this wise will I answer thee about this matter,
as is the very truth. Thou art a brisk brave man well to do, and
unblemished; but she is much mixed up with ill report, and I will
not cheat thee in anything."
"Good go with thee for thy words," says Gunnar, "but still I
shall hold that for true, that the old feud weighs with ye, if ye
will not let me make this match."
"Not so," says Hrut, "'t is more because I see that thou art
unable to help thyself; but though we make no bargain, we would
still be thy friends."
"I have talked to her about it," says Gunnar, "and it is not far
from her mind."
Hrut says, "I know that you have both set your hearts on this
match; and, besides, ye two are those who run the most risk as to
how it turns out."
Hrut told Gunnar unasked all about Hallgerda's temper, and Gunnar
at first thought that there was more than enough that was
wanting; but at last it came about that they struck a bargain.
Then Hallgerda was sent for, and they talked over the business
when she was by, and now, as before, they made her betroth
herself. The bridal feast was to be at Lithend, and at first
they were to set about it secretly; but the end after all was
that every one knew of it.
Gunnar rode home from the Thing, and came to Bergthorsknoll, and
told Njal of the bargain he had made. He took it heavily.
Gunnar asks Njal why he thought this so unwise?
"Because from her," says Njal, "will arise all kind of ill if
she comes hither east."
"Never shall she spoil our friendship," says Gunnar.
"Ah! but yet that may come very near," says Njal; "and, besides,
thou wilt have always to make atonement for her."
Gunnar asked Njal to the wedding, and all those as well whom he
wished should be at it from Njal's house.
Njal promised to go; and after that Gunnar rode home, and then
rode about the district to bid men to his wedding.
34. OF THRAIN SIGFUS' SON
There was a man named Thrain, he was the son of Sigfus, the son
of Sighvat the Red. He kept house at Gritwater on Fleetlithe.
He was Gunnar's kinsman, and a man of great mark. He had to wife
Thorhillda Skaldwife; she had a sharp tongue of her own, and was
given to jeering. Thrain loved her little. He and his wife were
bidden to the wedding, and she and Bergthora, Skarphedinn's
daughter, Njal's wife, waited on the guests with meat and drink.
Kettle was the name of the second son of Sigfus; he kept house in
the Mark, east of Markfleet. He had to wife Thorgerda, Njal's
daughter. Thorkell was the name of the third son of Sigfus; the
fourth's name was Mord; the fifth's Lambi; the sixth's Sigmund;
the seventh's Sigurd. These were all Gunnar's kinsmen, and great
champions. Gunnar bade them all to the wedding.
Gunnar had also bidden Valgard the Guileful, and Wolf Aurpriest,
and their sons Runolf and Mord.
Hauskuld and Hrut came to the wedding with a very great company,
and the sons of Hauskuld, Thorleik, and Olof, were there; the
bride, too, came along with them, and her daughter Thorgerda came
also, and she was one of the fairest of women; she was then
fourteen winters old. Many other women were with her, and
besides there were Thorkatla Asgrim Ellidagrim's son's daughter,
and Njal's two daughters, Thorgerda and Helga.
Gunnar had already many guests to meet them, and he thus arranged
his men. He sat on the middle of the bench, and on the inside,
away from him, Thrain Sigfus' son, then Wolf Aurpriest, then
Valgard the Guileful, then Mord and Runolf, then the other sons
of Sigfus, Lambi sat outermost of them.
Next to Gunnar on the outside, away from him, sat Njal, then
Skarphedinn, then Helgi, then Grim, then Hauskuld Njal's son,
then Hafr the Wise, then Ingialld from the Springs, then the sons
of Thorir from Holt away east. Thorir would sit outermost of the
men of mark, for every one was pleased with the seat he got.
Hauskuld, the bride's father, sat on the middle of the bench over
against Gunnar, but his sons sat on the inside away from him;
Hrut sat on the outside away from Hauskuld, but it is not said
how the others were placed. The bride sat in the middle of the
cross bench on the dais; but on one hand of her sat her daughter
Thorgerda, and on the other Thorkatla Asgrim Ellidagrim's son's
Thorhillda went about waiting on the guests, and Bergthora bore
the meat on the board.
Now Thrain Sigfus' son kept staring at Thorgerda Glum's daughter;
his wife Thorhillda saw this, and she got wroth, and made a
couplet upon him.
"Thrain," she says,
"Gaping mouths are no wise good,
Goggle eyne are in thy head."
He rose at once up from the board, and said he would put
Thorhillda away. "I will not bear her jibes and jeers any
longer;" and he was so quarrelsome about this, that he would not
be at the feast unless she were driven away. And so it was, that
she went away; and now each man sat in his place, and they drank
and were glad.
Then Thrain began to speak, "I will not whisper about that which
is in my mind. This I will ask thee, Hauskuld Dalakoll's son,
wilt thou give me to wife Thorgerda, thy kinswoman?"
"I do not know that," says Hauskuld; "methinks thou art ill
parted from the one thou hadst before. But what kind of man is
Gunnar answers, "I will not say aught about the man, because he
is near of kin; but say thou about him, Njal," says Gunnar, "for
all men will believe it."
Njal spoke, and said, "That is to be said of this man, that the
man is well to do for wealth, and a proper man in all things. A
man, too, of the greatest mark; so that ye may well make this
match with him."
Then Hauskuld spoke, "What thinkest thou we ought to do, kinsman
"Thou mayst make the match, because it is an even one for her,"
Then they talk about the terms of the bargain, and are soon of
one mind on all points.
Then Gunnar stands up, and Thrain too, and they go to the cross
bench. Gunnar asked that mother and daughter whether they would
say yes to this bargain. They said they would find no fault with
it, and Hallgerda betrothed her daughter. Then the places of the
women were shifted again, and now Thorhalla sate between the
brides. And now the feast sped on well, and when it was over,
Hauskuld and his company ride west, but the men of Rangriver rode
to their own abode. Gunnar gave many men gifts, and that made
him much liked.
Hallgerda took the housekeeping under her, and stood up for her
rights in word and deed. Thorgerda took to housekeeping at
Gritwater, and was a good housewife.
35. THE VISIT TO BERGTHORSKNOLL
Now it was the custom between Gunnar and Njal, that each made the
other a feast, winter and winter about, for friendship's sake;
and it was Gunnar's turn to go to feast at Njal's. So Gunnar and
Hallgerda set off for Bergthorsknoll, and when they got there
Helgi and his wife were not at home. Njal gave Gunnar and his
wife a hearty welcome, and when they had been there a little
while, Helgi came home with Thorhalla his wife. Then Bergthora
went up to the crossbench, and Thorhalla with her, and Bergthora
said to Hallgerda, "Thou shalt give place to this woman."
She answered, "To no one will I give place, for I will not be
driven into the corner for any one."
"I shall rule here," said Bergthora. After that Thorhalla sat
down, and Bergthora went round the table with water to wash the
guests' hands. Then Hallgerda took hold of Bergthora's hand, and
said, "There's not much to choose, though, between you two. Thou
hast hangnails on every finger, and Njal is beardless."
"That's true," says Bergthora, "yet neither of us finds fault
with the other for it; but Thorwald, thy husband, was not
beardless, and yet thou plottedst his death."
Then Hallgerda said, "It stands me in little stead to have the
bravest man in Iceland if thou dost not avenge this, Gunnar!"
He sprang up and strode across away from the board, and said,
"Home I will go, and it were more seemly that thou shouldest
wrangle with those of thine own household, and not under other
men's roofs; but as for NjaI, I am his debtor for much honour,
and never will I be egged on by thee like a fool."
After that they set off home.
"Mind this Bergthora," said Hallgerda, "that we shall meet
Bergthora said she should not be better off for that. Gunnar
said nothing at all, but went home to Lithend, and was there at
home all the winter. And now the summer was running on towards
the Great Thing.
36. KOL SLEW SWART
Gunnar rode away to the Thing, but before he rode from home he
said to Hallgerda, "Be good now while I am away, and show none of
thine ill temper in anything with which my friends have to do."
"The trolls take thy friends," says Hallgerda.
So Gunnar rode to the Thing, and saw it was not good to come to
words with her. Njal rode to the Thing too, and all his sons
Now it must be told of what tidings happened at home. Njal and
Gunnar owned a wood in common at Redslip; they had not shared the
wood, but each was wont to hew in it as he needed, and neither
said a word to the other about that. Hallgerda's grieve's (1)
name was Kol; he had been with her long, and was one of the worst
of men. There was a man named Swart; he was Njal's and
Bergthora's housecarle; they were very fond of him. Now
Bergthora told him that he must go up into Redslip and hew wood;
but she said, "I will get men to draw home the wood."
He said he would do the work she set him to win; and so he went
up into Redslip, and was to be there a week.
Some gangrel men came to Lithend from the east across Markfleet,
and said that Swart had been in Redslip, and hewn wood, and done
a deal of work.
"So," says Hallgerda, "Bergthora must mean to rob me in many
things, but I'll take care that he does not hew again."
Rannveig, Gunnar's mother, heard that, and said, "There have been
good housewives before now, though they never set their hearts on
Now the night wore away, and early next morning Hallgerda came to
speak to Kol, and said, "I have thought of some work for thee;"
and with that she put weapons into his hands, and went on to say
-- "Fare thou to Redslip; there wilt thou find Swart."
"What shall I do to him?" he says.
"Askest thou that, when thou art the worst of men?" she says.
"Thou shalt kill him."
"I can get that done," he says, "but 'tis more likely that I
shall lose my own life for it."
"Everything grows big in thy eyes," she says, "and thou behavest
ill to say this after I have spoken up for thee in everything. I
must get another man to do this if thou darest not."
He took the axe, and was very wroth, and takes a horse that
Gunnar owned, and rides now till he comes east of Markfleet.
There he got off and bided in the wood, till they had carried
down the firewood, and Swart was left alone behind. Then Kol
sprang on him, and said, "More folk can hew great strokes than
thou alone;" and so he laid the axe on his head, and smote him
his death-blow, and rides home afterwards, and tells Hallgerda of
She said, "I shall take such good care of thee, that no harm
shall come to thee."
"May be so," says he, "but I dreamt all the other way as I slept
ere I did the deed."
Now they come up into the wood, and find Swart slain, and bear
him home. Hallgerda sent a man to Gunnar at the Thing to tell
him of the slaying. Gunnar said no hard words at first of
Hallgerda to the messenger, and men knew not at first whether he
thought well or ill of it. A little after he stood up, and bade
his men go with him: they did so, and fared to Njal's booth.
Gunnar sent a man to fetch Njal, and begged him to come out.
Njal went out at once, and he and Gunnar fell a-talking, and
Gunnar said, "I have to tell thee of the slaying of a man, and my
wife and my grieve Kol were those who did it; but Swart, thy
housecarle, fell before them."
Njal held his peace while he told him the whole story. Then Njal
spoke, "Thou must take heed not to let her have her way in
Gunnar said, "Thou thyself shalt settle the terms."
Njal spoke again, "'Twill be hard work for thee to atone for all
Hallgerda's mischief; and somewhere else there will be a broader
trail to follow than this which we two now have a share in, and
yet, even here there will be much awanting before all be well;
and herein we shall need to bear in mind the friendly words that
passed between us of old; and something tells me that thou wilt
come well out of it, but still thou wilt be sore tried."
Then Njal took the award into his own hands from Gunnar, and
said, "I will not push this matter to the uttermost; thou shalt
pay twelve ounces of silver; but I will add this to my award,
that if anything happens from our homestead about which thou hast
to utter an award, thou wilt not be less easy in thy terms."
Gunnar paid up the money out of hand, and rode home afterwards.
Njal, too, came home from the Thing, and his sons. Bergthora saw
the money, and said, "This is very justly settled; but even as
much money shall be paid for Kol as time goes on."
Gunnar came home from the Thing and blamed Hallgerda. She said,
better men lay unatoned in many places. Gunnar said, she might
have her way in beginning a quarrel, "but how the matter is to be
settled rests with me."
Hallgerda was for ever chattering of Swart's slaying, but
Bergthora liked that ill. Once Njal and her sons went up to
Thorolfsfell to see about the house-keeping there, but that
selfsame day this thing happened when Bergthora was out of doors:
she sees a man ride up to the house on a black horse. She stayed
there and did not go in, for she did not know the man. That man
had a spear in his hand, and was girded with a short sword. She
asked this man his name.
"Atli is my name," says he.
She asked whence he came.
"I am an Eastfirther," he says.
"Whither shalt thou go?" she says.
"I am a homeless man," says he, "and I thought to see Njal and
Skarphedinn, and know if they would take me in."
"What work is handiest to thee?" says she.
"I am a man used to field-work," he says, "and many things else
come very handy to me; but I will not hide from thee that I am a
man of hard temper, and it has been many a man's lot before now
to bind up wounds at my hand."
"I do not blame thee," she says, "though thou art no milksop."
Atli said, "Hast thou any voice in things here?"
"I am Njal's wife," she says, "and I have as much to say to our
housefolk as he."
"Wilt thou take me in then?" says he.
"I will give thee thy choice of that," says she. "If thou wilt
do all the work that I set before thee, and that, though I wish
to send thee where a man's life is at stake."
"Thou must have so many men at thy beck," says he, "that thou
wilt not need me for such work."
"That I will settle as I please," she says.
"We will strike a bargain on these terms," says he.
Then she took him into the household. Njal and his sons came
home and asked Bergthora what man that might be?
"He is thy house-carle," she says, "and I took him in." Then she
went on to say he was no sluggard at work.
"He will be a great worker enough, I daresay," says Njal, "but I
do not know whether he will be such a good worker."
Skarphedinn was good to Atli.
Njal and his sons ride to the Thing in the course of the summer;
Gunnar was also at the Thing.
Njal took out a purse of money.
"What money is that, father?"
"Here is the money that Gunnar paid me for our housecarle last
"That will come to stand thee in some stead," says Skarphedinn,
and smiled as he spoke.
(1) Grieve, i.e., bailiff, head workman.
37. THE SLAYING OF KOL, WHOM ATLI SLEW
Now we must take up the story and say, that Atli asked Bergthora
what work he should do that day?
"I have thought of some work for thee," she says; "thou shalt go
and look for Kol until thou find him; for now shalt thou slay him
this very day, if thou wilt do my will."
"This work is well fitted," says Atli, "for each of us two are
bad fellows; but still I will so lay myself out for him that one
or other of us shall die."
"Well mayst thou fare," she says, "and thou shalt not do this
deed for nothing."
He took his weapons and his horse, and rode up to Fleetlithe, and
there met men who were coming down from Lithend. They were at
home east in the Mark. They asked Atli whither he meant to go?
He said he was riding to look for an old jade. They said that
was a small errand for such a workman, "but still 'twould be
better to ask those who have been about last night."
"Who are they?" says he.
"Killing-Kol," say they, "Hallgerda's house-carle, fared from the
fold just now, and has been awake all night."
"I do not know whether I dare to meet him," says Atli, "he is
bad-tempered, and may be that I shall let another's wound be my
"Thou bearest that look beneath the brows as though thou wert no
coward," they said, and showed him where Kol was.
Then he spurred his horse and rides fast, and when he meets Ko1,
Atli said to him, "Go the pack-saddle bands well," says Atli.
"That's no business of thine, worthless fellow, nor of any one
else whence thou comest."
Atli said, "Thou hast something behind that is earnest work, but
that is to die."
After that Atli thrust at him with his spear, and struck him
about his middle. Kol swept at him with his axe, but missed him,
and fell off his horse, and died at once.
Atli rode till he met some of Hallgerda's workmen, and said, "Go
ye up to the horse yonder, and look to Kol, for he has fallen
off, and is dead."
"Hast thou slain him? " say they.
"Well, 'twill seem to Hallgerda as though he has not fallen by
his own hand."
After that Atli rode home and told Bergthora; she thanked him for
this deed, and for the words which he had spoken about it.
"I do not know," says he, "what Njal will think of this."
"He will take it well upon his hands," she says, "and I will tell
thee one thing as a token of it, that he has carried away with
him to the Thing the price of that thrall which we took last
spring, and that money will now serve for Kol; but though peace
be made thou must still be ware of thyself, for Hallgerda will
keep no peace."
"Wilt thou send at all a man to Njal to tell him of the slaying?"
"I will not," she says, "I should like it better that Kol were
Then they stopped talking about it.
Hallgerda was told of Kol's slaying, and of the words that Atli
had said. She said Atli should be paid off for them. She sent a
man to the Thing to tell Gunnar of Kol's slaying; he answered
little or nothing, and sent a man to tell Njal. He too made no
answer, but Skarphedinn said, "Thralls are men of more mettle
than of yore; they used to fly at each other and fight, and no
one thought much harm of that; but now they will do naught but
kill," and as he said this he smiled.
Njal pulled down the purse of money which hung up in the booth,
and went out: his sons went with him to Gunnar's booth.
Skarphedinn said to a man who was in the doorway of the booth,
"Say thou to Gunnar that my father wants to see him."
He did so, and Gunnar went out at once and gave Njal a hearty
welcome. After that they began to talk.
"'Tis ill done," says Njal, "that my housewife should have broken
the peace, and let thy house-carle be slain."
"She shall not have blame for that," says Gunnar.
"Settle the award thyself," says Njal.
"So I will do," says Gunnar, "and I value those two men at an
even price, Swart and Kol. Thou shalt pay me twelve ounces in
Njal took the purse of money and handed it to Gunnar. Gunnar
knew the money, and saw it was the same that he had paid Njal.
Njal went away to his booth, and they were just as good friends
as before. When Njal came home, he blamed Bergthora; but she
said she would never give way to Hallgerda. Hallgerda was very
cross with Gunnar, because he had made peace for Kol's slaying.
Gunnar told her he would never break with Njal or his sons, and
she flew into a great rage; but Gunnar took no heed of that, and
so they sat for that year, and nothing noteworthy happened.
38. THE KILLING OF ATLI THE THRALL
Next spring Njal said to Atli, "I wish that thou wouldst change
thy abode to the east firths, so that Hallgerda may not put an
end to thy life?"
"I am not afraid of that," says Atli, "and I will willingly stay
at home if I have the choice."
"Still that is less wise," says Njal.
"I think it better to lose my life in thy house than to change my
master; but this I will beg of thee, if I am slain, that a
thrall's price shall not be paid for me."
"Thou shalt be atoned for as a free man; but perhaps Bergthora
will make thee a promise which she will fulfil, that revenge, man
for man, shall be taken for thee."
Then he made up his mind to be a hired servant there.
Now it must be told of Hallgerda that she sent a man west to
Bearfirth, to fetch Brynjolf the Unruly, her kinsman. He was a
base son of Swan, and he was one of the worst of men. Gunnar
knew nothing about it. Hallgerda said he was well fitted to be a
grieve. So Brynjolf came from the west, and Gunnar asked what he
was to do there? He said he was going to stay there.
"Thou wilt not better our household," says Gunnar, "after what
has been told me of thee, but I will not turn away any of
Hallgerda's kinsmen, whom she wishes to be with her."
Gunnar said little, but was not unkind to him, and so things went
on till the Thing. Gunnar rides to the Thing and Kolskegg rides
too, and when they came to the Thing they and Njal met, for he
and his sons were at the Thing, and all went well with Gunnar and
Bergthora said to Atli, "Go thou up into Thorolfsfell and work
there a week."
So he went up thither, and was there on the sly, and burnt
charcoal in the wood.
Hallgerda said to Brynjolf, "I have been told Atli is not at
home, and he must be winning work on Thorolfsfell."
"What thinkest thou likeliest that he is working at," says he.
"At something in the wood," she says.
"What shall I do to him?" he asks.
"Thou shalt kill him," says she.
He was rather slow in answering her, and Hallgerda said, "'Twould
grow less in Thiostolf's eyes to kill Atli if he were alive."
"Thou shalt have no need to goad me on much more," he says, and
then he seized his weapons, and takes his horse and mounts, and
rides to Thorolfsfell. There he saw a great reek of coalsmoke
east of the homestead, so he rides thither, and gets off his
horse and ties him up, but he goes where the smoke was thickest.
Then he sees where the charcoal pit is, and a man stands by it.
He saw that he had thrust his spear in the ground by him.
Brynjolf goes along with the smoke right up to him, but he was
eager at his work, and saw him not. Brynjolf gave him a stroke
on the head with his axe, and he turned so quick round that
Brynjolf loosed his hold of the axe, and Atli grasped the spear,
and hurled it after him. Then Brynjolf cast himself down on the
ground, but the spear flew away over him.
"Lucky for thee that I was not ready for thee," says Atli, "but
now Hallgerda will be well pleased, for thou wilt tell her of my
death; but it is a comfort to know that thou wilt have the same
fate soon; but come now take thy axe which has been here."
He answered him never a word, nor did he take the axe before he
was dead. Then he rode up to the house on Thorolfsfell, and told
of the slaying, and after that rode home and told Hallgerda. She
sent men to Bergthorsknoll, and let them tell Bergthora that now
Kol's slaying was paid for.
After that Hallgerda sent a man to the Thing to tell Gunnar of
Gunnar stood up, and Kolskegg with him, and Kolskegg said,
"Unthrifty will Hallgerda's kinsmen be to thee."
Then they go to see Njal, and Gunnar said, "I have to tell thee
of Atli's killing." He told him also who slew him, and went on,
"And now I will bid thee atonement for the deed, and thou shalt
make the award thyself."
Njal said, "We two have always meant never to come to strife
about anything; but still I cannot make him out a thrall."
Gunnar said that was all right, and stretched out his hand.
Njal named his witnesses, and they made peace on those terms.
Skarphedinn said, "Hallgerda does not let our housecarles die
of old age."
Gunnar said, "Thy mother will take care that blow goes for blow
between the houses."
"Ay, ay," says Njal, "there will be enough of that work."
After that Njal fixed the price at a hundred in silver, but
Gunnar paid it down at once. Many who stood by said that the
award was high; Gunnar got wroth, and said that a full atonement
was often paid for those who were no brisker men than Atli.
With that they rode home from the Thing.
Bergthora said to Njal when she saw the money, "Thou thinkest
thou hast fulfilled thy promise, but now my promise is still
"There is no need that thou shouldst fulfil it," says Njal.
"Nay," says she, "thou hast guessed it would be so; and so it
Hallgerda said to Gunnar, "Hast thou paid a hundred in silver for
Atli's slaying, and made him a free man?"
"He was free before," says Gunnar, "and besides, I will not make
Njal's household outlaws who have forfeited their rights."
"There's not a pin to choose between you," she said, "for both of
you are so blate?"
"That's as things prove," says he.
Then Gunnar was for a long time very short with her, till she
gave way to him; and now all was still for the rest of that year;
in the spring Njal did not increase his household, and now men
ride to the Thing about summer.
39. THE SLAYING OF BRYNJOLF THE UNRULY
There was a man named Thord, he was surnamed Freedmanson.
Sigtrygg was his father's name, and he had been the freedman of
Asgerd, and he was drowned in Markfleet. That was why Thord was
with Njal afterwards. He was a tall man and a strong, and he had
fostered all Njal's sons. He had set his heart on Gudfinna
Thorolf's daughter, Njal's kinswoman; she was housekeeper at home
there, and was then with child.
Now Bergthora came to talk with Thord Freedmanson; she said,
"Thou shalt go to kill Brynjolf, Hallgerda's kinsman."
"I am no man-slayer," he says, "but still I will do whatever thou
"This is my will," she says.
After that he went up to Lithend, and made them call Hallgerda
out, and asked where Brynjolf might be.
"What's thy will with him," she says.
"I want him to tell me where he has hidden Atli's body; I have
heard say that he has buried it badly."
She pointed to him and said he was down yonder in Acretongue.
"Take heed," says Thord, "that the same thing does not befall him
as befell Atli."
"Thou art no man-slayer," she says, "and so naught will come of
it even if ye two do meet."
"Never have I seen man's blood, nor do I know how I should feel
if I did," he says, and gallops out of the "town" and down to
Rannveig, Gunnar's mother, had heard their talk.
"Thou goadest his mind much, Hallgerda," she says, "but I think
him a dauntless man, and that thy kinsman will find."
They met on the beaten way, Thord and Brynjolf; and Thord said,
"Guard thee, Brynjolf, for I will do no dastard's deed by thee."
Brynjolf rode at Thord, and smote at him with his axe. He smote
at him at the same time with his axe, and hewed in sunder the
haft just above Brynjolf's hands, and then hewed at him at once a
second time, and struck him on the collar-bone, and the blow went
straight into his trunk. Then he fell from horseback, and was
dead on the spot.
Thord met Hallgerda's herdsman, and gave out the slaying as done
by his hand, and said where he lay, and bade him tell Hallgerda
of the slaying. After that he rode home to Bergthorsknoll, and
told Bergthora of the slaying, and other people too.
"Good luck go with thy hands," she said.
The herdsman told Hallgerda of the slaying; she was snappish at
it, and said much ill would come of it, if she might have her
40. GUNNAR AND NJAL MAKE PEACE ABOUT BRYNJOLF'S SLAYING
Now these tidings come to the Thing, and Njal made them tell him
the tale thrice, and then he said, "More men now become man-
slayers than I weened."
Skarphedinn spoke, "That man, though, must have been twice fey,"
he says, "who lost his life by our foster-father's hand, who has
never seen man's blood. And many would think that we brothers
would sooner have done this deed with the turn of temper that we
"Scant space wilt thou have," says Njal, "ere the like befalls
thee; but need will drive thee to it."
Then they went to meet Gunnar, and told him of the slaying.
Gunnar spoke and said that was little man-scathe, "but yet he was
a free man."
Njal offered to make peace at once, and Gunnar said yes, and he
was to settle the terms himself. He made his award there and
then, and laid it at one hundred in silver. Njal paid down the
money on the spot, and they were at peace after that.
41. SIGMUND COMES OUT TO ICELAND
There was a man whose name was Sigmund. He was the son of Lambi,
the son of Sighvat the Red. He was a great voyager, and a comely
and a courteous man; tall too, and strong. He was a man of proud
spirit, and a good skald, and well trained in most feats of
strength. He was noisy and boisterous, and given to jibes and
mocking. He made the land east in Homfirth. Skiolld was the
name of his fellow-traveller; he was a Swedish man, and ill to do
with. They took horse and rode from the east out of Hornfirth,
and did not draw bridle before they came to Lithend, in the
Fleetlithe. Gunnar gave them a hearty welcome, for the bonds of
kinship were close between them. Gunnar begged Sigmund to stay
there that winter, and Sigmund said he would take the offer if
Skiolld his fellow might be there too.
"Well, I have been so told about him," said Gunnar, "that he is
no betterer of thy temper; but as it is, thou rather needest to
have it bettered. This, too, is a bad house to stay at, and I
would just give both of you a bit of advice, my kinsman, not to
fire up at the egging on of my wife Hallgerda; for she takes much
in hand that is far from my will."
"His hands are clean who warns another," says Sigmund.
"Then mind the advice given thee," says Gunnar, "for thou art
sure to be sore tried; and go along always with me, and lean upon
After that they were in Gunnar's company. Hallgerda was good to
Sigmund; and it soon came about that things grew so warm that she
loaded him with money, and tended him no worse than her own
husband; and many talked about that, and did not know what lay
One day Hallgerda said to Gunnar, "It is not good to be content
with that hundred in silver which thou tookest for my kinsman
Brynjolf. I shall avenue him if I may," she says.
Gunnar said he had no mind to bandy words with her, and went
away. He met Kolskegg, and said to him, "Go and see Njal; and
tell him that Thord must be ware of himself though peace has been
made for, methinks, there is faithlessness somewhere."
He rode off and told Njal, but Njal told Thord, and Kolskegg rode
home, and Njal thanked them for their faithfulness.
Once on a time they two were out in the "town," Njal and Thord; a
he-goat was wont to go up and down in the "town," and no one was
allowed to drive him away. Then Thord spoke and said, "Well,
this is a wondrous thing!"
"What is it that thou see'st that seems after a wondrous
fashion?" says Njal.
"Methinks the goat lies here in the hollow, and he is all one
gore of blood."
Njal said that there was no goat there, nor anything else.
"What is it then?" says Thord.
"Thou must be a `fey' man," says Njal, "and thou must have seen
the fetch that follows thee, and now be ware of thyself."
"That will stand me in no stead," says Thord, "if death is doomed
Then Hallgerda came to talk with Thrain Sigfus' son, and said, "I
would think thee my son-in-law indeed," she says, "if thou
slayest Thord Freedmanson."
"I will not do that," he says, "for then I shall have the wrath
of my kinsman Gunnar; and besides, great things hang on this
deed, for this slaying would soon be avenged."
"Who will avenge it?" she asks; "is it the beardless carle?"
"Not so," says he, "his sons will avenge it."
After that they talked long and low, and no man knew what counsel
they took together.
Once it happened that Gunnar was not at home, but those
companions were. Thrain had come in from Gritwater, and then he
and they and Hallgerda sat out of doors and talked. Then
Hallgerda said, "This have ye two brothers in arms, Sigmund and
Skiolld, promised to slay Thord Freedmanson; but Thrain thou hast
promised me that thou wouldst stand by them when they did the
They all acknowledged that they had given her this promise.
"Now I will counsel you how to do it," she says: "Ye shall ride
east into Homfirth after your goods, and come home about the
beginning of the Thing, but if ye are at home before it begins,
Gunnar will wish that ye should ride to the Thing with him. Njal
will be at the Thing and his sons and Gunnar, but then ye two
shall slay Thord."
They all agreed that this plan should be carried out. After that
they busked them east to the Firth, and Gunnar was not aware of
what they were about, and Gunnar rode to the Thing. Njal sent
Thord Freedmanson away east under Eyjafell, and bade him be away
there one night. So he went east, but he could not get back from
the east, for the Fleet had risen so high that it could not be
crossed on horseback ever so far up. Njal waited for him one
night, for he had meant him to have ridden with him; and Njal
said to Bregthora that she must send Thord to the Thing as soon
as ever he came home. Two nights after, Thord came from the
east, and Bergthora told him that he must ride to the Thing, "But
first thou shalt ride up into Thorolfsfell and see about the farm
there, and do not be there longer than one or two nights."
42. THE SLAYING OF THORD FREEDMANSON
Then Sigmund came from the east and those companions. Hallgerda
told them that Thord was at home, but that he was to ride
straightway to the Thing after a few nights' space. "Now ye will
have a fair chance at him," she says, "but if this goes off, ye
will never get nigh him." Men came to Lithend from Thorolfsfell,
and told Hallgerda that Thord was there. Hallgerda went to
Thrain Sigfus' son, and his companions, and said to him, "Now is
Thord on Thorolfsfell, and now your best plan is to fall on him
and kill him as he goes home."
"That we will do," says Sigmund. So they went out, and took
their weapons and horses and rode on the way to meet him.
Sigmund said to Thrain, "Now thou shalt have nothing to do with
it; for we shall not need all of us."
"Very well, so I will," says he.
Then Thord rode up to them a little while after, and Sigmund said
to him, "Give thyself up," he says, "for now shalt thou die."
"That shall not be," says Thord, "come thou to single combat with
"That shall not be either," says Sigmund; "we will make the most
of our numbers; but it is not strange that Skarphedinn is strong,
for it is said that a fourth of a foster-child's strength comes
from the foster-father.
"Thou wilt feel the force of that," says Thord, "for Skarphedinn
will avenge me."
After that they fall on him, and he breaks a spear of each of
them, so well did he guard himself. Then Skiolld cut off his
hand, and he still kept them off with his other hand for some
time, till Sigmund thrust him through. Then he fell dead to
earth. They drew over him turf and stones; and Thrain said, "We
have won an ill work, and Njal's sons will take this slaying ill
when they hear of it."
They ride home and tell Hallgerda. She was glad to hear of the
slaying, but Rannveig, Gunnar's mother, said, "It is said `but a
short while is hand fain of blow,' and so it will be here; but
still Gunnar will set thee free from this matter. But if
Hallgerda makes thee take another fly in thy mouth, then that
will be thy bane."
Hallgerda sent a man to Bergthorsknoll, to tell the slaying, and
another man to the Thing, to tell it to Gunnar. Bergthora said
she would not fight against Hallgerda with ill words about such a
matter; "That," quoth she, "would be no revenge for so great a
43. NJAL AND GUNNAR MAKE PEACE FOR THE SLAYING OF THORD
But when the messenger came to the Thing to tell Gunnar of the
slaying, then Gunnar said, "This has happened ill, and no tidings
could come to my ears which I should think worse; but yet we will
now go at once and see Njal. I still hope he may take it well,
though he be sorely tried."
So they went to see Njal, and called him to come out and talk to
them. He went out at once to meet Gunnar, and they talked, nor
were there any more men by at first than Kolskegg.
"Hard tidings have I to tell thee," says Gunnar; "the slaying of
Thord Freedmanson, and I wish to offer thee selfdoom for the
Njal held his peace some while, and then said, "That is well
offered, and I will take it; but yet it is to be looked for that
I shall have blame from my wife or from my sons for that, for it
will mislike them much; but still I will run the risk, for I know
that I have to deal with a good man and true; nor do I wish that
any breach should arise in our friendship on my part.
"Wilt thou let thy sons be by, pray?" says Gunnar.
"I will not," says Njal, "for they will not break the peace which
I make, but if they stand by while we make it they will not pull
well together with us."
"So it shall be," says Gunnar. "See thou to it alone."
Then they shook one another by the hand, and made peace well and
Then Njal said, "The award that I make is two hundred in silver,
and that thou wilt think much."
"I do not think it too much," says Gunnar, and went home to his
Njal's sons came home, and Skarphedinn asked whence that great
sum of money came, which his father held in his hand.
Njal said, "I tell you of your foster-father's Thord's slaying,
and we two, Gunnar and I, have now made peace in the matter, and
he has paid an atonement for him as for two men."
"Who slew him?" says Skarphedinn.
"Sigmund and Skiolld, but Thrain was standing near too," says
"They thought they had need of much strength," says Skarphedinn,
and sang a song --
"Bold in deeds of derring-do,
Burdeners of ocean's steeds,
Strength enough it seems they needed
A11 to slay a single man;
When shall we our hands uplift?
We who brandish burnished steel --
Famous men erst reddened weapons,
When? if now we quiet sit?"
"Yes! when shall the day come when we shall lift our hands?"
"That will not be long off," says Njal, "and then thou shalt not
be baulked; but still, methinks, I set great store on your not
breaking this peace that I have made."
"Then we will not break it," says Skarphedinn, "but if anything
arises between us, then we will bear in mind the old feud."
"Then I will ask you to spare no one," says Njal.
44. SIGMUND MOCKS NJAL AND HIS SONS
Now men ride home from the Thing; and when Gunnar came home, he
said to Sigmund, "Thou art a more unlucky man than I thought, and
turnest thy good gifts to thine own ill. But still I have made
peace for thee with Njal and his sons; and now, take care that
thou dost not let another fly come into thy mouth. Thou art not
at all after my mind, thou goest about with jibes and jeers, with
scorn and mocking; but that is not my turn of mind. That is why
thou gettest on so well with Hallgerda, because ye two have your
minds more alike."
Gunnar scolded him a long time, and he answered him well, and
said he would follow his counsel more for the time to come than
he had followed it hitherto. Gunnar told him then they might get
on together. Gunnar and Njal kept up their friendship though the
rest of their people saw little of one another. It happened once
that some gangrel women came to Lithend from Bergthorsknoll; they
were great gossips and rather spiteful tongued. Hallgerda had a
bower, and sate often in it, and there sate with her her daughter
Thorgerda, and there too were Thrain and Sigmund, and a crowd of
women. Gunnar was not there, nor Kolskegg. These gangrel women
went into the bower, and Hallgerda greeted them, and made room
for them; then she asked them for news, but they had none to
tell. Hallgerda asked where they had been overnight; they said
"What was Njal doing?" she says.
"He was hard at work sitting still," they said.
"What were Njal's sons doing?" she says; "they think themselves
men at any rate."
"Tall men they are in growth," they say, "but as yet they are all
untried; Skarphedinn whetted an axe, Gim fitted a spearhead to
the shaft, Helgi riveted a hilt on a sword, Hauskuld strengthened
the handle of a shield."
"They must be bent on some great deed," says Hallgerda.
"We do not know that," they say.
"What were Njal's house-carles doing?" she asks.
"We don't know what some of them were doing, but one was carting
dung up the hill-side."
"What good was there in doing that?" she asks.
"He said it made the swathe better there than anywhere else,"
they reply. "Witless now is Njal," says Hallgerda, "though he
knows how to give counsel on everything."
"How so?" they ask.
"I will only bring forward what is true to prove it," says she;
"why doesn't he make them cart dung over his beard that he may be
like other men? Let us call him `the Beardless Carle': but his
sons we will call `Dung-beardlings'; and now do pray give some
stave about them, Sigmund, and let us get some good by thy gift
"I am quite ready to do that," says he, and sang these verses:
"Lady proud with hawk in hand,
Prithee why should dungbeard boys,
Reft of reason, dare to hammer
Handle fast on battle shield?
For these lads of loathly feature --
Lady scattering swanbath's beams (1) --
Shaft not shun this ditty shameful
Which I shape upon them now.
He the beardless carle shall listen
While I lash him with abuse,
Loon at whom our stomachs sicken,
Soon shall bear these words of scorn;
Far too nice for such base fellows
Is the name my bounty gives,
Een my muse her help refuses,
Making mirth of dungbeard boys.
Here I find a nickname fitting
For those noisome dungbeard boys, --
Loath am I to break my bargain
Linked with such a noble man --
Knit we all our taunts together --
Known to me is mind of man --
Call we now with outburst common,
Him, that churl, the beardless carle."
Thou art a jewel indeed," says Hallgerda; " how yielding thou art
to what I ask!"
Just then Gunnar came in. He had been standing outside the door
of the bower, and heard all the words that had passed. They were
in a great fright when they saw him come in, and then all held
their peace, but before there had been bursts of laughter.
Gunnar was very wroth, and said to Sigmund, "Thou art a foolish
man, and one that cannot keep to good advice, and thou revilest
Njal's sons, and Njal himself who is most worth of all; and this
thou doest in spite of what thou hast already done. Mind, this
will be thy death. But if any man repeats these words that thou
hast spoken, or these verses that thou hast made, that man shall
be sent away at once, and have my wrath beside."
But they were all so sore afraid of him, that no one dared to
repeat those words. After that he went away, but the gangrel
women talked among themselves, and said that they would get a
reward from Bergthora if they told her all this.
They went then away afterwards down thither, and took Bergthora
aside and told her the whole story of their own free will.
Bergthora spoke and said, when men sate down to the board, "Gifts
have been given to all of you, father and sons, and ye will be no
true men unless ye repay them somehow."
"What gifts are these? " asks Skarphedinn.
"You, my sons," says Bergthora, "have got one gift between you
all. Ye are nicknamed `Dungbeardlings,' but my husband `the
"Ours is no woman's nature," says Skarphedinn, "that we should
fly into a rage at every little thing."
"And yet Gunnar was wroth for your sakes," says she, "and he is
thought to be good-tempered. But if ye do not take vengeance for
this wrong, ye will avenge no shame."
"The carline, our mother, thinks this fine sport," says
Skarphedinn, and smiled scornfully as he spoke, but still the
sweat burst out upon his brow, and red flecks came over his
checks, but that was not his wont. Grim was silent and bit his
lip. Helgi made no sign, and he said never a word. Hauskuld
went off with Bergthora; she came into the room again, and
fretted and foamed much.
Njal spoke and said, "`Slow and sure,' says the proverb,
mistress! and so it is with many things, though they try men's
tempers, that there are always two sides to a story, even when
vengeance is taken."
But at even when Njal was come into his bed, he heard that an axe
came against the panel and rang loudly, but there was another
shut bed, and there the shields were hung up, and he sees that
they are away. He said, "Who have taken down our shields?"
"Thy sons went out with them," says Bergthora.
Njal pulled his shoes on his feet, and went out at once, and
round to the other side of the house, and sees that they were
taking their course right up the slope; he said, "Whither away,
"To look after thy sheep," he answers.
"You would not then be armed," said Njal, "if you meant that, and
your errand must be something else."
Then Skarphedinn sang a song,
"Squanderer of hoarded wealth,
Some there are that own rich treasure,
Ore of sea that clasps the earth,
And yet care to count their sheep;
Those who forge sharp songs of mocking,
Death songs, scarcely can possess
Sense of sheep that crop the grass;
Such as these I seek in fight;"
and said afterwards, "We shall fish for salmon, father."
"'Twould be well then if it turned out so that the prey does not
get away from you."
They went their way, but Njal went to his bed, and he said to
Bergthora, "Thy sons were out of doors all of them, with arms,
and now thou must have egged them on to something."
"I will give them my heartfelt thanks," said Bergthora, "if they
tell me the slaying of Sigmund."
(1) "Swanbath's beams" -- periphrasis for gold.
45. THE SLAYING OF SIGMUND AND SKIOLLD
Now they, Njal's sons, fare up to Fleetlithe, and were that night
under the Lithe, and when the day began to break, they came near
to Lithend. That same morning both Sigmund and Skiolld rose up
and meant to go to the studhorses; they had bits with them, and
caught the horses that were in the "town" and rode away on them.
They found the stud-horses between two brooks. Skarphedinn
caught sight of them, for Sigmund was in bright clothing.
Skarphedinn said, "See you now the red elf yonder, lads?" They
looked that way, and said they saw him.
Skarphedinn spoke again: "Thou, Hauskuld, shalt have nothing to
do with it, for thou wilt often be sent about alone without due
heed; but I mean Sigmund for myself; methinks that is like a man;
but Grim and Helgi, they shall try to slay Skiolld."
Hauskuld sat him down, but they went until they came up to them.
Skarphedinn said to Sigmund, "Take thy weapons and defend
thyself; that is more needful now than to make mocking songs on
me and my brothers."
Sigmund took up his weapons, but Skarphedinn waited the while.
Skiolld turned against Grim and Helgi, and they fell hotly to
fight. Sigmund had a helm on his head, and a shield at his side,
and was girt with a sword, his spear was in his hand; now he
turns against Skarphedinn, and thrusts at once at him with his
spear, and the thrust came on his shield. Skarphedinn dashes the
spearhaft in two, and lifts up his axe and hews at Sigmund, and
cleaves his shield down to below the handle. Sigmund drew his
sword and cut at Skarphedinn, and the sword cuts into his shield,
so that it stuck fast. Skarphedinn gave the shield such a quick
twist, that Sigmund let go his sword. Then Skarphedinn hews at
Sigmund with his axe; the "Ogress of war." Sigmund had on a
corselet, the axe came on his shoulder. Skarphedinn cleft the
shoulder-blade right through, and at the same time pulled the axe
towards him. Sigmund fell down on both knees, but sprang up
again at once.
"Thou hast lilted low to me already," says Skarphedinn, "but
still thou shalt fall upon thy mother's bosom ere we two part."
"III is that then," says Sigmund.
Skarphedinn gave him a blow on his helm, and after that dealt
Sigmund his death-blow.
Grim cut off Skiolld's foot at the ankle-joint, but Helgi thrust
him through with his spear, and he got his death there and then.
Skarphedinn saw Hallgerda's shepherd, just as he had hewn off
Sigmund's head; he handed the head to the shepherd, and bade him
bear it to Hallgerda, and said she would know whether that head
had made jeering songs about them, and with that he sang a
"Here! this head shalt thou, that heapest
Hoards from ocean-caverns won, (1)
Bear to Hallgerd with my greeting,
Her that hurries men to fight;
Sure am I, O firewood splitter!
That yon spendthrift knows it well,
And will answer if it ever
Uttered mocking songs on us."
The shepherd casts the head down as soon as ever they parted,
for he dared not do so while their eyes were on him. They fared
along till they met some men down by Markfleet, and told them the
tidings. Skarphedinn gave himself out as the slayer of Sigmund
and Grim and Helgi as the slayers of Skiolld; then they fared
home and told Njal the tidings. He answers them, "Good luck to
your hands I Here no self-doom will come to pass as things
Now we must take up the story, and say that the shepherd came
home to Lithend. He told Hallgerda the tidings.
"Skarphedinn put Sigmund's head into my hands," he says, "and
bade me bring it thee; but I dared not do it, for I knew not how
thou wouldst like that."
"'Twas ill that thou didst not do that," she says; "I would have
brought it to Gunnar, and then he would have avenged his kinsman,
or have to bear every man's blame."
After that she went to Gunnar and said, "I tell thee of thy
kinsman Sigmund's slaying: Skarphedinn slew him, and wanted them
to bring me the head."
"Just what might be looked for to befall him," says Gunnar, "for
ill redes bring ill luck, and both you and Skarphedinn have often
done one another spiteful turns."
Then Gunnar went away; he let no steps be taken towards a suit
for manslaughter, and did nothing about it. Hallgerda often put
him in mind of it, and kept saying that Sigmund had fallen
unatoned. Gunnar gave no heed to that.
Now three Things passed away, at each of which men thought that
he would follow up the suit; then a knotty point came on Gunnar's
hands, which he knew not how to set about, and then he rode to
find Njal. He gave Gunnar a hearty welcome. Gunnar said to
Njal, "I am come to seek a bit of good counsel at thy hands about
a knotty point."
"Thou art worthy of it," says Njal, and gave him counsel what to
do. Then Gunnar stood up and thanked him. Njal then spoke, and
said, and took Gunnar by the hand, "Over long hath thy kinsman
Sigmund been unatoned."
"He has been long ago atoned," says Gunnar, "but still I will not
fling back the honour offered me."
Gunnar had never spoken an ill word of Njal's sons. Njal would
have nothing else than that Gunnar should make his own award in
the matter. He awarded two hundred in silver, but let Skiolld
fall without a price. They paid down all the money at once.
Gunnar declared this their atonement at the Thingskala Thing,
when most men were at it, and laid great weight on the way in
which they (Njal and his sons) had behaved; he told too those bad
words which cost Sigmund his life, and no man was to repeat them
or sing the verses, but if any sung them, the man who uttered
them was to fall without atonement.
Both Gunnar and Njal gave each other their words that no such
matters should ever happen that they would not settle among
themselves; and this pledge was well kept ever after, and they
were always friends.
(1) "Thou, that heapest boards," etc. -- merely a periphrasis
for man, and scarcely fitting, except in irony, to a
splitter of firewood.
46. OF GIZUR THE WHITE AND GEIR THE PRIEST
There was a man named Gizur the White; he was Teit's son;
Kettlebjorn the Old's son, of Mossfell. (1) Bishop Isleif was
Gizur's son. Gizur the White kept house at Mossfell, and was a
great chief. That man is also named in this story whose name was
Geir the Priest; his mother was Thorkatla, another daughter of
Kettlebjorn the Old of Mossfell. Geir kept house at Lithe. He
and Gizur backed one another in every matter. At that time Mord
Valgard's son kept house at Hof on the Rangrivervales; he was
crafty and spiteful. Valgard his father was then abroad, but his
mother was dead. He was very envious of Gunnar of Lithend. He
was wealthy, so far as goods went, but had not many friends.
(1) Teit's mother's name was Helga. She was a daughter of Thord
Longbeard, who was the son of Hrapp, who was the son of
Bjorn the Rough-footed, who was the son of Grim, the Lord of
Sogn in Norway. Gizur's mother's name was Olof. She was a
daughter of Lord Baudvar, Viking-Kari's son.
47. OF OTKELL IN KIRKBY
There was a man named Otkell; he was the son of Skarf, the son of
Hallkell, who fought with Grim of Grimsness, and felled him on
the holm. (1) This Hallkell and Kettlebjorn the Old were
Otkell kept house at Kirkby; his wife's name was Thorgerda; she