Part 4 out of 9
back and went in, and there was come the shepherd of Thorhilda
and her husband.
"Didst thou find the sheep?" she asked.
"I found what might be more worth," said he.
"What was that?" asked Njal.
"I found twenty-four men up in the wood yonder; they had tethered
their horses, but slept themselves. Their shields they had hung
up in the boughs."
But so closely had he looked at them that he told of all their
weapons and wargear and clothes, and then Njal knew plainly who
each of them must have been, and said to him, "'Twere good
hiring if there were many such shepherds; and this shall ever
stand to thy good; but still I will send thee on an errand."
He said at once he would go.
"Thou shalt go," says Njal, "to Lithend and tell Gunnar that he
must fare to Gritwater, and then send after men; but I will go to
meet with those who are in the wood and scare them away. This
thing hath well come to pass, so that they shall gain nothing by
this journey, but lose much."
The shepherd set off and told Gunnar as plainly as he could the
whole story. Then Gunnar rode to Gritwater and summoned men to
Now it is to be told of Njal how he rides to meet these
"Unwarily ye lie here," he says, "or for what end shall this
journey have been made? And Gunnar is not a man to be trifled
with. But if the truth must be told then, this is the greatest
treason. Ye shall also know this, that Gunnar is gathering
force, and he will come here in the twinkling of an eye, and slay
you all, unless ye ride away home."
They bestirred them at once, for they were in great fear, and
took their weapons, and mounted their horses and galloped home
under the Threecorner.
Njal fared to meet Gunnar and bade him not to break up his
"But I will go and seek for an atonement; now they will be finely
frightened; but for this treason no less a sum shall be paid when
one has to deal with all of them, than shall be paid for the
slaying of one or other of those namesakes, though such a thing
should come to pass. This money I will take into my keeping, and
so lay it out that it may be ready to thy hand when thou hast
need of it."
69. OLAF THE PEACOCK'S GIFTS TO GUNNAR
Gunnar thanked Njal for his aid, and Njal rode away under the
Threecorner, and told those namesakes that Gunnar would not break
up his band of men before he had fought it out with them.
They began to offer terms for themselves, and were full of dread,
and bade Njal to come between them with an offer of atonement.
Njal said that could only be if there were no guile behind. Then
they begged him to have a share in the award, and said they would
hold to what he awarded.
Njal said he would make no award unless it were at the Thing, and
unless the best men were by; and they agreed to that.
Then NjaI came between them, so that they gave each other pledges
of peace and atonement.
Njal was to utter the award, and to name as his fellows those
whom he chose.
A little while after those namesakes met Mord Valgard's son, and
Mord blamed them much for having laid the matter in Njal's hands,
when he was Gunnar's great friend. He said that would turn out
ill for them.
Now men ride to the Althing after their wont, and now both sides
are at the Thing.
Njal begged for a hearing, and asked all the best men who were
come thither, what right at law they thought Gunnar had against
those namesakes for their treason. They said they thought such a
man had great right on his side.
Njal went on to ask, whether he had a right of action against all
of them, or whether the leaders had to answer for them all in the
They say that most of the blame would fall on the leaders, but a
great deal still on them all.
"Many will say this," said Mord, "that it was not without a cause
when Gunnar broke the settlement made with those namesakes."
"That is no breach of settlement," says Njal, "that any man
should take the law against another; for with law shall our land
be built up and settled, and with lawlessness wasted and
Then Njal tells them that Gunnar had offered land for
Moeidsknoll, or other goods.
Then those namesakes thought they had been beguiled by Mord, and
scolded him much, and said that this fine was all his doing.
Njal named twelve men as judges in the suit, and then every man
paid a hundred in silver who had gone out, but each of those
namesakes two hundred.
Njal took this money into his keeping but either side gave the
other pledges of peace, and Njal gave out the terms.
Then Gunnar rode from the Thing west to the Dales, till he came
to Hjardarholt, and Olaf the Peacock gave him a hearty welcome.
There he sat half a month, and rode far and wide about the Dales,
and all welcomed him with joyful hands. But at their parting
Olaf said, "I will give thee three things of price, a gold ring,
and a cloak which Moorkjartan the Erse king owned, and a hound
that was given me in Ireland; he is big, and no worse follower
than a sturdy man. Besides, it is part of his nature that he has
man's wit, and he will bay at every man whom he knows is thy foe,
but never at thy friends; he can see, too, in any man's face,
whether he means thee well or ill, and he will lay down his life
to be true to thee. This hound's name is Sam."
After that he spoke to the hound, "Now shalt thou follow Gunnar,
and do him all the service thou canst."
The hound went at once to Gunnar and laid himself down at his
Olaf bade Gunnar to be ware of himself, and said he had many
enviers, "For now thou art thought to be a famous man throughout
all the land."
Gunnar thanked him for his gifts and good counsel, and rode home.
Now Gunnar sits at home for sometime, and all is quiet.
70. MORD'S COUNSEL
A little after, those namesakes and Mord met, and they were not
at all of one mind. They thought they had lost much goods for
Mord's sake, but had got nothing in return; and they bade him set
on foot some other plot which might do Gunnar harm.
Mord said so it should be. "But now this is my counsel, that
thou, Thorgeir Otkell's son shouldest beguile Ormilda, Gunnar's
kinswoman; but Gunnar will let his displeasure grow against thee
at that, and then I will spread that story abroad that Gunnar
will not suffer thee to do such things. Then ye two shall some
time after make an attack on Gunnar, but still ye must not seek
him at home, for there is no thinking of that while the hound is
So they settled this plan among them that it should be brought
Thorgeir began to turn his steps towards Ormilda, and Gunnar
thought that ill, and great dislike arose between them.
So the winter wore away. Now comes the summer, and their secret
meetings went on oftener than before.
As for Thorgeir of the Threecorner and Mord, they were always
meeting; and they plan an onslaught on Gunnar when he rides down
to the isles to see after the work done by his house-caries.
One day Mord was ware of it when Gunnar rode down to the isles,
and sent a man off under the Threecorner to tell Thorgeir that
then would be the likeliest time to try to fall on Gunnar.
They bestirred them at once, and fare thence twelve together, but
when they came to Kirkby there they found thirteen men waiting
Then they made up their minds to ride down to Rangriver and lie
in wait there for Gunnar.
But when Gunnar rode up from the isles, Kolskegg rode with him.
Gunnar had his bow and his arrows and his bill. Kolskegg had his
short sword and weapons to match.
71. THE SLAYING OF THORGEIR OTKELL'S SON
That token happened as Gunnar and his brother rode up towards
Rangriver, that much blood burst out on the bill.
Kolskegg asked what that might mean.
Gunnar says, "If such tokens took place in other lands, it was
called `wound-drops,' and Master Oliver told me also that this
only happened before great fights."
So they rode on till they saw men sitting by the river on the
other side, and they had tethered their horses.
Gunnar said, "Now we have an ambush."
Kolskegg answered, "Long have they been faithless; but what is
best to be done now?"
"We will gallop up alongside them to the ford," says Gunnar, "and
there make ready for them."
The others saw that and turned at once towards them.
Gunnar strings his bow, and takes his arrows and throws them on
the ground before him, and shoots as soon as ever they come
within shot; by that Gunnar wounded many men, but some he slew.
Then Thorgeir Otkell's son spoke and said, "This is no use; let
us make for him as hard as we can."
They did so, and first went Aunund the Fair, Thorgeir's kinsman.
Gunnar hurled the bill at him, and it fell on his shield and
clove it in twain, but the bill rushed through Aunund. Augmund
Shockhead rushed at Gunnar behind his back. Kolskegg saw that
and cut off at once both Augmund's legs from under him, and
hurled him out into Rangriver, and he was drowned there and then.
Then a hard battle arose; Gunnar cut with one hand and thrust
with the other. Kolskegg slew some men and wounded many.
Thorgeir Starkad's son called out to his namesake, "It looks very
little as though thou hadst a father to avenge."
"True it is," he answers, "that I do not make much way, but yet
thou hast not followed in my footsteps; still I will not bear thy
With that he rushes at Gunnar in great wrath, and thrust his
spear through his shield, and so on through his arm.
Gunnar gave the shield such a sharp twist that the spearhead
broke short off at the socket. Gunnar sees that another man was
come within reach of his sword, and he smites at him and deals
him his death-blow. After that, he clutches his bill with both
hands; just then, Thorgeir Otkell's son had come near him with a
drawn sword, and Gunnar turns on him in great wrath, and drives
the bill through him, and lifts him up aloft, and casts him out
into Rangriver, and he drifts down towards the ford, and stuck
fast there on a stone; and the name of that ford has since been
Then Thorgeir Starkad's son said, "Let us fly now; no victory
will be fated to us this time."
So they all turned and fled from the field.
"Let us follow them up now," says Kolskegg "and take thou thy bow
and arrows, and thou wilt come within bowshot of Thorgeir
Then Gunnar sang a song:
"Reaver of rich river-treasure,
Plundered will our purses be,
Though to-day we wound no other
Warriors wight in play of spears
Aye, if I for all these sailors
Lowly lying, fines must pay --
This is why I hold my hand,
Hearken, brother dear, to me."_
"Our purses will be emptied," says Gunnar, "by the time that
these are atoned for who now lie here dead."
"Thou wilt never lack money," says Kolskegg; "but Thorgeir will
never leave off before he compasses thy death."
Gunnar sang another song:
"Lord of water-skates (1) that skim
Sea-king's fields, more good as he,
Shedding wounds' red stream, must stand
In my way ere I shall wince.
I, the golden armlets' warder,
Snakelike twined around my wrist,
Ne'er shall shun a foeman's faulchion
Flashing bright in din of fight."
"He, and a few more as good as he," says Gunnar, "must stand in
my path ere I am afraid of them."
After that they ride home and tell the tidings. Hallgerda was
well pleased to hear them, and praised the deed much.
Rannveig said, "May be the deed is good; but somehow," she says,
"I feel too downcast about it to think that good can come of it."
(1) "Water-skates," a periphrasis for ships.
72. OF THE SUITS FOR MANSLAUGHTER AT THE THING
These tidings were spread far and wide, and Thorgeir's death was
a great grief to many a man. Gizur the White and his men rode to
the spot and gave notice of the manslaughter, and called the
neighbours on the inquest to the Thing. Then they rode home
Njal and Gunnar met and talked about the battle. Then Njal said
to Gunnar, "Now be ware of thyself. Now hast thou slain twice in
the same stock; and so now take heed to thy behaviour, and think
that it is as much as thy life is worth, if thou dost not hold to
the settlement that is made."
"Nor do I mean to break it in any way," says Gunnar, "but still I
shall need thy help at the Thing."
"I will hold to my faithfulness to thee," said Njal, "till my
Then Gunnar rides home. Now the Thing draws near; and each side
gather a great company; and it is a matter of much talk at the
Thing how these suits will end.
Those two, Gizur the White, and Geir the Priest, talked with each
other as to who should give notice of the suit of manslaughter
after Thorgeir, and the end of it was that Gizur took the suit on
his hand, and gave notice of it at the Hill of Laws, and spoke in
these words: --
"I gave notice of a suit for assault laid down by law against
Gunnar Hamond's son; for that he rushed with an onslaught laid
down by law on Thorgeir Otkell's son, and wounded him with a body
wound, which proved a death wound, so that Thorgeir got his
"I say on this charge he ought to become a convicted outlaw, not
to be fed, not to be forwarded, not to be helped or harboured in
"I say that his goods are forfeited, half to me and half to the
men of the Quarter, whose right it is by law to seize the goods
"I give notice of this charge in the Quarter Court, into which
this suit ought by law to come.
"I give this lawful notice in the hearing of all men at the Hill
"I give notice now of this suit, and of full forfeiture and
outlawry against Gunnar Hamond's son."
A second time Gizur took witness, and gave notice of a suit
against Gunnar Hamond's son, for that he had wounded Thorgeir
Otkell's son with a body wound which was a death wound, and from
which Thorgeir got his death, on such and such a spot when Gunnar
first sprang on Thorgeir with an onslaught, laid down by law.
After that he gave notice of this declaration as he had done of
the first. Then he asked in what Quarter Court the suit lay, and
in what house in the district the defendant dwelt.
When that was over, men left the Hill of Laws, and all said that
he spoke well.
Gunnar kept himself well in hand and said little or nothing.
Now the Thing wears away till the day when the courts were to be
Then Gunnar stood looking south by the court of the men of
Rangriver, and his men with him.
Gizur stood looking north, and calls his witnesses, and bade
Gunnar to listen to his oath, and to his declaration of the suit,
and to all the steps and proofs which he meant to bring forward.
After that he took his oath, and then he brought forward the suit
in the same shape before the court, as he had given notice of it
before. Then he made them bring forward witness of the notice,
then he bade the neighbours on the inquest to take their seats,
and called upon Gunnar to challenge the inquest.
73. OF THE ATONEMENT
Then Njal spoke and said, "Now I can no longer sit still and take
no part. Let us go to where the neighbours sit on the inquest."
They went thither and challenged four neighbours out of the
inquest, but they called on the five that were left to answer the
following question in Gunnar's favour, "Whether those namesakes
had gone out with that mind to the place of meeting to do Gunnar
a mischief if they could?"
But all bore witness at once that so it was.
Then Njal called this a lawful defence to the suit, and said he
would bring forward proof of it unless they gave over the suit to
Then many chiefs joined in praying for an atonement, and so it
was brought about that twelve men should utter an award in the
Then either side went and handselled this settlement to the
other. Afterwards the award was made, and the sum to be paid
settled, and it was all to be paid down then and there at the
But besides, Gunnar was to go abroad and Kolskegg with him, and
they were to be away three winters; but if Gunnar did not go
abroad when he had a chance of a passage, then he was to be slain
by the kinsmen of those whom he had killed.
Gunnar made no sign, as though he thought the terms of atonement
were not good. He asked Njal for that money which he had handed
over to him to keep. Njal had laid the money out at interest and
paid it down all at once, and it just came to what Gunnar had to
pay for himself.
Now they ride home. Gunnar and Njal rode both together from the
Thing, and then Njal said to Gunnar, "Take good care, messmate,
that thou keepest to this atonement, and bear in mind what we
have spoken about; for though thy former journey abroad brought
thee to great honour, this will be a far greater honour to thee.
Thou wilt come back with great glory, and live to be an old man,
and no man here will then tread on thy heel; but if thou dost not
fare away, and so breakest thy atonement, then thou wilt be slain
here in the land, and that is ill knowing for those who are thy
Gunnar said he had no mind to break the atonement, and he rides
home and told them of the settlement.
Rannveig said it was well that he fared abroad, for then they
must find some one else to quarrel with.
74. KOLSKEGG GOES ABROAD
Thrain Sigfus' son said to his wife that he meant to fare abroad
that summer. She said that was well. So he took his passage
with Hogni the White.
Gunnar took his passage with Arnfin of the Bay; and Kolskegg was
to go with him.
Grim and Helgi, Njal's sons, asked their father's leave to go
abroad too, and Njal said, "This foreign voyage ye will find hard
work, so hard that it will be doubtful whether ye keep your
lives; but still ye two will get some honour and glory, but it is
not unlikely that a quarrel will arise out of your journey when
ye come back."
Still they kept on asking their father to let them go, and the
end of it was that he bade them go if they chose.
Then they got them a passage with Bard the Black, and Olof
Kettle's son of Elda; and it is the talk of the whole country
that all the better men in that district were leaving it.
By this time Gunnar's sons, Hogni and Grani, were grown up; they
were men of very different turn of mind. Grani had much of his
mother's temper, but Hogni was kind and good.
Gunnar made men bear down the wares of his brother and himself to
the ship, and when all Gunnar's baggage had come down, and the
ship was all but "boun," then Gunnar rides to Bergthorsknoll, and
to other homesteads to see men, and thanked them all for the help
they had given him.
The day after he gets ready early for his journey to the ship,
and told all his people that he would ride away for good and all,
and men took that much to heart, but still they said that they
looked to his coming back afterwards.
Gunnar threw his arms round each of the household when he was
"boun," and every one of them went out of doors with him; he
leans on the butt of his spear and leaps into the saddle, and he
and Kolskegg ride away.
They ride down along Markfleet, and just then Gunnar's horse
tripped and threw him off. He turned with his face up towards
the Lithe and the homestead at Lithend, and said, "Fair is the
Lithe; so fair that it has never seemed to me so fair; the corn
fields are white to harvest and the home mead is mown; and now I
will ride back home, and not fare abroad at all."
"Do not this joy to thy foes," says Kolskegg, "by breaking thy
atonement, for no man could think thou wouldst do thus, and thou
mayst be sure that all will happen as Njal has said."
"I will not go away any whither," said Gunnar, "and so I would
thou shouldest do too."
"That shall not be," says Kolskegg; "I will never do a base thing
in this, nor in any thing else which is left to my good faith;
and this is that one thing that could tear us asunder; but tell
this to my kinsman and to my mother that I never mean to see
Iceland again, for I shall soon learn that thou art dead,
brother, and then there will be nothing left to bring me back."
So they parted there and then. Gunnar rides home to Lithend, but
Kolskegg rides to the ship, and goes abroad.
Hallgerda was glad to see Gunnar when he came home, but his
mother said little or nothing.
How Gunnar sits at home that fall and winter, and had not many
men with him.
Now the winter leaves the farmyard. Olaf the Peacock asked
Gunnar and Hallgerda to come and stay with him; but as for the
farm, to put it into the hands of his mother and his son Hogni.
Gunnar thought that a good thing at first, and agreed to it, but
when it came to the point he would not do it.
But at the Thing next summer, Gizur the White, and Geir the
Priest, gave notice of Gunnar's outlawry at the Hill of Laws; and
before the Thing broke up Gizur summoned all Gunnar's foes to
meet in the "Great Rift." (1) He summoned Starkad under the
Threecorner, and Thorgeir his son; Mord and Valgard the Guileful;
Geir the Priest and Hjalti Skeggi's son; Thorbrand and Asbrand,
Thorleik's sons; Eyjulf, and Aunund his son. Aunund of Witchwood
and Thorgrim the Easterling of Sandgil.
The Gizur spoke and said, "I will make you all this offer, that
we go out against Gunnar this summer and slay him."
"I gave my word to Gunnar," said Hjalti, "here at the Thing,
when he showed himself most willing to yield to my prayer, that I
would never be in any attack upon him; and so it shall be."
Then Hjalti went away, but those who were left behind made up
their minds to make an onslaught on Gunnar, and shook hands on
the bargain, and laid a fine on any one that left the
Mord was to keep watch and spy out when there was the best chance
of falling on him, and they were forty men in this league, and
they thought it would be a light thing for them to hunt down
Gunnar, now that Kolskegg was away, and Thrain and many other of
Men ride from the Thing, and Njal went to see Gunnar, and told
him of his outlawry, and how an onslaught was planned against
"Methinks thou art the best of friends," says Gunnar; "thou
makest me aware of what is meant."
"Now," says Njal, "I would that Skarphedinn should come to thy
house, and my son Hauskuld; they will lay down their lives for
"I will not," says Gunnar, "that thy sons should be slain for my
sake, and thou hast a right to look for other things from me."
"All thy care will come to nothing," says Njal; "quarrels will
turn thitherward where my sons are as soon as thou art dead and
"That is not unlikely," says Gunnar, "but still it would mislike
me that they fell into them for me; but this one thing I will ask
of thee, that ye see after my son Hogni, but I say naught of
Grani, for he does not behave himself much after my mind."
Njal rode home, and gave his word to do that.
It is said that Gunnar rode to all meetings of men, and to all
lawful Things, and his foes never dared to fall on him.
And so some time went on that he went about as a free and
(1) "Great Rift," Almannagja -- The great volcanic rift, or
"geo," as it would be called in Orkney and Shetland, which
bounds the plain of the Allthing on one side.
75. THE RIDING TO LITHEND
Next autumn Mord Valgard's son sent word that Gunnar would be all
alone at home, but all his people would be down in the isles to
make an end of their haymaking. Then Gizur the White and Geir
the Priest rode east over the rivers as soon as ever they heard
that, and so east across the sands to Hof. Then they sent word
to Starkad under the Threecorner, and there they all met who were
to fall on Gunnar, and took counsel how they might best bring it
Mord said that they could not come on Gunnar unawares, unless
they seized the farmer who dwelt at the next homestead, whose
name was Thorkell, and made him go against his will with them to
lay hands on the hound Sam, and unless he went before them to the
homestead to do this.
Then they set out east for Lithend, but sent to fetch Thorkell.
They seized him and bound him, and gave him two choices -- one
that they would slay him, or else he must lay hands on the hound;
but he chooses rather to save his life, and went with them.
There was a beaten sunk road, between fences, above the farm yard
at Lithend, and there they halted with their band. Master
Thorkell went up to the homestead, and the tyke lay on the top of
the house, and he entices the dog away with him into a deep
hollow in the path. Just then the hound sees that there are men
before them, and he leaps on Thorkell and tears his belly open.
Aunund of Witchwood smote the hound on the head with his axe, so
that the blade sunk into the brain. The hound gave such a great
howl that they thought it passing strange, and he fell down dead.
76. GUNNAR'S SLAYING
Gunnar woke up in his hall and said, "Thou hast been sorely
treated, Sam, my fosterling, and this warning is so meant that
our two deaths will not be far apart."
Gunnar's hall was made all of wood, and roofed with beams above,
and there were window-slits under the beams that carried the
roof, and they were fitted with shutters.
Gunnar slept in a loft above the hall, and so did Hallgerda and
Now when they were come near to the house they knew not whether
Gunnar were at home, and bade that some one would go straight up
to the house and see if he could find out. But the rest sat them
down on the ground.
Thorgrim the Easterling went and began to climb up on the hall;
Gunnar sees that a red kirtle passed before the windowslit, and
thrusts out the bill, and smote him on the middle. Thorgrim's
feet slipped from under him, and he dropped his shield, and down
he toppled from the roof.
Then he goes to Gizur and his band as they sat on the ground.
Gizur looked at him and said, "Well, is Gunnar at home?
"Find that out for yourselves," said Thorgrim; "but this I am
sure of, that his bill is at home," and with that he fell down
Then they made for the buildings. Gunnar shot out arrows at
them, and made a stout defence, and they could get nothing done.
Then some of them got into the out houses and tried to attack him
thence, but Gunnar found them out with his arrows there also, and
still they could get nothing done.
So it went on for a while, then they took a rest, and made a
second onslaught. Gunnar still shot out at them, and they could
do nothing, and fell off the second time. Then Gizur the White
said, "Let us press on harder; nothing comes of our onslaught."
Then they made a third bout of it, and were long at it, and then
they fell off again.
Gunnar said, "There lies an arrow outside on the wall, and it is
one of their shafts; I will shoot at them with it, and it will be
a shame to them if they get a hurt from their own weapons."
His mother said, "Do not so, my son; nor rouse them again when
they have already fallen off from the attack."
But Gunnar caught up the arrow and shot it after them, and struck
Eylif Aunund's son, and he got a great wound; he was standing all
by himself, and they knew not that he was wounded.
"Out came an arm yonder," says Gizur, "and there was a gold ring
on it, and took an arrow from the roof, and they would not look
outside for shafts if there were enough in doors; and now ye
shall made a fresh onslaught."
"Let us burn him house and all," said Mord.
"That shall never be," says Gizur, "though I knew that my life
lay on it; but it is easy for thee to find out some plan, such a
cunning man as thou art said to be."
Some ropes lay there on the ground, and they were often used to
strengthen the roof. Then Mord said, "Let us take the ropes and
throw one end over the end of the carrying beams, but let us
fasten the other end to these rocks and twist them tight with
levers, and so pull the roof off the hall."
So they took the ropes and all lent a hand to carry this out, and
before Gunnar was aware of it, they had pulled the whole roof off
Then Gunnar still shoots with his bow so that they could never
come nigh him. Then Mord said again that they must burn the
house over Gunnar's head. But Gizur said, "I know not why thou
wilt speak of that which no one else wishes, and that shall never
Just then Thorbrand Thorleik's son, sprang up on the roof, and
cuts asunder Gunnar's bowstring. Gunnar clutches the bill with
both hands, and turns on him quickly and drives it through him,
and hurls him down on the ground.
Then up sprung Asbrand his brother. Gunnar thrusts at him with
his bill, and he threw his shield before the blow, but the bill
passed clean through the shield and broke both his arms, and down
he fell from the wall.
Gunnar had already wounded eight men and slain those twain (1).
By that time Gunnar had got two wounds, and all men said that he
never once winced either at wounds or death.
Then Gunnar said to Hallgerda, "Give me two locks of thy hair,
and ye two, my mother and thou, twist them together into a
bowstring for me."
"Does aught lie on it?" she says.
"My life lies on it;" he said; "for they will never come to close
quarters with me if I can keep them off with my bow."
"Well!" she says, "now I will call to thy mind that slap on the
face which thou gavest me; and I care never a whit whether thou
holdest out a long while or a short."
Then Gunnar sang a song:
"Each who hurts the gory javelin
Hath some honour of his own,
Now my helpmeet wimple-hooded
Hurries all my fame to earth.
No one owner of a war-ship
Often asks for little things,
Woman, fond of Frodi's flour (2),
Wends her hand as she is wont."
"Every one has something to boast of," says Gunnar, "and I will
ask thee no more for this."
"Thou behavest ill," said Rannveig, "andthis shame shall long be
had in mind."
Gunnar made a stout and bold defence, and now wounds other eight
men with such sore wounds that many lay at death's door. Gunnar
keeps them all off until he fell worn out with toil. Then they
wounded him with many and great wounds, but still he got away out
of their hands, and held his own against them a while longer, but
at last it came about that they slew him.
Of this defence of his, Thorkell the Skald of Gota-Elf sang in
the verses which follow --
"We have heard how south in Iceland
Gunnar guarded well himself,
Boldly battle's thunder wielding,
Fiercest foeman on the wave;
Hero of the golden collar,
Sixteen with the sword he wounded;
In the shock that Odin loveth,
Two before him tasted death."
But this is what Thormod Olaf's son sang --
"None that scattered sea's bright sunbeams (3),
Won more glorious fame than Gunnar,
So runs fame of old in Iceland,
Fitting fame of heathen men;
Lord of fight when helms were crashing,
Lives of foeman twain he took,
Wielding bitter steel he sorely
Wounded twelve, and four besides."
Then Gizur spoke and said, "We have now laid low to earth a
mighty chief, and hard work has it been, and the fame of this
defence of his shall last as long as men live in this land."
After that he went to see Rannveig and said, "Wilt thou grant us
earth here for two of our men who are dead, that they may lie in
a cairn here?"
"All the more willingly for two," she says, "because I wish with
all my heart I had to grant it to all of you."
"It must be forgiven thee," he says, "to speak thus, for thou
hast had a great loss."
Then he gave orders that no man should spoil or rob anything
After that they went away.
Then Thorgeir Starkad's son said, "We may not be in our house at
home for the sons of Sigfus, unless thou Gizur or thou Geir be
here south some little while."
"This shall be so," says Gizur, and they cast lots, and the lot
fell on Geir to stay behind.
After that he came to the Point, and set up his house there; he
had a son whose name was Hroald; he was base born, and his
mother's name was Biartey (4); he boasted that he had given
Gunnar his death blow. Hroald was at the Point with his father.
Thorgeir Starkad's son boasted of another wound which he had
given to Gunnar.
Gizur sat at home at Mossfell. Gunnar's slaying was heard of,
and ill spoken of throughout the whole country, and his death was
a great grief to many a man.
(1) Thorgrim Easterling and Thorbrand.
(2) "Frodi's flour," a periphrasis for "gold."
(3) "Sea's bright sunbeams," a periphrasis for "gold."
(4) She was a sister of Thorwald the Scurvy, who was slain at
Horsebeck in Grimsness.
77. GUNNAR SINGS A SONG DEAD
Njal could ill brook Gunnar's death, nor could the sons of Sigfus
brook it either.
They asked whether Njal thought they had any right to give notice
of a suit of manslaughter for Gunnar, or to set the suit on foot.
He said that could not be done, as the man had been outlawed; but
said it would be better worth trying to do something to wound
their glory, by slaying some men in vengeance after him.
They cast a cairn over Gunnar, and made him sit upright in the
cairn. Rannveig would not hear of his bill being buried in the
cairn, but said he alone should have it as his own, who was ready
to avenge Gunnar. So no one took the bill.
She was so hard on Hallgerda, that she was on the point of
killing her; and she said that she had been the cause of her
Then Hallgerda fled away to Gritwater, and her son Grani with
her, and they shared the goods between them; Hogni was to have
the land at Lithend and the homestead on it, but Grani was to
have the land let out on lease.
Now this token happened at Lithend, that the neat-herd and the
serving-maid were driving cattle by Gunnar's cairn. They thought
that he was merry, and that he was singing inside the cairn.
They went home and told Rannveig, Gunnar's mother, of this token,
but she bade them go and tell Njal.
Then they went over to Bergthorsknoll and told Njal, but he made
them tell it three times over.
After that, he had a long talk all alone with Skarphedinn; and
Skarphedinn took his weapons and goes with them to Lithend.
Rannveig and Hogni gave him a hearty welcome, and were very glad
to see him. Rannveig asked him to stay there some time, and he
said he would.
He and Hogni were always together, at home and abroad. Hogni was
a brisk, brave man, well-bred and well-trained in mind and body,
but distrustful and slow to believe what he was told, and that
was why they dared not tell him of the token.
Now those two, Skarphedinn and Hogni, were out of doors one
evening by Gunnar's cairn on the south side. The moon and stars
were shining clear and bright, but every now and then the clouds
drove over them. Then all at once they thought they saw the
cairn standing open, and lo! Gunnar had turned himself in the
cairn and looked at the moon. They thought they saw four lights
burning in the cairn, and none of them threw a shadow. They saw
that Gunnar was merry, and he wore a joyful face. He sang a
song, and so loud, that it might have been heard though they had
been further off.
"He that lavished rings in largesse,
When the fights' red rain-drips fell,
Bright of face, with heart-strings hardy,
Hogni's father met his fate;
Then his brow with helmet shrouding,
Bearing battle-shield, he spake,
`I will die the prop of battle,
Sooner die than yield an inch,
Yes, sooner die than yield an inch."
After that the cairn was shut up again.
"Wouldst thou believe these tokens if Njal or I told them to
thee?" says Skarphedinn.
"I would believe them," he says, "if Njal told them, for it is
said he never lies."
"Such tokens as these mean much," says Skarphedinn, "when he
shows himself to us, he who would sooner die than yield to his
foes; and see how he has taught us what we ought to do."
"I shall be able to bring nothing to pass," says Hogni, "unless
thou wilt stand by me."
"Now," says Skarphedinn, "will I bear in mind how Gunnar behaved
after the slaying of your kinsman Sigmund; now I will yield you
such help as I may. My father gave his word to Gunnar to do that
whenever thou or thy mother had need of it."
After that they go home to Lithend.
78. GUNNAR OF LITHEND AVENGED
"Now we shall set off at once," says Skarphedinn, "this very
night; for if they learn that I am here, they will be more wary
"I will fulfil thy counsel," says Hogni.
After that they took their weapons when all men were in their
beds. Hogni takes down the bill, and it gave a sharp ringing
Rannveig sprang up in great wrath and said, "Who touches the
bill, when I forbade every one to lay hand on it?"
"I mean," says Hogni, "to bring it to my father, that he may bear
it with him to Valhalla, and have it with him when the warriors
"Rather shalt thou now bear it," she answered, "and avenge thy
father; for the bill has spoken of one man's death or more."
Then Hogni went out, and told Skarphedinn all the words that his
grandmother had spoken.
After that they fare to the Point, and two ravens flew along with
them all the way. They came to the Point while it was still
night. Then they drove the flock before them up to the house,
and then Hroald and Tjorfi ran out and drove the flock up the
hollow path, and had their weapons with them.
Skarphedinn sprang up and said, "Thou needest not to stand and
think if it be really as it seems. Men are here."
Then Skarphedinn smites Tjorfi his deathblow. Hroald had a spear
in his hand, and Hogni rushes at him; Hroald thrusts at him, but
Hogni hewed asunder the spear-shaft with his bill, and drives the
bill through him.
After that they left them there dead, and turn away thence under
Skarphedinn jumps up on the house and plucks the grass, and those
who were inside the house thought it was cattle that had come on
the roof. Starkad and Thorgeir took their weapons and upper
clothing, and went out and round about the fence of the yard.
But when Starkad sees Skarphedinn he was afraid, and wanted to
Skarphedinn cut him down by the fence. Then Hogni comes against
Thorgeir and slays him with the bill.
Thence they went to Hof, and Mord was outside in the field, and
begged for mercy, and offered them full atonement.
Skarphedinn told Mord the slaying of those four men, and sang a
"Four who wielded warlike weapons
We have slain, all men of worth,
Them at once, gold-greedy fellow,
Thou shalt follow on the spot;
Let us press this pinch-purse so,
Pouring fear into his heart;
Wretch! reach out to Gunnar's son
Right to settle all disputes."
"And the like journey," says Skarphedinn, "shalt thou also fare,
or hand over to Hogni the right to make his own award, if he will
take these terms."
Hogni said his mind had been made up not to come to any terms
with the slayers of his father; but still at last he took the
right to make his own award from Mord.
79. HOGNI TAKES AN ATONEMENT FOR GUNNAR'S DEATH
Njal took a share in bringing those who had the blood-feud after
Starkad and Thorgeir to take an atonement, and a district meeting
was called together, and men were chosen to make the award, and
every matter was taken into account, even the attack on Gunnar,
though he was an outlaw; but such a fine as was awarded, all that
Mord paid; for they did not close their award against him before
the other matter was already settled, and then they set off one
award against the other.
Then they were all set at one again, but at the Thing there was
great talk, and the end of it was, that Geir the Priest and Hogni
were set at one again, and that atonement they held to ever
Geir the Priest dwelt in the Lithe till his deathday, and he is
out of the story.
Njal asked as a wife for Hogni Alfeida the daughter of Weatherlid
the Skald, and she was given away to him. Their son was Ari, who
sailed for Shetland, and took him a wife there; from him is come
Einar the Shetlander, one of the briskest and boldest of men.
Hogni kept up his friendship with Njal, and he is now out of the
80. OF KOLSKEGG: HOW HE WAS BAPTIZED
Now it is to be told of Kolskegg how he comes to Norway, and is
in the Bay east that winter. But the summer after he fares east
to Denmark, and bound himself to Sweyn Forkbeard the Dane-king,
and there he had great honour.
One night he dreamt that a man came to him; he was bright and
glistening, and he thought he woke him up. He spoke, and said to
him, "Stand up and come with me."
"What wilt thou with me?" he asks.
"I will get thee a bride, and thou shalt be my knight."
He thought he said yea to that, and after that he woke up.
Then he went to a wizard and told him the dream, but he read it
so that he should fare to southern lands and become God's knight.
Kolskegg was baptized in Denmark, but still he could not rest
there, but fared east to Russia, and was there one winter. Then
he fared thence out to Micklegarth (1), and there took service
with the Emperor. The last that was heard of him was, that he
wedded a wife there, and was captain over the Varangians, and
stayed there till his deathday; and he, too, is out of this
81. OF THRAIN: HOW HE SLEW KOL
Now we must take up the story, and say how Thrain Sigfus' son
came to Norway. They made the land north in Helgeland, and held
on south to Drontheim, and so to Hlada (1). But as soon as Earl
Hacon heard of that, he sent men to them, and would know what men
were in the ship. They came back and told him who the men were.
Then the earl sent for Thrain Sigfus' son, and he went to see
him. The earl asked of what stock he might be. He said that he
was Gunnar of Lithend's near kinsman. The earl said, "That shall
stand thee in good stead; for I have seen many men from Iceland,
but none his match."
"Lord," said Thrain, "is it your will that I should be with you
The earl took to him, and Thrain was there that winter, and was
thought much of.
There was a man named Kol, he was a great sea-rover. He was the
son of Asmund Ashside, east out of Smoland. He lay east in the
Gota-Elf, and had five ships, and much force.
Thence Kol steered his course out of the river to Norway and
landed at Fold (2), in the bight of the "Bay," and came on
Hallvard Soti unawares, and found him in a loft. He kept them
off bravely till they set fire to the house, then he gave himself
up; but they slew him, and took there much goods, and sailed
thence to Lodese (3).
Earl Hacon heard these tidings, and made them make Kol an outlaw
over all his realm, and set a price upon his head.
Once on a time it so happened that the earl began to speak thus,
"Too far off from us now is Gunnar of Lithend. He would slay my
outlaw if he were here; but now the Icelanders will slay him, and
it is ill that he hath not fared to us."
Then Thrain Sigfus' son answered, "I am not Gunnar, but still I
am near akin to him, and I will undertake this voyage."
The earl said, "I should be glad of that, and thou shalt be very
well fitted out for the journey."
After that his son Eric began to speak, and said, "Your word,
father, is good to many men, but fulfilling it is quite another
thing. This is the hardest undertaking; for this sea-rover is
tough and ill to deal with, wherefore thou wilt need to take
great pains, both as to men and ships for this voyage."
Thrain said, "I will set out on this voyage, though it looks
After that the earl gave him five ships, and all well trimmed
and manned. Along with Thrain was Gunnar Lambi's son, and Lambi
Sigurd's son. Gunnar was Thrain's brother's son, and had come to
him young, and each loved the other much.
Eric, the earl's son, went heartily along with them, and looked
after strength for them, both in men and weapons and made such
changes in them as he thought were needful. After they were
"boun," Eric got them a pilot. Then they sailed south along the
land; but wherever they came to land, the earl allowed them to
deal with whatever they needed as their own.
So they held on east to Lodese, and then they heard that Kol was
gone to Denmark. Then they shaped their course south thither;
but when they came south to Helsingborg, they met men in a boat
who said that Kol was there just before them, and would be
staying there for a while.
One day when the weather was good, Kol saw the ships as they
sailed up towards him, and said he had dreamt of Earl Hacon the
night before, and told his people he was sure these must be his
men, and bade them all to take their weapons.
After that they busked them, and a fight arose; and they fought
long, so that neither side had the mastery.
Then Kol sprang up on Thrain's ship, and cleared the gangways
fast, and slays many men. He had a gilded helm.
Now Thrain sees that this is no good, and now he eggs on his men
to go along with him, but he himself goes first and meets Kol.
Kol hews at him, and the blow fell on Thrain's shield, and cleft
it down from top to bottom. Then Kol got a blow on the arm, from
a stone and then down fell his sword.
Thrain hews at Kol, and the stroke came on his leg so that it cut
it off. After that they slew Kol, and Thrain cut off his head,
and they threw the trunk overboard, but kept his head.
They took much spoil, and then they held on north to Drontheim,
and go to see the earl.
The earl gave Thrain a hearty welcome, and he shewed the earl
Kol's head, but the earl thanked him for that deed.
Eric said it was worth more than words alone, and the earl said
so it was, and bade them come along with him.
They went thither, where the earl had made them make a good ship
that was not made like a common long-ship. It had a vulture's
head, and was much carved and painted.
"Thou art a great man for show, Thrain," said the earl, "and so
have both of you, kinsmen, been, Gunnar and thou; and now I will
give thee this ship, but it is called the Vulture. Along with it
shall go my friendship; and my will is that thou stayest with me
as long as thou wilt."
He thanked him for his goodness, and said he had no longing to go
to Iceland just yet.
The earl had a journey to make to the marches of the land to meet
the Swede-king. Thrain went with him that summer, and was a
shipmaster and steered the Vulture, and sailed so fast that few
could keep up with him, and he was much envied. But it always
came out that the earl laid great store on Gunnar, for he set
down sternly all who tried Thrain's temper.
So Thrain was all that winter with the earl, but next spring the
earl asked Thrain whether he would stay there or fare to Iceland;
but Thrain said he had not yet made up his mind, and said that he
wished first to know tidings from Iceland.
The earl said that so it should be as he thought it suited him
best; and Thrain was with the earl.
Then those tidings were heard from Iceland, which many thought
great news, the death of Gunnar of Lithend. Then the earl would
not that Thrain should fare out of Iceland, and so there he
stayed with him.
(1) Hlada or Lada, and sometimes in the plural Ladir, was the
old capital of Drontheim, before Nidaros -- the present
Drontheim -- was founded. Drontheim was originally the name
of the country round the firth of the same name, and is not
used in the old sagas for a town.
(2) The country round the Christiania Firth, at the top of "the
(3) A town in Sweden on the Gota-Elf.
82. NJAL'S SONS SAIL ABROAD
Now it must be told how Njal's sons, Grim and Helgi, left Iceland
the same summer that Thrain and his fellows went away; and in the
ship with them were Olaf Kettle's son of Elda, and Bard the
Black. They got so strong a wind from the north that they were
driven south into the main; and so thick a mist came over them
that they could not tell whither they were driving, and they were
out a long while. At last they came to where was a great ground
sea, and thought then they must be near land. So then Njal's
sons asked Bard if he could tell at all to what land they were
likely to be nearest.
"Many lands there are," said he, "which we might hit with the
weather we have had -- the Orkneys, or Scotland, or Ireland."
Two nights after, they saw land on both boards, and a great
surf running up in the firth. They cast anchor outside the
breakers, and the wind began to fall; and next morning it was
calm. Then they see thirteen ships coming out to them.
Then Bard spoke and said, "What counsel shall we take now, for
these men are going to make an onslaught on us?"
So they took counsel whether they should defend themselves or
yield, but before they could make up their minds, the Vikings
were upon them. Then each side asked the other their names, and
what their leaders were called. So the leaders of the chapmen
told their names, and asked back who led that host. One called
himself Gritgard, and the other Snowcolf, sons of Moldan of
Duncansby in Scotland, kinsmen of Malcolm the Scot king.
"And now," says Gritgard, "we have laid down two choices, one
that ye go on shore, and we will take your goods; the other is,
that we fall on you and slay every man that we can catch."
"The will of the chapmen," answers Helgi, "is to defend
But the chapmen called out, "Wretch that thou art to speak thus!
What defence can we make? Lading is less than life."
But Grim, he fell upon a plan to shout out to the Vikings, and
would not let them hear the bad choice of the chapmen.
Then Bard and Olaf said, "Think ye not that these Icelanders will
make game of you sluggards; take rather your weapons and guard
So they all seized their weapons, and bound themselves, one with
another, never to give up so long as they had strength to fight.
83. OF KARI SOLMUND'S SON
Then the Vikings shot at them and the fight began, and the
chapmen guard themselves well. Snowcolf sprang aboard and at
Olaf, and thrust his spear through his body, but Grim thrust at
Snowcolf with his spear, and so stoutly, that he fell overboard.
Then Helgi turned to meet Grim, and they two drove down all the
Vikings as they tried to board, and Njal's sons were ever where
there was most need. Then the Vikings called out to the chapmen
and bade them give up, but they said they would never yield.
Just then some one looked seaward, and there they see ships
coming from the south round the Ness, and they were not fewer
than ten, and they row hard and steer thitherwards. Along their
sides were shield on shield, but on that ship that came first
stood a man by the mast, who was clad in a silken kirtle, and had
a gilded helm, and his hair was both fair and thick; that man had
a spear inlaid with gold in his hand.
He asked, "Who have here such an uneven game?"
Helgi tells his name, and said that against them are Gritgard and
"But who are your captains?" he asks.
Helgi answered, "Bard the Black, who lives, but the other, who
is dead and gone, was called Olaf."
"Are ye men from Iceland?" says he.
"Sure enough we are," Helgi answers.
He asked whose sons they were, and they told him, then he knew
them and said, "Well known names have ye all, father and sons
"Who art thou?" asks Helgi.
"My name is Kari, and I am Solmund's son."
"Whence comest thou?" says Helgi.
"From the Southern Isles."
"Then thou art welcome," says Helgi, "if thou wilt give us a
"I'll give ye all the help ye need," says Kari; "but what do
"To fall on them," says Helgi.
Kari says that so it shall be. So they pulled up to them, and
then the battle began the second time; but when they had fought a
little while, Kari springs up on Snowcolf's ship; he turns to
meet him and smites at him with his sword. Kari leaps nimbly
backwards over a beam that lay athwart the ship, and Snowcolf
smote the beam so that both edges of the sword were hidden. Then
Kari smites at him, and the sword fell on his shoulder, and the
stroke was so mighty that he cleft in twain shoulder, arm, and
all, and Snowcolf got his death there and then. Gritgard hurled
a spear at Kari, but Kari saw it and sprang up aloft, and the
spear missed him. Just then Helgi and Grim came up both to meet
Kari, and Helgi springs on Gritgard and thrusts his spear through
him, and that was his death blow; after that they went round the
whole ship on both boards, and then men begged for mercy. So
they gave them all peace, but took all their goods. After that
they ran all the ships out under the islands.
84. OF EARL SIGURD
Sigurd was the name of an earl who ruled over the Orkneys; he was
the son of Hlodver, the son of Thorfinn the skullsplitter, the
son of Turf-Einar, the son of Rognvald, Earl of Moeren, the son
of Eystein the Noisy. Kari was one of Earl Sigurd's body-guard,
and had just been gathering scatts in the Southern Isles from
Earl Gilli. Now Kari asks them to go to Hrossey (1), and said
the earl would take to them well. They agreed to that, and went
with Kari and came to Hrossey. Kari led them to see the earl,
and said what men they were.
"How came they," says the earl, "to fall upon thee?"
"I found them," says Kari, "in Scotland's firths, and they were
fighting with the sons of Earl Moldan, and held their own so well
that they threw themselves about between the bulwarks, from side
to side, and were always there where the trial was greatest, and
now I ask you to give them quarters among your body-guard."
"It shall be as thou choosest," says the earl, "thou hast already
taken them so much by the hand."
Then they were there with the earl that winter, and were worthily
treated, but Helgi was silent as the winter wore on. The earl
could not tell what was at the bottom of that, and asked why he
was so silent, and what was on his mind. "Thinkest thou it not
good to be here?"
"Good, methinks, it is here," he says.
"Then what art thou thinking about?" asks the earl.
"Hast thou any realm to guard in Scotland?" asks Helgi.
"So we think," says the earl, "but what makes thee think about
that, or what is the matter with it?"
"The Scots," says Helgi, "must have taken your steward's life,
and stopped all the messengers, that none should cross the
"Hast thou the second sight?" said the earl.
"That has been little proved," answers Helgi.
"Well," says the earl, "I will increase thy honour if this be so,
otherwise thou shalt smart for it."
"Nay," says Kari, "Helgi is not that kind of man, and like enough
his words are sooth, for his father has the second sight."
After that the earl sent men south to Straumey (2) to Arnljot,
his steward there, and after that Arnljot sent them across the
Pentland Firth, and they spied out and learnt that Earl Hundi and
Earl Melsnati had taken the life of Havard in Thraswick, Earl
Sigurd's brother-in-law. So Arnljot sent word to Earl Sigurd to
come south with a great host and drive those earls out of his
realm, and as soon as the earl heard that, he gathered together a
mighty host from all the isles.
(1) The mainland of Orkney, now Pomona.
(2) Now Stroma, in the Pentland Firth.
85. THE BATTLE WITH THE EARLS
After that the earl set out south with his host, and Kari went
with him, and Njal's sons too. They came south to Caithness.
The earl had these realms in Scotland, Ross and Moray,
Sutherland, and the Dales. There came to meet them men from
those realms, and said that the earls were a short way off with a
great host. Then Earl Sigurd turns his host thither, and the
name of that place is Duncansness above which they met, and it
came to a great battle between them. Now the Scots had let some
of their host go free from the main battle, and these took the
earl's men in flank, and many men fell there till Njal's sons
turned against the foe, and fought with them and put them to
flight; but still it was a hard fight, and then Njal's sons
turned back to the front by the earl's standard, and fought well.
Now Kari turns to meet Earl Melsnati, and Melsnati hurled a spear
at him, but Kari caught the spear and threw it back and through
the earl. Then Earl Hundi fled, but they chased the fleers until
they learnt that Malcolm was gathering a host at Duncansby. Then
the earl took counsel with his men, and it seemed to all the best
plan to turn back, and not to fight with such a mighty land
force; so they turned back. But when the earl came to Staumey
they shared the battle-spoil. After that he went north to
Hrossey, and Njal's sons and Kari followed him. Then the earl
made a great feast, and at that feast he gave Kari a good sword,
and a spear inlaid with gold; but he gave Helgi a gold ring and a
mantle, and Grim a shield and sword. After that he took Helgi
and Grim into his body-guard, and thanked them for their good
help. They were with the earl that winter and the summer after,
till Kari went sea-roving; then they went with him, and harried
far and wide that summer, and everywhere won the victory. They
fought against Godred, King of Man, and conquered him; and after
that they fared back, and had gotten much goods. Next winter
they were still with the earl, and when the spring came Njal's
sons asked leave to go to Norway. The earl said they should go
or not as they pleased, and he gave them a good ship and smart
men. As for Kari, he said he must come that summer to Norway
with Earl Hacon's scatts, and then they would meet; and so it
fell out that they gave each other their word to meet. After
that Njal's sons put out to sea and sailed for Norway, and made
the land north near Drontheim.
86. HRAPP'S VOYAGE FROM ICELAND
There was a man named Kolbein, and his surname was Arnljot's son;
he was a man from Drontheim; he sailed out to Iceland that same
summer in which Kolskegg and Njal's sons went abroad. He was
that winter east in Broaddale; but the spring after, he made his
ship ready for sea in Gautawick; and when men were almost "boun,"
a man rowed up to them in a boat, and made the boat fast to the
ship, and afterwards he went on board the ship to see Kolbein.
Kolbein asked that man for his name.
"My name is Hrapp," says he.
"What wilt thou with me?" says Kolbein.
"I wish to ask thee to put me across the Iceland main."
"Whose son art thou?" asks Kolbein.
"I am a son of Aurgunleid, the son of Geirolf the Fighter."
"What need lies on thee," asked Kolbein, "to drive thee abroad?"
"I have slain a man," says Hrapp.
"What manslaughter was that," says Kolbein, "and what men have
"The men of Weaponfirth," says Hrapp, "but the man I slew was
Aurlyg, the son of Aurlyg, the son of Roger the White."
"I guess this," says Kolbein, "that he will have the worst of it
who bears thee abroad."
"I am the friend of my friend," said Hrapp, "but when ill is done
to me I repay it. Nor am I short of money to lay down for my
Then Kolbein took Hrapp on board, and a little while after a fair
breeze sprung up, and they sailed away on the sea.
Hrapp ran short of food at sea and then he sate him down at the
mess of those who were nearest to him. They sprang up with ill
words, and so it was that they came to blows, and Hrapp, in a
trice, has two men under him.
Then Kolbein was told, and he bade Hrapp to come and share his
mess, and he accepted that.
Now they come off the sea, and lie outside off Agdirness.
Then Kolbein asked where that money was which he had offered to
pay for his fare?
"It is out in Iceland," answers Hrapp.
"Thou wilt beguile more men than me, I fear," says Kolbein; "but
now I will forgive thee all the fare."
Hrapp bade him have thanks for that. "But what counsel dost thou
give as to what I ought to do?"
"That first of all," he says, "that thou goest from the ship as
soon as ever thou canst, for all Easterlings will bear thee bad
witness; but there is yet another bit of good counsel which I
will give thee, and that is, never to cheat thy master."
Then Hrapp went on shore with his weapons, and he had a great axe
with an iron-bound haft in his hand.
He fares on and on till he comes to Gudbrand of the Dale. He was
the greatest friend of Earl Hacon. They two had a shrine between
them, and it was never opened but when the earl came thither.
That was the second greatest shrine in Norway, but the other was
Thrand was the name of Gudbrand's son, but his daughter's name
Hrapp went in before Gudbrand, and hailed him well.
He asked whence he came and what was his name. Hrapp told him
about himself, and how he had sailed abroad from Iceland.
After that he asks Gudbrand to take him into his household as a
"It does not seem," said Gudbrand, "to look on thee, as thou wert
a man to bring good luck."
"Methinks, then," says Hrapp, "that all I have heard about thee
has been great lies; for it is said that thou takest every one
into thy house that asks thee; and that no man is thy match for
goodness and kindness, far or near; but now I shall have to speak
against that saying, if thou dost not take me in."
"Well, thou shalt stay here," said Gudbrand.
"To what seat wilt thou shew me?" says Hrapp.
"To one on the lower bench, over against my high seat."
Then Hrapp went and took his seat. He was able to tell of many
things, and so it was at first that Gudbrand and many thought it
sport to listen to him; but still it came about that most men
thought him too much given to mocking, and the end of it was that
he took to talking alone with Gudruna, so that many said that he
meant to beguile her.
But when Gudbrand was aware of that, he scolded her much for
daring to talk alone with him, and bade her beware of speaking
aught to him if the whole household did not hear it. She gave
her word to be good at first, but still it was soon the old story
over again as to their talk. Then Gudbrand got Asvard, his
overseer, to go about with her, out of doors and in, and to be
with her wherever she went. One day it happened that she begged
for leave to go into the nutwood for a pastime, and Asvard went
along with her. Hrapp goes to seek for them and found them, and
took her by the hand, and led her away alone.
Then Asvard went to look for her, and found them both together
stretched on the grass in a thicket.
He rushes at them, axe in air, and smote at Hrapp's leg, but
Hrapp gave himself a sudden turn, and he missed him. Hrapp
springs on his feet as quick as he can, and caught up his axe.
Then Asvard wished to turn and get away, but Hrapp hewed asunder
Then Gudruna said, "Now hast thou done that deed which will
hinder thy stay any longer with my father; but still there is
something behind which he will like still less, for I go with
"He shall not learn this from others," says Hrapp, "but I will go
home and tell him both these tidings."
"Then," she says, "thou wilt not come away with thy life."
"I will run the risk of that," he says.
After that he sees her back to the other women, but he went home.
Gudbrand sat in his high seat, and there were few men in the
Hrapp went in before him, and bore his axe high.
"Why is thine axe bloody?" asks Gudbrand.
"I made it so by doing a piece of work on thy overseer Asvard's
back," says Hrapp.
"That can be no good work," says Gudbrand; "thou must have slain
"So it is, be sure," says Hrapp.
"What did ye fall out about?" asks Gudbrand.
"Oh!" says Hrapp, "what you would think small cause enough. He
wanted to hew off my leg."
"What hadst thou done first?" asked Gudbrand.
"What he had no right to meddle with," says Hrapp.
"Still thou wilt tell me what it was."
"Well!" said Hrapp, "if thou must know, I lay by thy daughter's
side, and he thought that bad."
"Up men!" cried Gudbrand, "and take him. He shall be slain out
"Very little good wilt thou let me reap of my son-in-lawship,"
says Hrapp, "but thou hast not so many men at thy back as to do
Up they rose, but he sprang out of doors. They run after him,
but he got away to the wood, and they could not lay hold of him.
Then Gudbrand gathers people, and lets the wood be searched; but
they find him not, for the wood was great and thick.
Hrapp fares through the wood till he came to a clearing; there he
found a house, and saw a man outside cleaving wood.
He asked that man for his name, and he said his name was Tofi.
Tofi asked him for his name in turn, and Hrapp told him his true
Hrapp asked why the householder had set up his abode so far from
"For that here," he says, "I think I am less likely to have
brawls with other men."
"It is strange how we beat about the bush in our talk," says
Hrapp, "but I will first tell thee who I am. I have been with
Gudbrand of the Dale, but I ran away thence because I slew his
overseer; but now I know that we are both of us bad men; for thou
wouldst not have come hither away from other men unless thou wert
some man's outlaw. And now I give thee two choices, either that
I will tell where thou art, or that we two have between us, share
and share alike, all that is here."
"This is even as thou savest," said the householder; "I seized
and carried off this woman who is here with me, and many men have
sought for me."
Then he led Hrapp in with him; there was a small house there, but
The master of the house told his mistress that he had taken Hrapp
into his company.
"Most men will get ill luck from this man," she says; "but thou
wilt have thy way."
So Hrapp was there after that. He was a great wanderer, and was
never at home. He still brings about meetings with Gudruna; her
father and brother, Thrand and Gudbrand, lay in wait for him, but
they could never get nigh him, and so all that year passed away.
Gudbrand sent and told Earl Hacon what trouble he had had with
Hrapp, and the earl let him be made an outlaw, and laid a price
upon his head. He said, too, that he would go himself to look
after him; but that passed off, and the earl thought it easy
enough for them to catch him when he went about so unwarily.
87. THRAIN TOOK TO HRAPP
That same summer Njal's sons fared to Norway from the Orkneys, as
was before written, and they were there at the fair during the
summer. Then Thrain Sigfus' son busked his ship for Iceland, and
was all but "boun." At that time Earl Hacon went to a feast at
Gudbrand's house. That night Killing-Hrapp came to the shrine of
Earl Hacon and Gudbrand, and he went inside the house, and there
he saw Thorgerda Shrinebride sitting, and she was as tall as a
fullgrown man. She had a great gold ring on her arm, and a
wimple on her head; he strips her of her wimple, and takes the
gold ring from off her. Then he sees Thor's car, and takes from
him a second gold ring; a third he took from Irpa; and then
dragged them all out, and spoiled them of all their gear.
After that he laid fire to the shrine, and burnt it down, and
then he goes away just as it began to dawn. He walks across a
ploughed field, and there six men sprang up with weapons, and
fall upon him at once; but he made a stout defence, and the end
of the business was that he slays three men, but wounds Thrand to
the death, and drives two to the woods, so that they could bear
no news to the earl. He then went up to Thrand and said, "It is
now in my power to slay thee if I will, but I will not do that;
and now I will set more store by the ties that are between us
than ye have shown to me."
Now Hrapp means to turn back to the wood, but now he sees that
men have come between him and the wood, so he dares not venture
to turn thither, but lays him down in a thicket, and so lies
there a while.
Earl Hacon and Gudbrand went that morning early to the shrine and
found it burnt down; but the three gods were outside, stripped of
all their bravery.
Then Gudbrand began to speak, and said, "Much might is given to
our gods, when here they have walked of themselves out of the
"The gods can have naught to do with it," says the earl; "a man
must have burnt the shrine, and borne the gods out; but the gods
do not avenge everything on the spot. That man who has done this
will no doubt be driven away out of Valhalla, and never come in
Just then up ran four of the earl's men, and told them ill
tidings for they said they had found three men slain in the
field, and Thrand wounded to the death.
"Who can have done this?" says the earl.
"Killing-Hrapp," they say.
"Then he must have burnt down the shrine," says the earl.
They said they thought he was like enough to have done it.
"And where may he be now?" says the earl.
They said that Thrand had told them that he had lain down in a
The earl goes thither to look for him, but Hrapp was off and
away. Then the earl set his men to search for him, but still
they could not find him. So the earl was in the hue and cry
himself, but first he bade them rest a while.
Then the earl went aside by himself, away from other men, and
bade that no man should follow him, and so he stays a while. He
fell down on both his knees, and held his hands before his eyes;
after that he went back to them, and then he said to them, "Come
So they went along with him. He turns short away from the path
on which they had walked before, and they came to a dell. There
up sprang Hrapp before them, and there it was that he had hidden
himself at first.
The earl urges on his men to run after him, but Hrapp was so
swift-footed that they never came near him. Hrapp made for
Hlada. There both Thrain and Njal's sons lay "boun" for sea at
the same time. Hrapp runs to where Njal's sons are.
"Help me, like good men and true," he said, "for the earl will
Helgi looked at him, and said, "Thou lookest like an unlucky man,
and the man who will not take thee in will have the best of it."
"Would that the worst might befall you from me," says Hrapp.
"I am the man," says Helgi, "to avenge me on thee for this as
time rolls on."
Then Hrapp turned to Thrain Sigfus' son, and bade him shelter
"What hast thou on thy hand?" says Thrain.
"I have burnt a shrine under the earl's eyes, and slain some men,
and now he will be here speedily, for he has joined in the hue
and cry himself."
"It hardly beseems me to do this," says Thrain, "when the earl
has done me so much good."
Then he shewed Thrain the precious things which he had borne out
of the shrine, and offered to give him the goods, but Thrain said
he could not take them unless he gave him other goods of the same
worth for them.
"Then," said Hrapp, "here will I take my stand, and here shall
I be slain before thine eyes, and then thou wilt have to abide by
every man's blame."
Then they see the earl and his band of men coming, and then
Thrain took Hrapp under his safeguard, and let them shove off the
boat, and put out to his ship.
Then Thrain said, "Now this will be thy best hiding place, to
knock out the bottoms of two casks, and then thou shalt get into
So it was done, and he got into the casks, and then they were
lashed together, and lowered overboard.
Then comes the earl with his band to Njal's sons, and asked if
Hrapp had come there.
They said that he had come.
The earl asked whither he had gone thence?
They said they had not kept eyes on him, and could not say.
"He," said the earl, "should have great honour from me who would
tell me where Hrapp was."
Then Grim said softly to Helgi, "Why should we not say, What know
I whether Thrain will repay us with any good?"
"We should not tell a whit more for that," says Helgi, "when his
life lies at stake."
"May be," said Grim, "the earl will turn his vengeance on us,
for he is so wroth that some one will have to fall before him."
"That must not move us," says Helgi, "but still we will pull our
ship out, and so away to sea as soon as ever we get a wind."
So they rowed out under an isle that lay there, and wait there
for a fair breeze.
The earl went about among the sailors, and tried them all, but
they, one and all, denied that they knew aught of Hrapp.
Then the earl said, "Now we will go to Thrain, my brother in
arms, and he will give Hrapp up, if he knows anything of him."
After that they took a long-ship and went off to the merchant
Thrain sees the earl coming, and stands up and greets him kindly.
The earl took his greeting well and spoke thus, -- "We are
seeking for a man whose name is Hrapp, and he is an Icelander.
He has done us all kind of ill; and now we will ask you to be
good enough to give him up, or to tell us where he is."
"Ye know, lord," said Thrain, "that I slew your outlaw, and
then put my fife in peril, and for that I had of you great
"More honour shalt thou now have," says the earl.
Now Thrain thought within himself, and could not make up his mind
how the earl would take it, so he denies that Hrapp is here, and
bade the earl to look for him. He spent little time on that, and
went on land alone, away from other men, and was then very wroth,
so that no man dared to speak to him.
"Shew me to Njal's sons," said the earl, "and I will force them
to tell me the truth."
Then he was told that they had put out of the harbour.
"Then there is no help for it," says the earl, "but still there
were two water-casks alongside of Thrain's ship, and in them a
man may well have been hid, and if Thrain has bidden him, there
he must be; and now we will go a second time to see Thrain."
Thrain sees that the earl means to put off again and said,
"However wroth the earl was last time, now he will be half as
wroth again, and now the life of every man on board the ship lies
They all gave their words to hide the matter, for they were all
sore afraid. Then they took some sacks out of the lading, and
put Hrapp down into the hold in their stead, and other sacks that
were light were laid over him.
Now comes the earl, just as they were done stowing Hrapp away.
Thrain greeted the earl well. The earl was rather slow to return
it, and they saw that the earl was very wroth.
Then said the earl to Thrain, "Give thou up Hrapp, for I am quite
sure that thou hast hidden him."
"Where shall I have hidden him, Lord?" says Thrain.
"That thou knowest best," says the earl; "but if I must guess,
then I think that thou hiddest him in the water-casks a while
"Well!" says Thrain, "I would rather not be taken for a liar, far
sooner would I that ye should search the ship."
Then the earl went on board the ship and hunted and hunted, but
found him not.
"Dost thou speak me free now?" says Thrain.
"Far from it," says the earl, "and yet I cannot tell why we
cannot find him, but methinks I see through it all when I come on
shore, but when I come here, I can see nothing."
With that he made them row him ashore. He was so wroth that
there was no speaking to him. His son Sweyn was there with him,
and he said, "A strange turn of mind this to let guiltless men
smart for one's wrath!"
Then the earl went away alone aside from other men, and after
that he went back to them at once, and said, "Let us row out to
them again," and they did so.
"Where can he have been hidden?" says Sweyn.
"There's not much good in knowing that," says the earl, "for now
he will be away thence; two sacks lay there by the rest of the
lading, and Hrapp must have come into the lading in their place."
Then Thrain began to speak, and said, "They are running off the
ship again, and they must mean to pay us another visit. Now we
will take him out of the lading, and stow other things in his
stead, but let the sacks still lie loose. They did so, and then
Thrain spoke: "Now let us fold Hrapp in the sail."
It was then brailed up to the yard, and they did so.
Then the earl comes to Thrain and his men, and he was very wroth,
and said, "Wilt thou now give up the man, Thrain?" and he is
worse now than before.
"I would have given him up long ago," answers Thrain, "if he had
been in my keeping, or where can he have been?"
"In the lading," says the earl.
"Then why did ye not seek him there?" says Thrain.
"That never came into our mind," says the earl.
After that they sought him over all the ship, and found him not.
"Will you now hold me free?" says Thrain.
"Surely not," says the earl, "for I know that thou hast hidden
away the man, though I find him not; but I would rather that thou
shouldst be a dastard to me than I to thee," says the earl, and
then they went on shore.
"Now," says the earl, "I seem to see that Thrain has hidden away
Hrapp in the sail."
Just then, up sprung a fair breeze, and Thrain and his men sailed
out to sea. He then spoke these words which have long been held
in mind since --
"Let us make the Vulture fly,
Nothing now gars Thrain flinch."
But when the earl heard of Thrain's words, then he said, "'Tis
not my want of foresight which caused this, but rather their
ill-fellowship, which will drag them both to death."
Thrain was a short time out on the sea, and so came to Iceland,
and fared home to his house. Hrapp went along with Thrain, and
was with him that year; but the spring after, Thrain got him a
homestead at Hrappstede, and he dwelt there; but yet he spent
most of his time at Gritwater. He was thought to spoil
everything there, and some men even said that he was too good
friends with Hallgerda, and that he led her astray, but some
spoke against that.
Thrain gave the Vulture to his kinsman, Mord the Reckless; that
Mord slew Oddi Haldor's son, east in Gautawick by Berufirth.
All Thrain's kinsmen looked on him as a chief.
88. EARL HACON FIGHTS WITH NJAL'S SONS.
Now we must take up the story, and say how, when Earl Hacon
missed Thrain, he spoke to Sweyn his son, and said, "Let us take