Part 3 out of 9
was a daughter of Mar, the son of Runolf, the son of Naddad of
the Faroe Isles. Otkell was wealthy in goods. His son's name
was Thorgeir; he was young in years, and a bold dashing man.
Skamkell was the name of another man; he kept house at another
farm called Hof (2); he was well off for money, but he was a
spiteful man and a liar; quarrelsome too, and ill to deal with.
He was Otkell's friend. Hallkell was the name of Otkell's
brother; he was a tall strong man, and lived there with Otkell;
their brother's name was Hallbjorn the White; he brought out to
Iceland a thrall, whose name was Malcolm; he was Irish, and had
not many friends.
Hallbjorn went to stay with Otkell, and so did his thrall
Malcolm. The thrall was always saying that he should think
himself happy if Otkell owned him. Otkell was kind to him, and
gave him a knife and belt, and a full suit of clothes, but the
thrall turned his hand to any work that Otkell wished.
Otkell wanted to make a bargain with his brother for the thrall;
he said he would give him the thrall, but said, too, that he was
a worse treasure than he thought. But as soon as Otkell owned
the thrall, then he did less and less work. Otkell often said
outright to Hallbjorn, that he thought the thrall did little
work; and he told Otkell that there was worse in him yet to
At that time came a great scarcity, so that men fell short both
of meat and hay, and that spread over all parts of Iceland.
Gunnar shared his hay and meat with many men; and all got them
who came thither, so long as his stores lasted. At last it came
about that Gunnar himself fell short both of hay and meat. Then
Gunnar called on Kolskegg to go along with him; he called too on
Thrain Sigfus' son, and Lambi Sigurd's son. They fared to
Kirkby, and called Otkell out. He greeted them, and Gunnar said,
"It so happens that I am come to deal with thee for hay and meat,
if there be any left."
Otkell answers, "There is store of both, but I will sell thee
"Wilt thou give me them then," says Gunnar, "and run the risk of
my paying thee back somehow?"
"I will not do that either," says Otkell.
Skamkell all the while was giving him bad counsel.
Then Thrain Sigfus' son, said, "It would serve him right if we
take both hay and meat and lay down the worth of them instead."
Skamkell answered, "All the men of Mossfell must be dead and gone
then, if ye, sons of Sigfus, are to come and rob them."
"I will have no hand in any robbery," says Gunnar.
"Wilt thou buy a thrall of me?" says Otkell.
"I'll not spare to do that," says Gunnar. After that Gunnar
bought the thrall, and fared away as things stood.
Njal hears of this, and said, "Such things are ill done, to
refuse to let Gunnar buy; and it is not a good outlook for others
if such men as he cannot get what they want."
"What's the good of thy talking so much about such a little
matter," says Bergthora; "far more like a man would it be to let
him have both meat and hay, when thou lackest neither of them."
"That is clear as day," says Njal, "and I will of a surety supply
his need somewhat."
Then he fared up to Thorolfsfell, and his sons with him, and they
bound hay on fifteen horses; but on five horses they had meat.
Njal came to Lithend, and called Gunnar out. He greeted them
"Here is hay and meat," said Njal, "which I will give thee; and
my wish is, that thou shouldst never look to any one else than to
me if thou standest in need of anything."
"Good are thy gifts," says Gunnar, "but methinks thy friendship
is still more worth, and that of thy sons."
After that Njal fared home, and now the spring passes away.
(1) That is, slew him in a duel.
(2) Mord Valgard's son lived at the other farm called Hof.
48. HOW HALLGERDA MAKES MALCOLM STEAL FROM KIRKBY
Now Gunnar is about to ride to the Thing, but a great crowd of
men from the Side (1) east turned in as guests at his house.
Gunnar bade them come and be his guests again, as they rode back
from the Thing; and they said they would do so.
Now they ride to the Thing, and Njal and his sons were there.
That Thing was still and quiet.
Now we must take up the story, and say that Hallgerda comes to
talk with Malcolm the thrall.
"I have thought of an errand to send thee on," she says; "thou
shalt go to Kirkby."
"And what shall I do there?" he says.
"Thou shalt steal from thence food enough to load two horses, and
mind and have butter and cheese; but thou shalt lay fire in the
storehouse, and all will think that it has arisen out of
heedlessness, but no one will think that there has been theft."
"Bad have I been," said the thrall, "but never have I been a
"Hear a wonder!" says Hallgerda, "thou makest thyself good, thou
that hast been both thief and murderer; but thou shalt not dare
to do aught else than go, else will I let thee be slain."
He thought he knew enough of her to be sure that she would so do
if he went not; so he took at night two horses and laid
packsaddles on them, and went his way to Kirkby. The house-dog
knew him and did not bark at him, and ran and fawned on him.
After that he went to the storehouse and loaded the two horses
with food out of it, but the storehouse he burnt, and the dog he
He went up along by Rangriver, and his shoe-thong snapped; so he
takes his knife and makes the shoe right, but he leaves the knife
and belt lying there behind him.
He fares till he comes to Lithend; then he misses the knife, but
dares not to go back.
Now he brings Hallgerda the food, and she showed herself well
pleased at it.
Next morning when men came out of doors at Kirkby there they saw
great scathe. Then a man was sent to the Thing to tell Otkell;
he bore the loss well, and said it must have happened because the
kitchen was next to the storehouse; and all thought that that was
how it happened.
Now men ride home from the Thing, and many rode to Lithend.
Hallgerda set food on the board, and in came cheese and butter.
Gunnar knew that such food was not to be looked for in his house,
and asked Hallgerda whence it came?
"Thence," she says; "whence thou mightest well eat of it;
besides, it is no man's business to trouble himself with
Gunner got wroth and said, "Ill indeed is it if I am a partaker
with thieves;" and with that he gave her a slap on the cheek.
She said she would bear that slap in mind and repay it if she
So she went off and he went with her, and then all that was
on the board was cleared away, but flesh-meat was brought in
instead, and all thought that was because the flesh was thought
to have been got in a better way.
Now the men who had been at the Thing fare away.
(1) That is, from the sea-side or shore, the long narrow strip
of habitable land between the mountains and the sea in the
south-east of Iceland.
49. OF SKAMKELL'S EVIL COUNSEL
Now we must tell of Skamkell. He rides after some sheep up along
Rangriver, and he sees something shining in the path. He finds a
knife and belt, and thinks he knows both of them. He fares with
them to Kirkby; Otkell was out of doors when Skamkell came. He
spoke to him and said, "Knowest thou aught of these pretty
"Of a surety," says Otkell, "I know them."
"Who owns them?" asks Skamkell.
"Malcolm the thrall," says Otkell.
"Then more shall see and know them than we two," says Skamkell,
"for true will I be to thee in counsel."
They showed them to many men, and all knew them. Then Skamkell
said, "What counsel wilt thou now take?"
"We shall go and see Mord Valgard's son," answers Otkell, "and
seek counsel of him."
So they went to Hof, and showed the pretty things to Mord, and
asked him if he knew them?
He said he knew them well enough, but what was there in that?
"Do you think you have a right to look for anything at Lithend?"
"We think it hard for us," says Skamkell, "to know what to do,
when such mighty men have a hand in it."
"That is so, sure enough," says Mord, "but yet I will get to know
those things, out of Gunnar's household, which none of you will
"We would give thee money," they say, "if thou wouldst search out
"That money I shall buy full dear," answered Mord, "but still,
perhaps, it may be that I will look at the matter."
They gave him three marks of silver for lending them his help.
Then he gave them this counsel, that women should go about from
house to house with small ware, and give them to the housewives,
and mark what was given them in return.
"For," he says, "'tis the turn of mind of all men first to give
away what has been stolen, if they have it in their keeping, and
so it will be here also, if this hath-happened by the hand of
man. Ye shall then come and show me what has been given to each
in each house, and I shall then be free from farther share in
this matter, if the truth comes to light."
To this they agreed, and went home afterwards.
Mord sends women about the country, and they were away half a
month. Then they came back, and had big bundles. Mord asked
where they had most given them?
They said that at Lithend most was given them, and Hallgerda had
been most bountiful to them.
He asked what was given them there.
"Cheese," say they.
He begged to see it, and they showed it to him, and it was in
great slices. These he took and kept.
A little after, Mord fared to see Otkell, and bade that he would
bring Thorgerda's cheese-mould; and when that was done, he laid
the slices down in it, and lo! they fitted the mould in every
Then they saw, too, that a whole cheese had been given to them.
Then Mord said, "Now may ye see that Hallgerda must have stolen
the cheese;" and they all passed the same judgment; and then Mord
said, that now he thought he was free of this matter.
After that they parted.
Shortly after Kolskegg fell to talking with Gunnar and said, "III
is it to tell, but the story is in every man's mouth, that
Hallgerda must have stolen, and that she was at the bottom of all
that great scathe that befell at Kirkby."
Gunner said that he too thought that must be so. "But what is to
be done now?"
Kolskegg answered, "Thou wilt think it thy most bounden duty to
make atonement for thy wife's wrong, and methinks it were best
that tbou farest to see Otkell, and makest him a handsome offer."
"This is well spoken," says Gunnar, "and so it shall be."
A little after Gunnar sent after Thrain Sigfus' son and Lambi
Sigurd's son, and they came at once.
Gunnar told them whither he meant to go, and they were well
pleased. Gunnar rode with eleven men to Kirkby, and called
Otkell out. Skamkell was there too, and said, "I will go out
with thee, and it will be best now to have the balance of wit on
thy side. And I would wish to stand closest by thee when thou
needest it most, and now this will be put to the proof. Methinks
it were best that thou puttest on an air of great weight."
Then they, Otkell and Skamkell, and Hallkell, and Hallbjorn, went
out all of them.
They greeted Gunnar, and he took their greeting well. Otkell
asks whither he meant to go?
"No farther than here," says Gunnar, "and my errand hither is to
tell thee about that bad mishap, how it arose from the plotting
of my wife and that thrall whom I bought from thee."
"'Tis only what was to be looked for," says Hallbjorn.
"Now I will make thee a good offer," says Gunnar, "and the offer
is this, that the best men here in the country round settle the
"This is a fair-sounding offer," said Skamkell, "but an unfair
and uneven one. Thou art a man who has many friends among the
householders, but Otkell has not many friends."
"Well," says Gunnar, "then I will offer thee that I shall make an
award, and utter it here on this spot, and so we will settle the
matter, and my good-will shall follow the settlement. But I will
make thee an atonement by paying twice the worth of what was
"This choice shalt thou not take," said Skamkell; "and it is
unworthy to give up to him the right to make his own award, when
thou oughtest to have kept it for thyself."
So Otkell said, "I will not give up to thee, Gunnar, the right to
make thine own award."
"I see plainly," said Gunnar, "the help of men who will be paid
off for it one day, I daresay; but come now, utter an award for
Otkell leant toward Skamkell and said, "What shall I answer now?"
"This thou shalt call a good offer, but still put thy suit into
the hands of Gizur the White, and Geir the Priest, and then many
will say this, that thou behavest like Hallkell, thy grandfather,
who was the greatest of champions."
"Well offered is this, Gunnar," said Otkell, "but still my will
is thou wouldst give me time to see Gizur the White."
"Do now whatever thou likest in the matter," said Gunnar; "but
men will say this, that thou couldst not see thine own honour
when thou wouldst have none of the choices I offer thee."
Then Gunnar rode home, and when he had gone away, Hallbjorn said,
"Here I see how much man differs from man. Gunnar made thee good
offers, but thou wouldst take none of them; or how dost thou
think to strive with Gunnar in a quarrel, when no one is his
match in fight. But now he is still so kind-hearted a man that
it may be he will let these offers stand, though thou art only
ready to take them afterwards. Methinks it were best that thou
farest to see Gizur the White and Geir the Priest now this very
Otkell let them catch his horse, and made ready in every way.
Otkell was not sharpsighted, and Skamkell walked on the way along
with him, and said to Otkell, "Methought it strange that thy
brother would not take this toil from thee, and now I will make
thee an offer to fare instead of thee, for I know that the
journey is irksome to thee."
"I will take that offer," says Otkell, "but mind and be as
truthful as ever thou canst."
"So it shall be," says Skamkell.
Then Skamkell took his horse and cloak, but Otkell walks home.
Hallbjorn was out of doors, and said to Otkell, "Ill is it to
have a thrall for one's bosom friend, and we shall rue this for
ever that thou hast turned back, and it is an unwise step to send
the greatest liar on an errand, of which one may so speak that
men's lives hang on it."
"Thou wouldst be sore afraid," says Otkell, "if Gunnar had his
bill aloft, when thou art so scared now."
"No one knows who will be most afraid then," said Hallbjorn; "but
this thou wilt have to own, that Gunnar does not lose much time
in brandishing his bill when he is wroth."
"Ah!" said Otkell, "ye are all of you for yielding but Skamkell."
And then they were both wroth.
50. OF SKAMKELL'S LYING
Skamkell came to Mossfell, and repeated all the offers to Gizur.
"It so seems to me," says Gizur, "as though these have been
bravely offered; but why took he not these offers?"
"The chief cause was," answers Skamkell, "that all wished to show
thee honour, and that was why he waited for thy utterance;
besides, that is best for all."
So Skamkell stayed there the night over, but Gizur sent a man to
fetch Geir the Priest; and he came there early. Then Gizur told
him the story and said, "What course is to be taken now?"
"As thou no doubt hast already made up thy mind -- to make the
best of the business for both sides."
"Now we will let Skamkell tell his tale a second time, and see
how he repeats it."
So they did that, and Gizur said, "Thou must have told this story
right; but still I have seen thee to be the wickedest of men, and
there is no faith in faces if thou turnest out well."
Skamkell fared home, and rides first to Kirkby and calls Otkell
out. He greets Skamkell well, and Skamkell brought him the
greeting of Gizur and Geir.
"But about this matter of the suit," be says, "there is no need
to speak softly, how that it is the will of both Gizur and Geir
that this suit should not be settled in a friendly way. They
gave that counsel that a summons should be set on foot, and that
Gunnar should be summoned for having partaken of the goods, but
Hallgerda for stealing them."
"It shall be done," said Otkell, "in everything as they have
"They thought most of this," says Skamkell, "that thou hadst
behaved so proudly; but as for me, I made as great a man of thee
in everything as I could."
Now Otkell tells all this to his brothers, and Hallbjorn said,
"This must be the biggest lie."
Now the time goes on until the last of the summoning days before
the Althing came.
Then Otkell called on his brothers and Skamkell to ride on the
business of the summons to Lithend.
Hallbjorn said he would go, but said also that they would rue
this summoning as time went on.
Now they rode twelve of them together to Lithend, but when they
came into the "town," there was Gunnar out of doors, and knew
naught of their coming till they had ridden right up to the
He did not go in-doors then, and Otkell thundered out the summons
there and then; but when they had made an end of the summoning
Skamkell said, "Is it all right, master?"
"Ye know that best;" says Gunnar, "but I will put thee in mind of
this journey one of these days, and of thy good help."
"That will not harm us," says Skamkell, "if thy bill be not
Gunnar was very wroth and went in-doors, and told Kolskegg, and
Kolskegg said, "Ill was it that we were not out of doors; they
should have come here on the most shameful journey, if we had
"Everything bides its time," says Gunnar; "but this journey will
not turn out to their honour."
A little after Gunnar went and told Njal.
"Let it not worry thee a jot," said Njal, "for this will be the
greatest honour to thee, ere this Thing comes to an end. As for
us, we will all back thee with counsel and force."
Gunnar thanked him and rode home.
Otkell rides to the Thing, and his brothers with him and
51. OF GUNNAR
Gunnar rode to the Thing and all the sons of Sigfus; Njal and his
sons too, they all went with Gunnar; and it was said that no band
was so well knit and hardy as theirs.
Gunnar went one day to the booth of the Dalemen; Hrut was by the
booth and Hauskuld, and they greeted Gunnar well. Now Gunnar
tells them the whole story of the suit up to that time.
"What counsel gives Njal?" asks Hrut.
"He bade me seek you brothers," says Gunnar, "and said he was
sure that he and you would look at the matter in the same light."
"He wishes then," says Hrut, "that I should say what I think
for kinship's sake; and so it shall be. Thou shalt challenge
Gizur the White to combat on the island, if they do not leave the
whole award to thee; but Kolskegg shall challenge Geir the
Priest. As for Otkell and his crew, men must be got ready to
fall on them; and now we have such great strength all of us
together, that thou mayst carry out whatever thou wilt."
Gunnar went home to his booth and told Njal.
"Just what I looked for," said Njal.
Wolf Aurpriest got wind of this plan, and told Gizur, and Gizur
said to Otkell, "Who gave thee that counsel that thou shouldst
"Skamkell told me that was the counsel of both Geir the Priest
"But where is that scoundrel?" says Gizur, "who has thus lied."
"He lies sick up at our booth," says Otkell.
"May he never rise from his bed," says Gizur. "Now we must all
go to see Gunnar, and offer him the right to make his own award;
but I know not whether he will take that now."
Many men spoke ill of Skamkell, and he lay sick all through the
Gizur and his friends went to Gunnar's booth; their coming was
known, and Gunnar was told as he sat in his booth, and then they
all went out and stood in array.
Gizur the White came first, and after a while he spoke and said,
"This is our offer -- that thou, Gunnar, makest thine own award
in this suit."
"Then," says Gunnar, "it was no doubt far from thy counsel that I
"I gave no such counsel," says Gizur, "neither I nor Geir."
"Then thou must clear thyself of this charge by fitting proof."
"What proof dost thou ask?" says Gizur.
"That thou takest an oath," says Gunnar.
"That I will do," says Gizur, "if thou wilt take the award into
thine own hands."
"That was the offer I made a while ago," says Gunnar; "but now,
methinks, I have a greater matter to pass judgment on."
"It will not be right to refuse to make thine own award," said
Njal; "for the greater the matter, the greater the honour in
"Well," said Gunnar, "I will do this to please my friends, and
utter my award; but I give Otkell this bit of advice, never to
give me cause for quarrel hereafter."
Then Hrut and Hauskuld were sent for, and they came thither, and
then Gizur the White and Gier the Priest took their oaths; but
Gunnar made his award, and spoke with no man about it, and
afterwards he uttered it as follows:
"This is my award," he says; "first, I lay it down that the
storehouse must be paid for, and the food that was therein; but
for the thrall, I will pay thee no fine, for that thou hiddest
his faults; but I award him back to thee; for as the saying is,
`Birds of a feather flock most together.' Then, on the other
hand, I see that thou hast summoned me in scorn and mockery, and
for that I award to myself no less a sum than what the house that
was burnt and the stores in it were worth; but if ye think it
better that we be not set at one again, then I will let you have
your choice of that, but if so I have already made up my mind
what I shall do, and then I will fulfil my purpose."
"What we ask," said Gizur, "is that thou shouldst not be hard on
Otkell, but we beg this of thee, on the other hand, that thou
wouldst be his friend."
"That shall never be," said Gunnar, "so long as I live; but he
shall have Skamkell's friendship; on that he has long leant."
"Well," answers Gizur, "we will close with thee in this matter,
though thou alone layest down the terms."
Then all this atonement was made and hands were shaken on it, and
Gunnar said to Otkell, "It were wiser to go away to thy kinsfolk;
but if thou wilt be here in this country, mind that thou givest
me no cause of quarrel."
"That is wholesome counsel," said Gizur; "and so he shall do."
So Gunnar had the greatest honour from that suit, and afterwards
men rode home from the Thing.
Now Gunnar sits in his house at home, and so things are quiet for
52. OF RUNOLF, THE SON OF WOLF AURPRIEST
There was a man named Runolf, the son of Wolf Aurpriest, he kept
house at the Dale, east of Markfleet. He was Otkell's guest once
when he rode from the Thing. Otkell gave him an ox, all black,
without a spot of white, nine winters old. Runolf thanked him
for the gift, and bade him come and see him at home whenever he
chose to go; and this bidding stood over for some while, so that
he had not paid the visit. Runolf often sent men to him and put
him in mind that he ought to come; and he always said he would
come, but never went.
Now Otkell had two horses, dun coloured, with a black stripe down
the back; they were the best steeds to ride in all the country
round, and so fond of each other that whenever one went before
the other ran after him.
There was an Easterling staying with Otkell, whose name was
Audulf; he had set his heart on Signy, Otkell's daughter. Audulf
was a tall man in growth, and strong.
53. HOW OTKELL RODE OVER GUNNAR
It happened next spring that Otkell said that they would ride
east to the Dale, to pay Runolf a visit, and all showed
themselves well pleased at that. Skamkell and his two brothers,
and Audulf and three men more, went along with Otkell. Otkell
rode one of the dun horses, but the other ran loose by his side.
They shaped their course east towards Markfleet; and now Otkell
gallops ahead, and now the horses race against each other, and
they break away from the path up towards the Fleetlithe.
Now, Otkell goes faster than he wished, and it happened that
Gunnar had gone away from home out of his house all alone; and he
had a corn-sieve in one hand, but in the other a hand-axe. He
goes down to his seed field and sows his corn there, and had laid
his cloak of fine stuff and his axe down by his side, and so he
sows the corn a while.
Now, it must be told how Otkell rides faster than he would. He
had spurs on his feet, and so he gallops down over the ploughed
field, and neither of them sees the other; and just as Gunnar
stands upright, Otkell rides down upon him and drives one of the
spurs into Gunnar's ear, and gives him a great gash, and it
bleeds at once much.
Just then Otkell's companions rode up.
"Ye may see, all of you," says Gunnar, "that thou hast drawn my
blood, and it is unworthy to go on so. First thou hast summoned
me, but now thou treadest me under foot, and ridest over me."
Skamkell said, "Well it was no worse, master, but thou wast not
one whit less wroth at the Thing, when thou tookest the selfdoom
and clutchedst thy bill."
Gunnar said, "When we two next meet thou shalt see the bill."
After that they part thus, and Skamkell shouted out and said, "Ye
ride hard, lads!"
Gunnar went home, and said never a word to any one about what had
happened, and no one thought that this wound could have come by
It happened, though, one day, that he told it to his brother
Kolskegg, and Kolskegg said, "This thou shalt tell to more men,
so that it may not be said that thou layest blame on dead men;
for it will be gainsaid if witnesses do not know beforehand what
has passed between you."
Then Gunnar told it to his neighbours, and there was little talk
about it at first.
Otkell comes east to the Dale, and they get a hearty welcome
there, and sit there a week.
Skamkell told Runolf all about their meeting with Gunnar, and how
it had gone off; and one man happened to ask how Gunnar behaved.
"Why," said Skamkell, "if it were a low-born man it would have
been said that he had wept."
"Such things are ill spoken," says Runolf, "and when ye two next
meet, thou wilt have to own that there is no voice of weeping in
his frame of mind; and it will be well if better men have not to
pay for thy spite. Now it seems to me best when ye wish to go
home that I should go with you, for Gunnar will do me no harm."
"I will not have that," says Otkell; "but I will ride across the
Fleet lower down."
Runolf gave Otkell good gifts, and said they should not see one
Otkell bade him then to bear his sons in mind if things turned
54. THE FIGHT AT RANGRIVER
Now we must take up the story, and say that Gunnar was out of
doors at Lithend, and sees his shepherd galloping up to the yard.
The shepherd rode straight into the "town; and Gunnar said, "Why
ridest thou so hard?"
"I would be faithful to thee," said the man; "I saw men riding
down along Markfleet, eight of them together, and four of them
were in coloured clothes."
Gunnar said, "That must be Otkell."
The lad said, "I have often heard many temper-trying words of
Skamkell's; for Skamkell spoke away there east at Dale, and said
that thou sheddest tears when they rode over thee; but I tell it
thee because I cannot bear to listen to such speeches of
"We must not be word-sick," says Gunnar, "but from this day forth
thou shall do no other work than what thou choosest for thyself."
"Shall I say aught of this to Kolskegg thy brother?" asked the
"Go thou and sleep," says Gunnar; "I will tell Kolskegg."
The lad laid him down and fell asleep at once, but Gunnar took
the shepherd's horse and laid his saddle on him; he took his
shield, and girded him with his sword, Oliver's gift; he sets his
helm on his head; takes his bill, and something sung loud in it,
and his mother, Rannveig, heard it. She went up to him and said
"Wrathful art thou now, my son, and never saw I thee thus
Gunnar goes out, and drives the butt of his spear into the earth,
and throws himself into the saddle, and rides away,
His mother, Rannveig, went into the sitting-room, where there was
a great noise of talking.
"Ye speak loud," she says, "but yet the bill gave a louder sound
when Gunnar went out."
Kolskegg heard what she said, and spoke, "This betokens no small
"That is well," says Hallgerda, "now they will soon prove whether
he goes away from them weeping."
Kolskegg takes his weapons and seeks him a horse, and rides after
Gunnar as fast as he could.
Gunnar rides across Acretongue, and so to Geilastofna and thence
to Rangriver, and down the stream to the ford at Hof. There were
some women at the milking-post there. Gunnar jumped off his
horse and tied him up. By this time the others were riding up
towards him; there were flat stones covered with mud in the path
that led down to the ford.
Gunnar called out to them and said, "Now is the time to guard
yourselves; here now is the bill, and here now ye will put it to
the proof whether I shed one tear for all of you."
Then they all of them sprang off their horses' backs and made
towards Gunnar. Hallbjorn was the foremost.
"Do not thou come on," says Gunnar; "thee last of all would I
harm; but I will spare no one if I have to fight for my life."
"That I cannot do," says Hallbjorn; "thou wilt strive to kill my
brother for all that, and it is a shame if I sit idly by." And
as he said this he thrust at Gunnar with a great spear which he
held in both hands.
Gunnar threw his shield before the blow, but Hallbjorn pierced
the shield through. Gunnar thrust the shield down so hard that
it stood fast in the earth (1), but he brandished his sword so
quickly that no eye could follow it, and he made a blow with the
sword, and it fell on Hallbjorn's arm above the writs, so that it
cut it off.
Skamkell ran behind Gunnar's back and makes a blow at him with a
great axe. Gunnar turned short round upon him and parries the
blow with the bill, and caught the axe under one of its horns
with such a wrench that it flew out of Skamkell's hand away into
Then Gunnar sang a song:
"Once thou askedst, foolish fellow,
Of this man, this seahorse racer,
When as fast as feet could foot it
Forth ye fled from farm of mine,
Whether that were rightly summoned?
Now with gore the spear we redden,
Battle-eager, and avenge us
Thus on thee, vile source of strife."
Gunnar gives another thrust with his bill, and through Skamkell,
and lifts him up and casts him down in the muddy path on his
Audulf the Easterling snatches up a spear and launches it at
Gunnar. Gunnar caught the spear with his hand in the air, and
hurled it back at once, and it flew through the shield and the
Easterling too, and so down into the earth.
Otkell smites at Gunnar with his sword, and aims at his leg just
below the knee, but Gunnar leapt up into the air and he misses
him. Then Gunnar thrusts at him the bill and the blow goes
Then Kolskegg comes up, and rushes at once at Hallkell and dealt
him his death-blow with his short sword. There and then they
slay eight men.
A woman who saw all this, ran home and told Mord, and besought
him to part them.
"They alone will be there," he says, "of whom I care not though
they slay one another."
"Thou canst not mean to say that," she says, "for thy kinsman
Gunnar, and thy friend Otkell will be there."
"Baggage, that thou art," he says, "thou art always chattering,"
and so he lay still in-doors while they fought.
Gunnar and Kolskegg rode home after this work, and they rode hard
up along the river bank, and Gunnar leapt off his horse and came
down on his feet.
Then Kolskegg said, "Hard now thou ridest, brother!"
"Ay," said Gunnar, "that was what Skamkell said when he uttered
those very words when they rode over me."
"Well, thou hast avenged that now," says Kolskegg.
"I would like to know," says Gunnar, "whether I am by so much the
less brisk and bold than other men, because I think more of
killing men than they?"
(1) This shews that the shields were oblong, running down to a
55. NJAL'S ADVICE TO GUNNAR
Now those tidings are heard far and wide, and many said that they
thought they had not happened before it was likely. Gunnar rode
to Bergthorsknoll and told Njal of these deeds.
Njal said, "Thou hast done great things, but thou hast been
"How will it now go henceforth?" says Gunnar.
"Wilt thou that I tell thee what hath not yet come to pass?" asks
Njal. "Thou wilt ride to the Thing, and thou wilt abide by my
counsel and get the greatest honour from this matter. This will
be the beginning of thy manslayings."
"But give me some cunning counsel," says Gunnar.
"I will do that," says Njal, "never slay more than one man in the
same stock, and never break the peace which good men and true
make between thee and others, and least of all in such a matter
Gunnar said, "I should have thought there was more risk of that
with others than with me."
"Like enough," says Njal, "but still thou shalt so think of thy
quarrels, that if that should come to pass of which I have warned
thee, then thou wilt have but a little while to live; but
otherwise, thou wilt come to be an old man."
Gunnar said, "Dost thou know what will be thine own death?"
"I know it," says Njal.
"What?" asks Gunnar.
"That," says Njal, "which all would be the last to think."
After that Gunnar rode home.
A man was sent to Gizur the White and Geir the Priest, for they
had the blood-feud after Otkell. Then they had a meeting, and
had a talk about what was to be done; and they were of one mind
that the quarrel should be followed up at law. Then some one was
sought who would take the suit up, but no one was ready to do
"It seems to me," says Gizur, "that now there are only two
courses, that one of us two undertakes the suit, and then we
shall have to draw lots who it shall be, or else the man will be
unatoned. We may make up our minds, too, that this will be a
heavy suit to touch; Gunnar has many kinsmen and is much beloved;
but that one of us who does not draw the lot, shall ride to the
Thing and never leave it until the suit comes to an end."
After that they drew lots, and Geir the Priest drew the lot to
take up the suit.
A little after, they rode from the west over the river, and came
to the spot where the meeting had been by Rangriver, and dug up
the bodies, and took witness to the wounds. After that they gave
lawful notice and summoned nine neighbours to bear witness in the
They were told that Gunnar was at home with about thirty men;
then Geir the Priest asked whether Gizur would ride against him
with one hundred men.
"I will not do that," says he, "though the balance of force is
great on our side."
After that they rode back home. The news that the suit was set
on foot was spread all over the country, and the saying ran that
the Thing would be very noisy and stormy.
56. GUNNAR AND GEIR THE PRIEST STRIVE AT THE THING
There was a man named Skapti. He was the son of Thorod (1).
That father and son were great chiefs, and very well skilled in
law. Thorod was thought to be rather crafty and guileful. They
stood by Gizur the White in every quarrel.
As for the Lithemen and the dwellers by Rangriver, they came in a
great body to the Thing. Gunnar was so beloved that all said
with one voice that they would back him.
Now they all come to the Thing and fit up their booths. In
company with Gizur the White were these chiefs: Skapti Thorod's
son, Asgrim Ellidagrim's son, Oddi of Kidberg, and Halldor
Now one day men went to the Hill of Laws, and then Geir the
Priest stood up and gave notice that he had a suit of
manslaughter against Gunnar for the slaying of Otkell. Another
suit of manslaughter he brought against Gunnar for the slaying of
Halljborn the White; then, too, he went on in the same way as to
the slaying of Audulf, and so, too, as to the slaying of
Skamkell. Then, too, he laid a suit of manslaughter against
Kolskegg for the slaying of Hallkell.
And when he had given due notice of all his suits of manslaughter
it was said that he spoke well. He asked, too, in what Quarter
court the suits lay, and in what house in the district the
defendants dwelt. After that men went away from the Hill of
Laws, and so the Thing goes on till the day when the courts were
to be set to try suits. Then either side gathered their men
together in great strength.
Geir the Priest and Gizur the White stood at the court of the men
of Rangriver looking north, and Gunnar and Njal stood looking
south towards the court.
Geir the Priest bade Gunnar to listen to his oath, and then he
took the oath, and afterwards declared his suit.
Then he let men bear witness of the notice given by the suit;
then he called upon the neighbours who were to form the inquest
to take their seats; then he called on Gunnar to challenge the
inquest; and then he called on the inquest to utter their
finding. Then the neighbours who were summoned on the inquest
went to the court and took witness, and said that there was a bar
to their finding in the suit as to Audulf's slaying, because the
next of kin who ought to follow it up was in Norway, and so they
had nothing to do with that suit.
After that they uttered their finding in the suit as to Otkell,
and brought in Gunnar as truly guilty of killing him.
Then Geir the Priest called on Gunnar for his defence, and took
witness of all the steps in the suit which had been proved.
Then Gunnar, in his turn, called on Geir the Priest to listen to
his oath, and to the defence which he was about to bring forward
in the suit. Then he took the oath and said, "This defence I
make to this suit, that I took witness and outlawed Otkell before
my neighbours for that bloody wound which I got when Otkell gave
me a hurt with his spur; but thee, Geir the Priest, I forbid by a
lawful protest made before a priest, to pursue this suit, and so,
too, I forbid the judges to hear it; and with this I make all the
steps hitherto taken in this suit void and of none-effect. I
forbid thee by a lawful protest, a full, fair, and binding
protest, as I have a right to forbid thee by the common custom of
the Thing and by the law of the land.
"Besides, I will tell thee something else which I mean to do,"
"What!" says Geir, "wilt thou challenge me to the island as thou
art wont, and not bear the law?"
"Not that," says Gunnar; "I shall summon thee at the Hill of Laws
for that thou calledst those men on the inquest who had no right
to deal with Audulf's slaying, and I will declare thee for that
guilty of outlawry."
Then Njal said, "Things must not take this turn, for the only end
of it will be that this strife will be carried to the uttermost.
Each of you, as it seems to me, has much on his side. There are
some of these manslaughters, Gunnar, about which thou canst say
nothing to hinder the court from finding thee guilty; but thou
hast set on foot a suit against Geir, in which he, too, must be
found guilty. Thou too, Geir the Priest, shalt know that this
suit of outlawry which hangs over thee shall not fall to the
ground if thou wilt not listen to my words."
Thorod the Priest said, "It seems to us as though the most
peaceful way would be that a settlement and atonement were come
to in the suit. But why sayest thou so little, Gizur the White?"
"It seems to me," says Gizur, "as though we shall need to have
strong props for our suit; we may see, too, that Gunnar's friends
stand near him, and so the best turn for us that things can take
will be that good men and true should utter an award on the suit,
if Gunnar so wills it."
"I have ever been willing to make matters up," says Gunnar; "and
besides, ye have much wrong to follow up, but still I think I was
hard driven to do as I did."
And now the end of those suits was, by the counsel of the wisest
men, that all the suits were put to arbitration; six men were to
make this award, and it was uttered there and then at the Thing.
The award was that Skamkell should be unatoned. The blood money
for Otkell's death was to be set off against the hurt Gunnar got
from the spur; and as for the rest of the manslaughters, they
were paid for after the worth of the men, and Gunnar's kinsmen
gave money so that all the fines might be paid up at the Thing.
Then Geir the Priest and Gizur the White went up and gave Gunnar
pledges that they would keep the peace in good faith.
Gunnar rode home from the Thing, and thanked men for their help,
and gave gifts to many, and got the greatest honour from the
Now Gunnar sits at home in his honour.
(1) Thorod's mother was Thorvor, she was daughter of Thormod
Skapti's son, son of Oleif the Broad, son of Oliver
57. OF STARKAD AND HIS SONS
There was a man named Starkad; he was a son of Bork the Waxy-
toothed-blade, the son of Thorkell Clubfoot, who took the land
round about Threecorner as the first settler. His wife's name
was Hallbera (1). The sons of Starkad and Hallbera were these:
Thorgeir and Bork and Thorkell. Hildigunna the Leech was their
They were very proud men in temper, hard-hearted and unkind.
They treated men wrongfully.
There was a man named Egil; he was a son of Kol, who took land as
a settler between Storlek and Reydwater. The brother of Egil was
Aunund of Witchwood, father of Hall the Strong, who was at the
slaying of Holt-Thorir with the sons of Kettle the Smooth-
Egil kept house at Sandgil; his sons were these: Kol, and Ottar,
and Hauk. Their mother's name was Steinvor; she was Starkad's
Egil's sons were tall and strifeful; they were most unfair men.
They were always on one side with Starkad's sons. Their sister
was Gudruna Nightsun, and she was the bestbred of women.
Egil had taken into his house two Easterlings; the one's name was
Thorir and the other's Thorgrim. They were not long come out
hither for the first time, and were wealthy and beloved by their
friends; they were well skilled in arms, too, and dauntless in
Starkad had a good horse of chesnut hue, and it was thought that
no horse was his match in fight. Once it happened that these
brothers from Sandgil were away under the Threecorner. They had
much gossip about all the householders in the Fleetlithe, and
they fell at last to asking whether there was any one that would
fight a horse against them.
But there were some men there who spoke so as to flatter and
honour them, that not only was there no one who would dare do
that, but that there was no one that had such a horse
Then Hildigunna answered, "I know that man who will dare to fight
horses with you."
"Name him," they say.
"Gunnar has a brown horse," she says, "and he will dare to fight
his horse against you, and against any one else."
"As for you women," they say, "you think no one can be Gunnar's
match; but though Geir the Priest or Gizur the White have come
off with shame from before him, still it is not settled that we
shall fare in the same way."
"Ye will fare much worse," she says: and so there arose out of
this the greatest strife between them. Then Starkad said, "My
will is that ye try your hands on Gunnar last of all; for ye will
find it hard work to go against his good luck."
"Thou wilt give us leave, though, to offer him a horsefight?"
"I will give you leave, if ye play him no trick."
They said they would be sure to do what their father said.
Now they rode to Lithend; Gunnar was at home, and went out, and
Kolskegg and Hjort went with him, and they gave them a hearty
welcome, and asked whither they meant to go?
"No farther than hither," they say. "We are told that thou hast a
good horse, and we wish to challenge thee to a horse-fight."
"Small stories can go about my horse," says Gunnar; "he is young
and untried in every way."
"But still thou wilt be good enough to have the fight, for
Hildigunna guessed that thou wouldest be easy in matching thy
"How came ye to talk about that?" says Gunnar.
"There were some men," say they, "who were sure that no one would
dare to fight his horse with ours."
"I would dare to fight him," says Gunnar; "but I think that was
"Shall we look upon the match as made, then?" they asked.
"Well, your journey will seem to you better if ye have your way
in this; but still I will beg this of you, that we so fight our
horses that we make sport for each other, but that no quarrel may
arise from it, and that ye put no shame upon me; but if ye do to
me as ye do to others, then there will be no help for it but that
I shall give you such a buffet as it will seem hard to you to put
up with. In a word, I shall do then just as ye do first."
Then they ride home. Starkad asked how their journey had gone
off; they said that Gunnar had made their going good.
"He gave his word to fight his horse, and we settled when and
where the horse-fight should be; but it was plain in everything
that he thought he fell short of us, and he begged and prayed to
"It will often be found," says Hildigunna, "that Gunnar is slow
to be drawn into quarrels, but a hard hitter if he cannot avoid
Gunnar rode to see Njal, and told him of the horse-fight, and
what words had passed between them, "But how dost thou think the
horse-fight will turn out?"
"Thou wilt be uppermost," says Njal, "but yet many a man's bane
will arise out of this fight."
"Will my bane perhaps come out of it?" asks Gunnar.
"Not out of this," says Njal; "but still they will bear in mind
both the old and the new feud who fare against thee, and thou
wilt have naught left for it but to yield."
Then Gunnar rode home.
(1) She was daughter of Hroald the Red and Hildigunna Thorstein
Titling's daughter. The mother of Hildigunna was Aud Eyvind
Karf's daughter, the sister of Modolf the Wise of Mosfell,
from whom the Modylfings are sprung.
58. HOW GUNNAR'S HORSE FOUGHT
Just then Gunnar heard of the death of his father-in-law
Hauskuld; a few nights after, Thorgerda, Thrain's wife, was
delivered at Gritwater, and gave birth to a boy child. Then she
sent a man to her mother, and bade her choose whether it should
be called Glum or Hauskuld. She bade call it Hauskuld. So that
name was given to the boy.
Gunnar and Hallgerda had two sons, the one's name was Hogni and
the other's Grani. Hogni was a brave man of few words,
distrustful and slow to believe, but truthful.
Now men ride to the horse-fight, and a very great crowd is
gathered together there. Gunnar was there and his brothers, and
the sons of Sigfus. Njal and all his sons. There too was come
Starkad and his sons, and Egil and his sons, and they said to
Gunnar that now they would lead the horses together.
Gunnar said, "That was well."
Skarphedinn said, "Wilt thou that I drive thy horse, kinsman
"I will not have that," says Gunnar.
"It wouldn't be amiss though," says Skarphedinn; "we are hot-
headed on both sides."
"Ye would say or do little," says Gunnar, "before a quarrel would
spring up; but with me it will take longer, though it will be all
the same in the end."
After that the horses were led together; Gunnar busked him to
drive his horse, but Skarphedinn led him out. Gunnar was in a
red kirtle, and had about his loins a broad belt, and a great
riding-rod in his hand.
Then the horses ran at one another, and bit each other long, so
that there was no need for any one to touch them, and that was
the greatest sport.
Then Thorgeir and Kol made up their minds that they would push
their horse forward just as the horses rushed together, and see
if Gunnar would fall before him.
Now the horses ran at one another again, and both Thorgeir and
Kol ran alongside their horses' flank.
Gunnar pushes his horse against them, and what happened in a
trice was this, that Thorgeir and his brother fall down flat on
their backs, and their horse a-top of them.
Then they spring up and rush at Gunnar. Gunnar swings himself
free and seizes Kol, casts him down on the field, so that he lies
senseless. Thorgeir Starkad's son smote Gunnar's horse such a
blow that one of his eyes started out. Gunnar smote Thorgeir
with his riding-rod, and down falls Thorgeir senseless; but
Gunnar goes to his horse, and said to Kolskegg, "Cut off the
horse's head; he shall not live a maimed and blemished beast."
So Kolskegg cut the head off the horse.
Then Thorgeir got on his feet and took his weapons, and wanted to
fly at Gunnar, but that was stopped, and there was a great throng
Skarphedinn said, "This crowd wearies me, and it is far more
manly that men should fight it out with weapons; and so he sang a
"At the Thing there is a throng;
Past all bounds the crowding comes;
Hard 'twill be to patch up peace
'Twixt the men. This wearies me;
Worthier is it far for men
Weapons red with gore to stain;
I for one would sooner tame
Hunger huge of cub of wolf."
Gunnar was still, so that one man held him, and spoke no ill
Njal tried to bring about a settlement, or to get pledges of
peace; but Thorgeir said he would neither give nor take peace;
far rather, he said, would he see Gunnar dead for the blow.
Kolskegg said, "Gunnar has before now stood too fast, than that
he should have fallen for words alone, and so it will be again."
Now men ride away from the horse-field, every one to his home.
They make no attack on Gunnar, and so that halfyear passed away.
At the Thing, the summer after, Gunnar met Olaf the peacock, his
cousin, and he asked him to come and see him, but yet bade him be
ware of himself; "For," says he, "they will do us all the harm
they can, and mind and fare always with many men at thy back."
He gave him much good counsel beside, and they agreed that there
should be the greatest friendship between them.
59. OF ASGRIM AND WOLF UGGIS' SON
Asgrim Ellidagrim's son had a suit to follow up at the Thing
against Wolf Uggis' son. It was a matter of inheritance. Asgrim
took it up in such a way as was seldom his wont; for there was a
bar to his suit, and the bar was this, that he had summoned five
neighbours to bear witness, when he ought to have summoned nine.
And now they have this as their bar.
Then Gunnar spoke and said,"I will challenge thee to single
combat on the island, Wolf Uggis' son, if men are not to get
their rights by law; and Njal and my friend Helgi would like that
I should take some share in defending thy cause, Asgrim, if they
were not here themselves."
"But," says Wolf, "this quarrel is not one between thee and me."
"Still it shall be as good as though it were," says Gunnar.
And the end of the suit was, that Wolf had to pay down all the
Then Asgrim said to Gunnar, "I will ask thee to come and see me
this summer, and I will ever be with thee in lawsuits, and never
Gunnar rides home from the Thing, and a little while after he and
Njal met. Njal besought Gunnar to be ware of himself, and said
he had been told that those away under the Threecorner meant to
fall on him, and bade him never go about with a small company,
and always to have his weapons with him. Gunnar said so it
should be, and told him that Asgrim had asked him to pay him a
visit, "and I mean to go now this harvest."
"Let no men know before thou farest how long thou wilt be away,"
said Njal; "but, besides, I beg thee to let my sons ride with
thee, and then no attack will be made on thee."
So they settled that among themselves.
Now the summer wears away till it was eight weeks to winter, and
then Gunnar says to Kolskegg, "Make thee ready to ride, for we
shall ride to a feast at Tongue."
"Shall we say anything about it to Njal's sons?" said Kolskegg.
"No," says Gunnar; "they shall fall into no quarrels for me."
60. AN ATTACK AGAINST GUNNAR AGREED ON
They rode three together, Gunnar and his brothers. Gunnar had
the bill and his sword, Oliver's gift; but Kolskegg had his short
sword; Hjort, too, had proper weapons.
Now they rode to Tongue, and Asgrim gave them a hearty welcome,
and they were there some while. At last they gave it out that
they meant to go home there and then. Asgrim gave them good
gifts, and offered to ride east with them, but Gunnar said there
was no need of any such thing; and so he did not go.
Sigurd Swinehead was the name of a man who dwelt by Thurso water.
He came to the farm under the Threecorner, for he had given his
word to keep watch on Gunnar's doings, and so he went and told
them of his journey home; "and," quoth he, "there could never be
a finer chance than just now, when he has only two men with him."
"How many men shall we need to have to lie in wait for him?" says
"Weak men shall be as nothing before him," he says; "and it is
not safe to have fewer than thirty men."
"Where shall we lie in wait?"
"By Knafaholes," he says; "there he will not see us before he
comes on us."
"Go thou to Sandgil and tell Egil that fifteen of them must busk
themselves thence, and now other fifteen will go hence to
Thorgeir said to Hildigunna, "This hand shall show thee Gunnar
dead this very night."
"Nay, but I guess," says she, "that thou wilt hang thy head after
ye two meet."
So those four, father and sons, fare away from the Threecorner,
and eleven men besides, and they fared to Knafaholes, and lay in
Sigurd Swinehead came to Sandgil and said, "Hither am I sent by
Starkad and his sons to tell thee, Egil, that ye, father and
sons, must fare to Knafaholes to lie in wait for Gunnar."
"How many shall we fare in all?" says Egil.
"Fifteen, reckoning me," he says.
Kol said, "Now I mean to try my hand on Kolskegg."
"Then I think thou meanest to have a good deal on thy hands,"
Egil begged his Easterlings to fare with him. They said they had
no quarrel with Gunnar; "and besides," says Thorir, "ye seem to
need much help here, when a crowd of men shall go against three
Then Egil went away and was wroth.
Then the mistress of the house said to the Easterling, "In an
evil hour hath my daughter Gudruna humbled herself, and broken
the point of her maidenly pride, and lain by thy side as thy
wife, when thou wilt not dare to follow thy father-in-law, and
thou must be a coward," she says.
"I will go," he says, "with thy husband, and neither of us two
shall come back."
After that he went to Thorgrim his messmate, and said, "Take thou
now the keys of my chests; for I shall never unlock them again.
I bid thee take for thine own whatever of our goods thou wilt;
but sail away from Iceland, and do not think of revenge for me.
But if thou dost not leave the land, it will be thy death."
So the Easterling joined himself to their band.
61. GUNNAR'S DREAM
Now we must go back and say that Gunnar rides east over Thurso
water, but when he had gone a little way from the river, he grew
very drowsy, and bade them lie down and rest there.
They did so. He fell fast asleep, and struggled much as he
Then Kolskegg said, "Gunnar dreams now." But Hjort said, "I
would like to wake him."
"That shall not be," said Kolskegg, "but he shall dream his
Gunnar lay, a very long while, and threw off his shield from him,
and he grew very warm. Kolskegg said, "What hast thou dreamt,
"That have I dreamt," says Gunnar, "which if I had dreamt it
there, I would never have ridden with so few men from Tongue."
"Tell us thy dream," says Kolskegg.
Then Gunnar sang a song:
"Chief, that chargest foes in fight!
Now I fear that I have ridden
Short of men from Tongue, this harvest;
Raven's fast I sure shall break.
Lord, that scatters Ocean's fire! (1)
This, at least, I long to say,
Kite with wolf shall fight for marrow
Ill I dreamt with wandering thought."
"I dreamt, methought, that I was riding on by Knafaholes, and
there I thought I saw many wolves, and they all made at me; but I
turned away from them straight towards Rangriver, and then
methought they pressed hard on me on all sides, but I kept them
at bay, and shot all those that were foremost, till they came so
close to me that I could not use my bow against them. Then I
took my sword, and I smote with it with one hand, but thrust at
them with my bill with the other. Shield myself then I did not,
and methought then I knew not what shielded me. Then I slew many
wolves, and thou, too, Kolskegg; but Hjort methought they pulled
down, and tore open his breast, and one methought had his heart
in his maw; but I grew so wroth that I hewed that wolf asunder
just below the brisket, and after that methought the wolves
turned and fled. Now my counsel is, brother Hjort, that thou
ridest back west to Tongue."
"I will not do that," says Hjort; "though I know my death is
sure, I will stand by thee still."
Then they rode and came east by Knafaholes, and Kolskegg said,
"Seest thou, kinsman! Many spears stand up by the holes, and men
"It does not take me unawares," says Gunnar, "that my dream comes
"What is best to be done now?" says Kolskegg; "I guess thou wilt
not run away from them."
"They shall not have that to jeer about," says Gunnar, "but we
will ride on down to the ness by Rangriver; there is some vantage
Now they rode on to the ness, and made them ready there, and as
they rode on past them, Kol called out and said, "Whither art
thou running to now, Gunnar?"
But Kolskegg said, "Say the same thing farther on when this day
has come to an end."
1. "Ocean's fire," a periphrasis for "gold." The whole line is
a periphrasis for "bountiful chief."
62. THE SLAYING OF HJORT AND FOURTEEN MEN
After that Starkad egged on his men, and then they turn down upon
them into the ness. Sigurd Swinehead came first and had a red
targe, but in his other hand he held a cutlass. Gunnar sees him
and shoots an arrow at him from his bow; he held the shield up
aloft when he saw the arrow flying high, and the shaft passes
through the shield and into his eye, and so came out at the nape
of his neck, and that was the first man slain.
A second arrow Gunnar shot at Ulfhedinn, one of Starkad's men,
and that struck him about the middle and he fell at the feet of a
yeoman, and the yeoman over him. Kolskegg cast a stone and
struck the yeoman on the head, and that was his deathblow.
Then Starkad said, "'Twill never answer our end that he should
use his bow, but let us come on well and stoutly." Then each man
egged on the other, and Gunnar guarded himself with his bow and
arrows as long as he could; after that he throws them down, and
then he takes his bill and sword and fights with both hands.
There is long the hardest fight, but still Gunnar and Kolskegg
slew man after man.
Then Thorgeir, Starkad's son, said, "I vowed to bring Hildigunna
thy head, Gunnar."
Then Gunnar sang a song:
"Thou, that battle-sleet down bringeth,
Scarce I trow thou speakest truth;
She, the girl with golden armlets,
Cannot care for such a gift;
But, O serpent's hoard despoiler!
If the maid must have my head --
Maid whose wrist Rhine's fire (1) wreatheth,
Closer come to crash of spear."
"She will not think that so much worth having," says Gunnar; "but
still to get it thou wilt have to come nearer!"
Thorgeir said to his brothers, "Let us run all of us upon him at
once; he has no shield and we shall have his life in our hands."
So Bork and Thorkel both ran forward and were quicker than
Thorgeir. Bork made a blow at Gunnar, and Gunnar threw his bill
so hard in the way, that the sword flew out of Bork's hand; then
he sees Thorkel standing on his other hand within stroke of
sword. Gunnar was standing with his body swayed a little on one
side, and he makes a sweep with his sword, and caught Thorkel on
the neck, and off flew his head.
Kol Egil's son, said, "Let me get at Kolskegg," and turning to
Kolskegg he said, "This I have often said, that we two would be
just about an even match in fight."
"That we can soon prove," says Kolskegg.
Kol thrust at him with his spear; Kolskegg had just slain a man
and had his hands full, and so he could not throw his shield
before the blow, and the thrust came upon his thigh, on the
outside of the limb and went through it.
Kolskegg turned sharp round, and strode towards him, and smote
him with his short sword on the thigh, and cut off his leg, and
said, "Did it touch thee or not?"
"Now," says Kol, "I pay for being bare of my shield."
So he stood a while on his other leg and looked at the stump.
"Thou needest not to look at it," said Kolskegg; "'tis even as
thou seest, the leg is off."
Then Kol fell down dead.
But when Egil sees this, he runs at Gunnar and makes a cut at
him; Gunnar thrusts at him with the bill and struck him in the
middle, and Gunnar hoists him up on the bill and hurls him out
Then Starkad said, "Wretch that thou art indeed," Thorir
Easterling, "when thou sittest by; but thy host, and father-in-
law Egil, is slain."
Then the Easterling sprung up and was very wroth. Hjort had been
the death of two men, and the Easterling leapt on him and smote
him full on the breast. Then Hjort fell down dead on the spot.
Gunnar sees this and was swift to smite at the Easterling, and
cuts him asunder at the waist.
A little while after Gunnar hurls the bill at Bork, and struck
him in the middle, and the bill went through him and stuck in the
Then Kolskegg cut off Hauk Egil's son's head, and Gunnar smites
off Otter's hand at the elbow-joint. Then Starkad said, "Let us
fly now. We have not to do with men!"
Gunnar said, "Ye two will think it a sad story if there is naught
on you to show that ye have both been in the battle."
Then Gunnar ran after Starkad and Thorgeir, and gave them each a
wound. After that they parted; and Gunnar and his brothers had
then wounded many men who got away from the field, but fourteen
lost their lives, and Hjort the fifteenth.
Gunnar brought Hjort home, laid out on his shield, and he was
buried in a cairn there. Many men grieved for him, for he had
many dear friends.
Starkad came home, too, and Hildigunna dressed his wounds and
Thorgeir's, and said, "Ye would have given a great deal not to
have fallen out with Gunnar."
"So we would," says Starkad.
(1) "Rhine's fire," a periphrasis for gold.
63. NJAL'S COUNSEL TO GUNNAR
Steinvor, at Sandgil, besought Thorgrim the Easterling to take in
hand the care of her goods, and not to sail away from Iceland,
and so to keep in mind the death of his messmate and kinsman.
"My messmate Thorir," said he, "foretold that I should fall by
Gunnar's hand if I stayed here in the land, and he must have
foreseen that when he foreknew his own death."
"I will give thee," she says, "Gudruna my daughter to wife, and
all my goods into the bargain."
"I knew not," he said, "that thou wouldest pay such a long
After that they struck the bargain that he shall have her, and
the wedding feast was to be the next summer.
Now Gunnar rides to Bergthorsknoll, and Kolskegg with him. Njal
was out of doors and his sons, and they went to meet Gunnar and
gave them a hearty welcome. After that they fell a-talking, and
Gunnar said, "Hither am I come to seek good counsel and help at
"That is thy due," said Njal.
"I have fallen into a great strait," says Gunnar, "and slain many
men, and I wish to know what thou wilt make of the matter?"
"Many will say this," said Njal, "that thou hast been driven into
it much against thy will; but now thou shalt give me time to take
counsel with myself."
Then Njal went away all by himself, and thought over a plan, and
came back and said, "Now have I thought over the matter somewhat,
and it seems to me as though this must be carried through -- if
it be carried through at all -- with hardihood and daring.
Thorgeir has got my kinswoman Thorfinna with child, and I will
hand over to thee the suit for seduction. Another suit of
outlawry against Starkad I hand over also to thee, for having
hewn trees in my wood on the Threecorner ridge. Both these suits
shalt thou take up. Thou shalt fare too, to the spot where ye
fought, and dig up the dead, and name witnesses to the wounds,
and make all the dead outlaws, for that they came against thee
with that mind to give thee and thy brothers wounds or swift
death. But if this be tried at the Thing, and it be brought up
against thee that thou first gave Thorgeir a blow, and so mayst
neither plead thine own cause nor that of others, then I will
answer in that matter, and say that I gave thee back thy rights
at the Thingskala-Thing, so that thou shouldest be able to plead
thine own suit as well as that of others, and then there will be
an answer to that point. Thou shalt also go to see Tyrfing of
Berianess, and he must hand over to thee a suit against Aunund of
Witchwood, who has the blood feud after his brother Egil."
Then first of all Gunnar rode home; but a few nights after Njal's
sons and Gunnar rode thither where the bodies were, and dug them
up that were buried there. Then Gunnar summoned them all as
outlaws for assault and treachery, and rode home after that.
64. OF VALGARD AND MORD
That same harvest Valgard the Guileful came out to Iceland, and
fared home to Hof. Then Thorgeir went to see Valgard and Mord,
and told them what a strait they were in if Gunnar were to be
allowed to make all those men outlaws whom he had slain.
Valgard said that must be Njal's counsel, and yet everything had
not come out yet which he was likely to have taught him.
Then Thorgeir begged those kinsmen for help and backing, but they
held out a long while, and at last asked for, and got a large sum
That, too, was part of their plan, that Mord should ask for
Thorkatla, Gizur the White's daughter, and Thorgeir was to ride
at once west across the river with Valgard and Mord.
So the day after they rode twelve of them together and came to
Mossfell. There they were heartily welcomed, and they put the
question to Gizur about the wooing, and the end of it was that
the match should be made, and the wedding feast was to be in half
a month's space at Mossfell.
They ride home, and after that they ride to the wedding and there
was a crowd of guests to meet them, and it went off well.
Thorkatla went home with Mord and took the housekeeping in hand,
but Valgard went abroad again the next summer.
Now Mord eggs on Thorgeir to set his suit on foot against Gunnar,
and Thorgeir went to find Aunund; he bids him now to begin a suit
for manslaughter for his brother Egil and his sons; "but I will
begin one for the manslaughter of my brothers, and for the wounds
of myself and my father."
He said he was quite ready to do that, and then they set out, and
give notice of the manslaughter, and summon nine neighbours who
dwelt nearest to the spot where the deed was done. This
beginning of the suit was heard of at Lithend; and then Gunnar
rides to see Njal, and told him, and asked what he wished them to
"Now," says Njal, "thou shalt summon those who dwell next to the
spot, and thy neighbours; and call men to witness before the
neighbours, and choose out Kol as the slayer in the manslaughter
of Hjort thy brother: for that is lawful and right; then thou
shalt give notice of the suit for manslaughter at Kol's hand,
though he be dead. Then shalt thou call men to witness, and
summon the neighbours to ride to the Allthing to bear witness of
the fact, whether they, Kol and his companions, were on the spot,
and in onslaught when Hjort was slain. Thou shalt also summon
Thorgeir for the suit of seduction, and Aunund at the suit of
Gunnar now did in everything as Njal gave him counsel. This men
thought a strange beginning of suits, and now these matters come
before the Thing. Gunnar rides to the Thing, and Njal's sons and
the sons of Sigfus. Gunnar had sent messengers to his cousins
and kinsmen, that they should ride to the Thing, and come with as
many men as they could, and told them that this matter would lead
to much strife. So they gathered together in a great band from
Mord rode to the Thing and Runolf of the DaIe, and those under
the Threecorner, and Aunund of Witchwood. But when they come to
the Thing, they join them in one company with Gizur the White and
Geir the Priest.
65. OF FINES AND ATONEMENTS
Gunnar, and the sons of Sigfus, and Njal's sons, went altogether
in one band, and they marched so swiftly and closely that men who
came in their way had to take heed lest they should get a fall;
and nothing was so often spoken about over the whole Thing as
these great lawsuits.
Gunnar went to meet his cousins, and Olaf and his men greeted him
well. They asked Gunnar about the fight, but he told them all
about it, and was just in all he said; he told them, too, what
steps he had taken since.
Then Olaf said,"'Tis worth much to see how close Njal stands by
thee in all counsel."
Gunnar said he should never be able to repay that, but then he
begged them for help; and they said that was his due.
Now the suits on both sides came before the court, and each
pleads his cause.
Mord asked, "How it was that a man could have the right to set a
suit on foot who, like Gunnar, had already made himself an outlaw
by striking Thorgeir a blow?"
"Wast thou," answered Njal, "at Thingskala-Thing last autumn?"
"Surely I was," says Mord.
"Heardest thou," asks Njal, "how Gunnar offered him full
atonement? Then I gave back Gunnar his right to do all lawful
"That is right and good law," says Mord, "but how does the matter
stand if Gunnar has laid the slaying of Hjort at Kol's door, when
it was the Easterling that slew him?"
"That was right and lawful," says Njal, "when he chose him as the
slayer before witnesses."
"That was lawful and right, no doubt," says Mord; "but for what
did Gunnar summon them all as outlaws?"
"Thou needest not to ask about that," says Njal, "when they went
out to deal wounds and manslaughter."
"Yes," says Mord, "but neither befell Gunnar."
"Gunnar's brothers," said Njal, "Kolskegg and Hjort, were there,
and one of them got his death and the other a flesh wound."
"Thou speakest nothing but what is law," says Mord, "though it is
hard to abide by it."
Then Hiallti Skeggi's son of Thursodale, stood forth and said. "I
have had no share in any of your lawsuits; but I wish to know
whether thou wilt do something, Gunnar, for the sake of my words
"What askest thou?" says Gunnar.
"This," he says, "that ye lay down the whole suit to the award
and judgment of good men and true."
"If I do so," said Gunnar, "then thou shalt never be against me,
whatever men I may have to deal with."
"I will give my word to that," says Hjallti.
After that he tried his best with Gunnar's adversaries, and
brought it about that they were all set at one again. And after
that each side gave the other pledges of peace; but for
Thorgeir's wound came the suit for seduction, and for the hewing
in the wood, Starkad's wound. Thorgeir's brothers were atoned
for by half fines, but half fell away for the onslaught on
Gunnar. Egil's slaying and Tyrfing's lawsuit were set off
against each other. For Hjort's slaying, the slaying of Kol and
of the Easterling were to come, and as for all the rest, they
were atoned for with half fines.
Njal was in this award, and Asgrim Ellidagrim's son, and Hjallti
Njal had much money out at interest with Starkad, and at Sandgil
too, and he gave it all to Gunnar to make up these fines.
So many friends had Gunnar at the Thing, that he not only paid up
there and then all the fines on the spot, but gave besides gifts
to many chiefs who had lent him help; and he had the greatest
honour from the suit; and all were agreed in this, that no man
was his match in all the South Quarter.
So Gunnar rides home from the Thing and sits there in peace, but
still his adversaries envied him much for his honour.
66. OF THORGEIR OTKELL'S SON
Now we must tell of Thorgeir Otkell's son; he grew up to be a
tall strong man, true-hearted and guileless, but rather too ready
to listen to fair words. He had many friends among the best men,
and was much beloved by his kinsmen.
Once on a time Thorgeir Starkad's son had been to see his kinsman
"I can ill brook," he says, "that settlement of matters which we
and Gunnar had, but I have bought thy help so long as we two are
above ground; I wish thou wouldest think out some plan and lay it
deep; this is why I say it right out, because I know that thou
art Gunnar's greatest foe, and he too thine. I will much
increase thine honour if thou takest pains in this matter."
"It will always seem as though I were greedy of gain, but so it
must be. Yet it will be hard to take care that thou mayest not
seem to be a truce-breaker, or peace-breaker, and yet carry out
thy point. But now I have been told that Kolskegg means to try a
suit, and regain a fourth part of Moeidsknoll, which was paid to
thy father as an atonement for his son. He has taken up this
suit for his mother, but this too is Gunnar's counsel, to pay in
goods and not to let the land go. We must wait till this comes
about, and then declare that he has broken the settlement made
with you. He has also taken a cornfield from Thorgeir Otkell's
son, and so broken the settlement with him too. Thou shalt go to
see Thorgeir Otkell's son, and bring him into the matter with
thee, and then fall on Gunnar; but if ye fail in aught of this,
and cannot get him hunted down, still ye shall set on him over
and over again. I must tell thee that Njal has "spaed" his
fortune, and foretold about his life, if he slays more than once
in the same stock, that it would lead him to his death, if it so
fell out that he broke the settlement made after the deed.
Therefore shalt thou bring Thorgeir into the suit, because he has
already slain his father; and now, if ye two are together in an
affray, thou shalt shield thyself; but he will go boldly on, and
then Gunnar will slay him. Then he has slain twice in the same
stock, but thou shalt fly from the fight. And if this is to drag
him to his death he will break the settlement afterwards, and so
we may wait till then."
After that Thorgeir goes home and tells his father secretly.
Then they agreed among themselves that they should work out this
plot by stealth.
67. OF THORGEIR STARKAD'S SON
Sometime after Thorgeir Starkad's son fared to Kirkby to see his
namesake, and they went aside to speak, and talked secretly all
day; but at the end Thorgeir Starkad's son gave his namesake a
spear inlaid with gold, and rode home afterwards; they made the
greatest friendship the one with the other.
At the Thingskala-Thing in the autumn, Kolskegg laid claim to the
land at Moeidsknoll, but Gunnar took witness, and offered ready
money, or another piece of land at a lawful price to those under
Thorgeir took witness also, that Gunnar was breaking the
settlement made between them.
After that the Thing was broken up, and so the next year wore
Those namesakes were always meeting, and there was the greatest
friendship between them. Kolskegg spoke to Gunnar and said, "I
am told that there is great friendship between those namesakes,
and it is the talk of many men that they will prove untrue, and I
would that thou wouldst be ware of thyself."
"Death will come to me when it will come," says Gunnar, "wherever
I may be, if that is my fate."
Then they left off talking about it.
About autumn, Gunnar gave out that they would work one week there
at home, and the next down in the isles, and so make an end of
their hay-making. At the same time, he let it be known that
every man would have to leave the house, save himself and the
Thorgeir under Threecorner goes to see his namesake, but as soon
as they met they began to talk after their wont, and Thorgeir
Starkad's son, said, "I would that we could harden our hearts
and fall on Gunnar."
"Well," says Thorgeir Otkell's son, "every struggle with Gunnar
has had but one end, that few have gained the day; besides,
methinks it sounds ill to be called a peace-breaker."
"They have broken the peace, not we," says Thorgeir Starkad's
son. "Gunnar took away from thee thy cornfield; and he has taken
Moeidsknoll from my father and me."
And so they settle it between them to fall on Gunnar; and then
Thorgeir said that Gunnar would be all alone at home in a few
nights' space, "and then thou shalt come to meet me with eleven
men, but I will have as many."
After that Thorgeir rode home.
68. OF NJAL AND THOSE NAMESAKES
Now when Kolskegg and the house-carles had been three nights in
the isles, Thorgeir Starkad's son had news of that, and sends
word to his namesake that he should come to meet him on
After that Thorgeir of the Threecorner busked him with eleven
men; he rides up on the ridge and there waits for his namesake.
And now Gunnar is at home in his house, and those namesakes ride
into a wood hard by. There such a drowsiness came over them that
they could do naught else but sleep. So they hung their shields
up in the boughs, and tethered their horses, and laid their
weapons by their sides.
Njal was that night up in Thorolfsfell, and could not sleep at
all, but went out and in by turns.
Thorhilda asked Njal why he could not sleep?
"Many things now flit before my eyes," said he; "I see many
fetches of Gunnar's bitter foes, and what is very strange is
this, they seem to be mad with rage, and yet they fare without
plan or purpose."
A little after, a man rode up to the door and got off his horse's