Part 5 out of 9
four long-ships, and let us fare against Njal's sons and slay
them, for they must have known all about it with Thrain."
"'Tis not good counsel," says Sweyn, "to throw the blame on
guiltless men, but to let him escape who is guilty."
"I shall have my way in this," says the earl.
Now they hold on after Njal's sons, and seek for them, and find
them under an island.
Grim first saw the earl's ships and said to Helgi, "Here are war
ships sailing up, and I see that here is the earl, and he can
mean to offer us no peace."
"It is said," said Helgi, "that he is the boldest man who holds
his own against all comers, and so we will defend ourselves."
They all bade him take the course he thought best, and then they
took to their arms.
Now the earl comes up and called out to them, and bade them give
Helgi said that they would defend themselves so long as they
Then the earl offered peace and quarter to all who would neither
defend themselves nor Helgi; but Helgi was so much beloved that
all said they would rather die with him.
Then the earl and his men fall on them, but they defended
themselves well, and Njal's sons were ever where there was most
need. The earl often offered peace, but they all made the same
answer, and said they would never yield.
Then Aslak of Longisle pressed them hard and came on board their
ship thrice. Then Grim said, "Thou pressest on hard, and 'twere
well that thou gettest what thou seekest;" and with that he
snatched up a spear and hurled it at him, and hit him under the
chin, and Aslak got his death wound there and then.
A little after, Helgi slew Egil the earl's banner-bearer.
Then Sweyn, Earl Hacon's son, fell on them, and made men hem them
in and bear them down with shields, and so they were taken
The earl was for letting them all be slain at once, but Sweyn
said that should not be, and said too that it was night.
Then the earl said, "Well, then, slay them to-morrow, but bind
them fast to-night."
"So, I ween, it must be," says Sweyn; "but never yet have I met
brisker men than these, and I call it the greatest manscathe to
take their lives."
"They have slain two of our briskest men," said the earl, "and
for that they shall be slain."
"Because they were brisker men themselves," says Sweyn; "but
still in this it must be done as thou willest."
So they were bound and fettered.
After that the earl fell asleep; but when all men slept, Grim
spoke to Helgi, and said, "Away would I get if I could."
"Let us try some trick then," says Helgi.
Grim sees that there lies an axe edge up, so Grim crawled
thither, and gets the bowstring which bound him cut asunder
against the axe, but still he got great wounds on his arms.
Then he set Helgi loose, and after that they crawled over the
ship's side, and got on shore, so that neither Hacon nor his men
were ware of them. Then they broke off their fetters, and walked
away to the other side of the island. By that time it began to
dawn. There they found a ship, and knew that there was come Kari
Solmund's son. They went at once to meet him, and told him of
their wrongs and hardships, and showed him their wounds, and said
the earl would be then asleep.
"Ill is it," said Kari, "that ye should suffer such wrongs for
wicked men; but what now would be most to your minds?"
"To fall on the earl," they say, "and slay, him."
"This will not be fated," says Kari; "but still ye do not lack
heart, but we will first know whether he is there now."
After that they fared thither, and then the earl was up and away.
Then Kari sailed in to Hlada to meet the earl, and brought him
the Orkney scatts, so the earl said, "Hast thou taken Njal's sons
into thy keeping?"
"So it is, sure enough," says Kari.
"Wilt thou hand Njal's sons over to me?" asks the earl.
"No, I will not," said Kari.
"Wilt thou swear this," says the earl, "that thou wilt not fall
on me with Njal's sons?"
Then Eric, the earl's son, spoke and said, "Such things ought
not to be asked. Kari has always been our friend, and things
should not have gone as they have, had I been by. Njal's sons
should have been set free from all blame, but they should have
had chastisement who had wrought for it. Methinks now it would
be more seemly to give Njal's sons good gifts for the hardships
and wrongs which have been put upon them, and the wounds they
"So it ought to be, sure enough," says the earl, "but I know not
whether they will take an atonement."
Then the earl said that Kari should try the feeling of Njal's
sons as to an atonement.
After that Kari spoke to Helgi, and asked whether he would take
any amends from the earl or not.
"I will take them," said Helgi, "from his son Eric, but I will
have nothing to do with the earl."
Then Kari told Eric their answer.
"So it shall be." says Eric. "He shall take the amends from me
if he thinks it better; and tell them this too, that I bid them
to my house, and my father shall do them no harm."
This bidding they took, and went to Eric's house, and were with
him till Kari was ready to sail west across the sea to meet Earl
Then Eric made a feast for Kari, and gave him gifts, and Njal's
sons gifts too. After that Kari fared west across the sea, and
met Earl Sigurd, and he greeted them very well, and they were
with the earl that winter.
But when the spring came, Kari asked Njal's sons to go on warfare
with him, but Grim said they would only do so if he would fare
with them afterwards out to Iceland. Kari gave his word to do
that, and then they fared with him a-searoving. They harried
south about Anglesea and all the Southern isles. Thence they
held on to Cantyre, and landed there, and fought with the
landsmen, and got thence much goods, and so fared to their ships.
Thence they fared south to Wales, and harried there. Then
they held on for Alan, and there they met Godred, and fought with
him, and got the victory, and slew Dungal the king's son. There
they took great spoil. Thence they held on north to Coll, and
found Earl Gilli there, and he greeted them well and there they
stayed with him a while. The earl fared with them to the Orkneys
to meet Earl Sigurd, but next spring Earl Sigurd gave away his
sister Nereida to Earl Gilli, and then he fared back to the
89. NJAL'S SONS AND KARI COME OUT TO ICELAND
That summer Kari and Njal's sons busked them for Iceland, and
when they were "all-boun" they went to see the earl. The earl
gave them good gifts, and they parted with great friendship.
Now they put to sea and have a short passage, and they got a fine
fair breeze, and made the land at Eyrar. Then they got them
horses and ride from the ship to Bergthorsknoll, but when they
came home all men were glad to see them. They flitted home their
goods and laid up the ship, and Kari was there that winter with
But the spring after, Kari asked for Njal's daughter, Helga, to
wife, and Helgi and Grim backed his suit; and so the end of it
was that she was betrothed to Kari and the day for the wedding-
feast was fixed, and the feast was held half a month before
mid-summer, and they were that winter with Njal.
Then Kari bought him land at Dyrholms, east away by Mydale, and
set up a farm there; they put in there a grieve and housekeeper
to see after the farm, but they themselves were ever with Njal.
90. THE QUARREL OF NJAL'S SONS WITH THRAIN SIGFUS' SON
Hrapp owned a farm at Hrappstede, but for all that he was always
at Gritwater, and he was thought to spoil everything there.
Thrain was good to him.
Once on a time it happened that Kettle of the Mark was at
Bergthorsknoll; then Njal's sons told him of their wrongs and
hardships, and said they had much to lay at Thrain Sigfus son's
door, whenever they chose to speak about it.
NjaI said it would be best that Kettle should talk with his
brother Thrain about it, and he gave his word to do so.
So they gave Kettle breathing-time to talk to Thrain.
A little after they spoke of the matter again to Kettle, but he
said that be would repeat few of the words that had passed
between them, "For it was pretty plain that Thrain thought I set
too great store on being your brother-in-law."
Then they dropped talking about it, and thought they saw that
things looked ugly, and so they asked their father for his
counsel as to what was to be done, but they told him they would
not let things rest as they then stood.
"Such things," said Njal, "are not so strange. It will be
thought that they are slain without a cause, if they are slain
now, and my counsel is, that as many men as may be should be
brought to talk with them about these things, and thus as many as
we can find may be ear-witnesses if they answer ill as to these
things. Then Kari shall talk about them too, for he is just the
man with the right turn of mind for this; then the dislike
between you will grow and grow, for they will heap bad words on
bad words when men bring the matter forward, for they are foolish
men. It may also well be that it may be said that my sons are
slow to take up a quarrel, but ye shall bear that for the sake of
gaining time, for there are two sides to everything that is done,
and ye can always pick a quarrel; but still ye shall let so much
of your purpose out, as to say that if any wrong be put upon you
that ye do mean something. But if ye had taken counsel from me
at first, then these things should never have been spoken about
at all, and then ye would have gotten no disgrace from them; but
now ye have the greatest risk of it, and so it will go on ever
growing and growing with your disgrace, that ye will never get
rid of it until ye bring yourselves into a strait, and have to
fight your way out with weapons; but in that there is a long and
weary night in which ye will have to grope your way."
After that they ceased speaking about it; but the matter became
the daily talk of many men.
One day it happened that those brothers spoke to Kari and bade
him go to Gritwater. Kari said he thought he might go
elsewhither on a better journey, but still he would go if that
were Njal's counsel. So after that Kari fares to meet Thrain,
and then they talk over the matter, and they did not each look at
it in the same way.
Kari comes home, and Njal's sons ask how things had gone between
Thrain and him. Kari said he would rather not repeat the words
that had passed, "But," he went on, "it is to be looked for that
the like words will be spoken when ye yourselves can hear them."
Thrain had fifteen house-carles trained to arms in his house, and
eight of them rode with him whithersoever he went. Thrain was
very fond of show and dress, and always rode in a blue cloak, and
had on a gilded helm, and the spear -- the earl's gift -- in his
band, and a fair shield, and a sword at his belt. Along with him
always went Gunnar Lambi's son, and Lambi Sigurd's son, and Grani
Gunnar of Lithend's son. But nearest of all to him went Killing-
Hrapp. Lodinn was the name of his serving-man, he too went with
Thrain when he journeyed; Tjorvi was the name of Lodinn's
brother, and he too was one of Thrain's band. The worst of all,
in their words against Njal's sons, were Hrapp and Grani; and it
was mostly their doing that no atonement was offered to them.
Njal's sons often spoke to Kari that he should ride with them;
and it came to that at last, for he said it would be well that
they heard Thrain's answer.
Then they busked them, four of Njal's sons, and Kari the fifth,
and so they fare to Gritwater.
There was a wide porch in the homestead there, so that many men
might stand in it side by side. There was a woman out of doors,
and she saw their coming, and told Thrain of it; he bade them to
go out into the porch, and take their arms, and they did so.
Thrain stood in mid-door, but Killing-Hrapp and Grani Gunnar's
son stood on either hand of him; then next stood Gunnar Lambi's
son, then Lodinn and Tjorvi, then Lambi Sigurd's son; then each
of the others took his place right and left; for the house-carles
were all at home.
Skarphedinn and his men walk up from below, and he went first,
then Kari, then Hauskuld, then Grim, then Helgi. But when they
had come up to the door, then not a word of welcome passed the
lips of those who stood before them.
"May we all be welcome here?" said Skarphedinn.
Hallgerda stood in the porch, and had been talking low to Hrapp,
then she spoke out loud: "None of those who are here will say
that ye are welcome."
Then Skarphedinn sang a song:
"Prop of sea-waves' fire (1), thy fretting
Cannot cast a weight on us,
Warriors wight; yes, wolf and eagle
Willingly I feed to-day;
Carline thrust into the ingle,
Or a tramping whore, art thou;
Lord of skates that skim the sea-belt (2),
Odin's mocking cup (3) I mix"
"Thy words," said Skarphedinn, "will not be worth much, for thou
art either a hag, only fit to sit in the ingle, or a harlot."
"These words of thine thou shalt pay for," she says, "ere thou
"Thee am I come to see, Thrain," said Helgi, "and to know if thou
wilt make me any amends for those wrongs and hardships which
befell me for thy sake in Norway."
"I never knew," said Thrain, "that ye two brothers were wont to
measure your manhood by money; or, how long shall such a claim
for amends stand over?"
"Many will say," says Helgi, "that thou oughtest to offer us
atonement, since thy life was at stake."
Then Hrapp said, "'Twas just luck that swayed the balance, when
he got stripes who ought to bear them; and she dragged you under
disgrace and hardships, but us away from them."
"Little good luck was there in that," says Helgi, "to break faith
with the earl, and to take to thee instead."
"Thinkest thou not that thou hast some amends to seek from me,"
says Hrapp. "I will atone thee in a way that, methinks, were
"The only dealings we shall have," says Helgi, "will be those
which will not stand thee in good stead."
"Don't bandy words with Hrapp," said Skarphedinn, "but give him a
red skin for a grey." (4)
"Hold thy tongue, Skarphedinn," said Hrapp, "or I will not spare
to bring my axe on thy head."
"'Twill be proved soon enough, I dare say," says Skarphedinn,
"which of us is to scatter gravel over the other's head."
"Away with you home, ye `Dungbeardlings!'" says Hallgerda, "and
so we will call you always from this day forth; but your father
we will call `the Beardless Carle.'"
They did not fare home before all who were there had made
themselves guilty of uttering those words, save Thrain; he
forbade men to utter them.
Then Njal's sons went away, and fared till they came home, then
they told their father.
"Did ye call any men to witness of those words?" says Njal.
"We called none," says Skarphedinn; "we do not mean to follow
that suit up except on the battle-field."
"No one will now think," says Bergthora, "that ye have the heart
to lift your weapons."
"Spare thy tongue, mistress!" says Kari, "in egging on thy sons,
for they will be quite eager enough."
After that they all talk long in secret, Njal and his sons, and
Kari Solmund's son, their brother-in-law.
(l) "Prop of sea-waves' fire," a periphrasis for woman that
bears gold on her arm.
(2) "Skates that skim." etc.. a periphrasis for ships.
(3) "Odin's mocking cup," mocking songs.
(4) An allusion to the Beast Epic, where the cunning fox laughs
at the flayed condition of his stupid foes, the wolf and
bear. We should say, "Don't stop to speak with him, but
rather beat him black and blue."
91. THRAIN SIGFUS' SON'S SLAYING
Now there was great talk about this quarrel of theirs, and all
seemed to know that it would not settle down peacefully.
Runolf, the son of Wolf Aurpriest, east in the Dale, was a great
friend of Thrain's, and had asked Thrain to come and see him, and
it was settled that he should come east when about three weeks or
a month were wanting to winter.
Thrain bade Hrapp, and Grani, and Gunnar Lambi's son, and Lambi
Sigurd's son, and Lodinn, and Tjorvi, eight of them in all, to go
on this journey with him. Hallgerda and Thorgerda were to go
too. At the same time Thrain gave it out that he meant to stay
in the Mark with his brother Kettle, and said how many nights he
meant to be away from home.
They all of them had full arms. So they rode east across
Markfleet, and found there some gangrel women, and they begged
them to put them across the Fleet west on their horses, and they
Then they rode into the Dale, and had a hearty welcome; there
Kettle of the Mark met them, and there they sate two nights.
Both Runolf and Kettle besought Thrain that he would make up his
quarrel with Njal's sons; but he said he would never pay any
money, and answered crossly, for he said he thought himself quite
a match for Njal's sons wherever they met.
"So it may be," says Runolf; "but so far as I can see, no man has
been their match since Gunnar of Lithend died and it is likelier
that ye will both drag one another down to death."
Thrain said that was not to be dreaded.
Then Thrain fared up into the Mark, and was there two nights
more; after that he rode down into the Dale, and was sent away
from both houses with fitting gifts.
Now the Markfleet was then flowing between sheets of ice on both
sides, and there were tongues of ice bridging it across every
here and there.
Thrain said that he meant to ride home that evening, but Runolf
said that he ought not to ride home; he said, too, that it would
be more wary not to fare back as he had said he would before he
"That is fear, and I will none of it," answers Thrain.
Now those gangrel women whom they had put across the Fleet came
to Bergthorsknoll, and Bergthora asked whence they came, but they
answered, "Away east under Eyjafell."
"Then, who put you across Markfleet?" said Bergthora.
"Those," said they, "who were the most boastful and bravest clad
"Who?" asked Bergthora.
"Thrain Sigfus' son," said they, "and his company, but we thought
it best to tell thee that they were so full-tonged towards this
house, against thy husband and his sons."
"Listeners do not often hear good of themselves," says Bergthora.
After that they went their way, and Bergthora gave them gifts on
their going, and asked them when Thrain might be coming home.
They said that he would be from home four or five nights.
After that Bergthora told her sons and her son-in-law Kari, and
they talked long and low about the matter.
But that same morning when Thrain and his men rode from the east,
Njal woke up early and heard how Skarphedinn's axe came against
Then Njal rises up, and goes out, and sees that his sons are all
there with their weapons, and Kari, his son-in-law too.
Skarphedinn was foremost. He was in a blue cape, and had a
targe, and his axe aloft on his shoulder. Next to him went
Helgi; he was in a red kirtle, had a helm on his head, and a red
shield, on which a hart was marked. Next to him went Kari; he
had on a silken jerkin, a gilded helm and shield, and on it was
drawn a lion. They were all in bright holiday clothes.
Njal called out to Skarphedinn, "Whither art thou going,
"On a sheep hunt," he said.
"So it was once before," said Njal, "but then ye hunted men."
Skarphedinn laughed at that, and said, "Hear ye what the old man
says? He is not without his doubts."
"When was it that thou spokest thus before," asks Kari.
"When I slew Sigmund the White," says Skarphedinn, "Gunnar of
"For what?" asks Kari.
"He had slain Thord Freedmanson, my foster-father."
Njal went home, but they fared up into the Redslips, and bided
there; thence they could see the others as soon as ever they rode
from the east out of the Dale.
There was sunshine that day and bright weather.
Now Thrain and his men ride down out of the Dale along the river
Lambi Sigurd's son said, "Shields gleam away yonder in the
Redslips when the sun shines on them, and there must be some men
lying in wait there."
"Then," says Thrain, "we will turn our way lower down the Fleet,
and then they will come to meet us if they have any business with
So they turn down the Fleet. "Now they have caughtsight of us,"
said Skarphedinn, "for lo! they turn their path elsewhither, and
now we have no other choice than to run down and meet them."
"Many men," said Kari, "would rather not lie in wait if the
balance of force were not more on their side than it is on ours;
they are eight, but we are five."
Now they turn down along the Fleet, and see a tongue of ice
bridging the stream lower down and mean to cross there.
Thrain and his men take their stand upon the ice away from the
tongue, and Thrain said, "What can these men want? They are
five, and we are eight."
"I guess," said Lambi Sigurd's son, "that they would still run
the risk though more men stood against them."
Thrain throws off his cloak, and takes off his helm.
Now it happened to Skarphedinn, as they ran down along the Fleet,
that his shoe-string snapped asunder, and he stayed behind.
"Why so slow, Skarphedinn?" quoth Grim.
"I am tying my shoe," he says.
"Let us get on ahead," says Kari; "methinks he will not be slower
So they turn off to the tongue, and run as fast as they can.
Skarphedinn sprang up as soon as he was ready, and had lifted his
axe, "the ogress of war," aloft, and runs right down to the
Fleet. But the Fleet was so deep that there was no fording it
for a long way up or down.
A great sheet of ice had been thrown up by the flood on the other
side of the Fleet as smooth and slippery as glass, and there
Thrain and his men stood in the midst of the sheet.
Skarphedinn takes a spring into the air, and leaps over the
stream between the icebanks, and does not check his course, but
rushes still onwards with a slide. The sheet of ice was very
slippery, and so he went as fast as a bird flies. Thrain was
just about to put his helm on his head; and now Skarphedinn bore
down on them, and hews at Thrain with his axe, "the ogress of
war," and smote him on the head, and clove him down to the teeth,
so that his jaw-teeth fell out on the ice. This feat was done
with such a quick sleight that no one could get a blow at him; he
glided away from them at once at full speed. Tjorvi, indeed,
threw his shield before him on the ice, but he leapt over it, and
still kept his feet, and slid quite to the end of the sheet of
There Kari and his brothers came to meet him.
"This was done like a man," says Kari.
"Your share is still left," says Skarphedinn, and sang a song:
"To the strife of swords not slower,
After all, I came than you,
For with ready stroke the sturdy
Squanderer of wealth I felled;
But since Grim's and Helgi's sea-stag (1)
Norway's Earl erst took and stripped,
Now 'tis time for sea-fire bearers (2)
Such dishonour to avenge."
And this other song he sang:
"Swiftly down I dashed my weapon,
Gashing giant, byrnie-breacher (3),
She, the noisy ogre's namesake (4),
Soon with flesh the ravens glutted;
Now your words to Hrapp remember,
On broad ice now rouse the storm,
With dull crash war's eager ogress
Battle's earliest note hath sung."
"That befits us well, and we will do it well," says Helgi.
Then they turn up towards them. Both Grim and Helgi see where
Hrapp is, and they turned on him at once. Hrapp hews at Grim
there and then with his axe; Helgi sees this and cuts at Hrapp's
arm, and cut it off, and down fell the axe.
"In this," says Hrapp, "thou hast done a most needful work, for
this hand hath wrought harm and death to many a man."
"And so here an end shall be put to it," says Grim; and with
that he ran him through with a spear, and then Hrapp fell down
Tjorvi turns against Kari and hurls a spear at him. Kari leapt
up in the air, and the spear flew below his feet. Then Kari
rushes at him, and hews at him on the breast with his sword, and
the blow passed at once into his chest, and he got his death
there and then.
Then Skarphedinn seizes both Gunnar Lambi's son, and Grani
Gunnar's son, and said, "Here have I caught two whelps! but what
shall we do with them?
"It is in thy power," says Helgi, "to slay both or either of
them, if you wish them dead."
"I cannot find it in my heart to do both -- help Hogni and slay
his brother," says Skarphedinn.
"Then the day will once come," says Helgi, "when thou wilt wish
that thou hadst slain him, for never will he be true to thee, nor
will any one of the others who are now here."
"I shall not fear them," answers Skarphedinn.
After that they gave peace to Grani Gunnar's son, and Gunnar
Lambi's son, and Lambi Sigurd's son, and Lodinn.
After that they went down to the Fleet where Skarphedinn had
leapt over it, and Kari and the others measured the length of the
leap with their spear-shafts, and it was twelve ells (5).
Then they turned homewards, and Njal asked what tidings. They
told him all just as it had happened, and Njal said, "These are
great tidings, and it is more likely that hence will come the
death of one of my sons, if not more evil."
Gunnar Lambi's son bore the body of Thrain with him to Gritwater,
and he was laid in a cairn there.
(1) "Sea-stag," periphrasis for ship.
(2) "Sea-fire bearers," the bearers of gold, men, that is, Helgi
(3) "Byrnie-breacher," piercer of coats of mail.
(4) "Noisy ogre's namesake," an allusion to the name of Skarp
hedinn's axe, "the ogress of war."
(5) Twelve ells, about twenty-four feet (the Norse ell being
something more than two feet), a good jump, but not beyond
the power of man. Comp. "Orkn. Saga", ch. 113, new ed.,
vol. i., 457, where Earl Harold leaps nine ells over a dike.
92. KETTLE TAKES HAUSKULD AS HIS FOSTER-SON
Kettle of the Mark had to wife Thorgerda Njal's daughter, but he
was Thrain's brother, and he thought he was come into a strait,
so he rode to Njal's house, and asked whether he were willing to
atone in any way for Thrain's slaying?
"I will atone for it handsomely," answered Njal; "and my wish is
that thou shouldst look after the matter with thy brothers who
have to take the price of the atonement, that they may be ready
to join in it."
Kettle said he would do so with all his heart, and Kettle rode
home first; a little after, he summoned all his brothers to
Lithend, and then he had a talk with them; and Hogni was on his
side all through the talk; and so it came about that men were
chosen to utter the award; and a meeting was agreed on, and the
fair price of a man was awarded for Thrain's slaying, and they
all had a share in the blood-money who had a lawful right to it.
After that pledges of peace and good faith were agreed to, and
they were settled in the most sure and binding way.
Njal paid down all the money out of hand well and bravely; and so
things were quiet for a while.
One day Njal rode up into the Mark, and he and Kettle talked
together the whole day; Njal rode home at even, and no man knew
of what they had taken counsel.
A little after Kettle fares to Gritwater, and he said to
Thorgerda, "Long have I loved my brother Thrain much, and now I
will shew it, for I will ask Hauskuld Thrain's son to be my
"Thou shalt have thy choice of this," she says; "and thou shalt
give this lad all the help in thy power when he is grown up, and
avenge him if he is slain with weapons, and bestow money on him
for his wife's dower; and besides, thou shalt swear to do all
Now Hauskuld fares home with Kettle, and is with him some time.
93. NJAL TAKES HAUSKULD TO FOSTER
Once on a time Njal rides up into the Mark, and he had a hearty
welcome. He was there that night, and in the evening Njal called
out to the lad Hauskuld, and he went up to him at once.
Njal had a ring of gold on his hand, and showed it to the lad.
He took hold of the gold, and looked at it, and put it on his
"Wilt thou take the gold as a gift?" said Njal.
"That I will," said the lad.
"Knowest thou," says Njal, "what brought thy father to his
"I know," answers the lad, "that Skarphedinn slew him; but we
need not keep that in mind, when an atonement has been made for
it, and a full price paid for him."
"Better answered than asked," said Njal; "and thou wilt live to
be a good man and true," he adds.
"Methinks thy forecasting," says Hauskuld, "is worth having, for
I know that thou art foresighted and unlying."
"Now will I offer to foster thee," said Njal, "if thou wilt take
He said he would be willing to take both that honour and any
other good offer which he might make. So the end of the matter
was, that Hauskuld fared home with Njal as his foster-son.
He suffered no harm to come nigh the lad, and loved him much.
Njal's sons took him about with them, and did him honour in every
way. And so things go on till Hauskuld is full grown. He was
both tall and strong; the fairest of men to look on, and well
haired; blithe of speech, bountiful, well behaved; as well
trained to arms as the best; fairspoken to all men, and much
Njal's sons and Hauskuld were never apart, either in word or
94. OF FLOSI THORD'S SON
There was a man named Flosi, he was the son of Thord Freyspriest
(1). Flosi had to wife Steinvora, daughter of Hall of the Side.
She was base born, and her mother's name was Solvora, daughter of
Herjolf the White. Flosi dwelt at Swinefell, and was a mighty
chief. He was tall of stature, and strong, withal, the most
forward and boldest of men. His brother's name was Starkad (2);
he was not by the same mother as Flosi.
The other brothers of Flosi were Thorgeir and Stein, Kolbein and
Egil. Hildigunna was the name of the daughter of Starkad Flosi's
brother. She was a proud, high-spirited maiden, and one of the
fairest of women. She was so skilful with her hands, that few
women were equally skilful. She was the grimmest and hardest-
hearted of all women; but still a woman of open hand and heart
when any fitting call was made upon her.
(1) Thord was the son of Auzur, the son of Asbjorn Eyjangr the
son of Bjorn, the son of Helgi, the son of Bjorn the
Roughfooted, the son of Grim, the Lord of Sogn. The mother
of Flosi was Ingunna, daughter of Thorir of Espihole, the
son of Hamond Hellskin, the son of Hjor, the son of Half,
who ruled over the men of Half, the son of Hjorfeif, the
lover of women. The mother of Thorir was Ingunna, daughter
of Helgi the Lean, who took the land round Eyjafirth, as the
(2) The mother of Starkad was Thraslauga, daughter of Thorstein
titling the son of Gerleif; but the mother of Thraslauga was
Aud; she was a daughter of Eyvind Karf, one of the first
settlers, and sister of Modolf the Wise.
95. OF HALL OF THE SIDE
Hall was the name of a man who was called Hall of the Side. He
was the son of Thorstein Baudvar's son (1). Hall had to wife
Joreida, daughter of Thidrandi (2) the Wise. Thorstein was the
name of Hall's brother, and he was nick-named Broad-paunch. His
son was Kol, whom Kari slays in Wales. The sons of Hall of the
Side were Thorstein and Egil, Thorwald and Ljot, and Thidrandi,
whom, it is said, the goddesses slew.
There was a man named Thorir, whose surname was Holt-Thorir; his
sons were these: -- Thorgeir Craggeir, and Thorleif Crow, from
whom the Wood-dwellers are come, and Thorgrim the Big.
(1) Hall's mother's name was Thordisa, and she was a daughter of
Auzur, the son of Hrodlaug, the son of Earl Rognvald of
Maeren, the son of Eystein the Noisy.
(2) Thidrandi was the son of Kettle Rumble, the son of Thorir,
the son of Thidrandi of Verudale. The brothers of Thidrandi
were Kettle Rumble, in Njordwick, and Thorwald, the father
of Helgi Droplaug's son. Hallkatla was the sister of
Joreida. She was the mother of Thorkel Geiti's son, and
96. OF THE CHANGE OF FAITH
There had been a change of rulers in Norway, Earl Hacon was dead
and gone, but in his stead was come Olaf Tryggvi's son. That was
the end of Earl Hacon, that Kark the thrall cut his throat at
Rimul in Gaulardale.
Along with that was heard that there had been a change of faith
in Norway; they had cast off the old faith, but King Olaf had
christened the western lands, Shetland, and the Orkneys, and the
Then many men spoke so that Njal heard it, that it was a strange
and wicked thing to throw off the old faith.
Then Njal spoke and said, "It seems to me as though this new
faith must be much better, and he will be happy who follows this
rather than the other; and if those men come out hither who
preach this faith, then I will back them well."
He went often alone away from other men and muttered to himself.
That same harvest a ship came out into the firths east to
Berufirth, at a spot called Gautawick. The captain's name was
Thangbrand. He was a son of Willibald, a count of Saxony.
Thangbrand was sent out hither by King Olaf Tryggvi's son, to
preach the faith. Along with him came that man of Iceland whose
name was Gudleif (1). Gudleif was a great man-slayer, and one of
the strongest of men, and hardy and forward in everything.
Two brothers dwelt at Beruness; the name of the one was Thorleif,
but the other was Kettle. They were sons of Holmstein, the son
of Auzur of Broaddale. These brothers held a meeting and forbade
men to have any dealings with them. This Hall of the Side heard.
He dwelt at Thvattwater in Alftafirth; he rode to the ship with
twenty-nine men, and he fares at once to find Thangbrand, and
spoke to him and asked him, "Trade is rather dull, is it not?"
He answered that so it was.
"Now will I say my errand," says Hall; "it is, that I wish to ask
you all to my house, and run the risk of my being able to get rid
of your wares for you."
Thangbrand thanked him, and fared to Thvattwater that harvest.
It so happened one morning that Thangbrand was out early and made
them pitch a tent on land, and sang mass in it, and took much
pains with it, for it was a great high day.
Hall spoke to Thangbrand and asked, "In memory of whom keepest
thou this day?"
"In memory of Michael the archangel," says Thangbrand.
"What follows that angel?" asks Hall.
"Much good," says Thangbrand. "He will weigh all the good that
thou doest, and he is so merciful, that whenever any one pleases
him, he makes his good deeds weigh more."
"I would like to have him for my friend," says Hall.
"That thou mayest well have," says Thangbrand, "only give thyself
over to him by God's help this very day."
"I only make this condition," says Hall, "that thou givest thy
word for him that he will then become my guardian angel."
"That I will promise," says Thangbrand.
Then Hall was baptized, and all his household.
(1) He was the son of Ari, the son of Mar, the son of Atli, the
son of Wolf Squinteye, the son of Hogni the White, the son
of Otryg, the son of Oblaud, the son of Hjorleif the lover
of women, King of Hordaland.
97. OF THANGBRAND'S JOURNEYS
The spring after Thangbrand set out to preach Christianity, and
Hall went with him. But when they came west across Lonsheath to
Staffell, there they found a man dwelling named Thorkell. He
spoke most against the faith, and challenged Thangbrand to single
combat. Then Thangbrand bore a rood-cross (1) before his shield,
and the end of their combat was that Thangbrand won the day and
Thence they fared to Hornfirth and turned in as guests at
Borgarhaven, west of Heinabergs sand. There Hilldir the Old
dwelt (2), and then Hilldir and all his household took upon them
the new faith.
Thence they fared to Fellcombe, and went in as guests to
Calffell. There dwelt Kol Thorstein's son, Hall's kinsman, and
he took upon him the faith and all his house.
Thence they fared to Swinefell, and Flosi only took the sign of
the cross, but gave his word to back them at the Thing.
Thence they fared west to Woodcombe, and went in as guests at
Kirkby. There dwelt Surt Asbjorn's son, the son of Thorstein,
the son of Kettle the Foolish. These had all of them been
Christians from father to son.
After that they fared out of Woodcombe on to Headbrink. By that
time the story of their journey was spread far and wide. There
was a man named Sorcerer-Hedinn who dwelt in Carlinedale. There
heathen men made a bargain with him that he should put Thangbrand
to death with all his company. He fared upon Arnstacksheath, and
there made a great sacrifice when Thangbrand was riding from the
east. Then the earth burst asunder under his horse, but he
sprang off his horse and saved himself on the brink of the gulf,
but the earth swallowed up the horse and all his harness, and
they never saw him more.
Then Thangbrand praised God.
(1) Rood-cross, a crucifix.
(2) His son was Glum who fared to the burning with Flosi.
98. OF THANGBRAND AND GUDLEIF
Gudleif now searches for Sorcerer-Hedinn and finds him on the
heath, and chases him down into Carlinedale, and got within
spearshot of him, and shoots a spear at him and through him.
Thence they fared to Dyrholms and held a meeting there, and
preached the faith there, and there Ingialld, the son of
Thorsteinn Highbankawk, became a Christian.
Thence they fared to the Fleetlithe and preached the faith there.
There Weatherlid the Skald, and Ari his son, spoke most against
the faith, and for that they slew Weatherlid, and then this song
was sung about it --
"He who proved his blade on bucklers,
South went through the land to whet
Brand that oft hath felled his foeman,
'Gainst the forge which foams with song (1);
Mighty wielder of war's sickle
Made his sword's avenging edge
Hard on hero's helm-prop rattle (2),
Skull of Weatherlid the Skald."
Thence Thangbrand fared to Bergthorsknoll, and Njal took the
faith and all his house, but Mord and Valgard went much against
it, and thence they fared out across the rivers; so they went on
into Hawkdale and there they baptized Hall (3), and he was then
three winters old.
Thence Thangbrand fared to Grimsness, there Thorwald the Scurvy
gathered a band against him, and sent word to Wolf Uggi's son
that he must fare against Thangbrand and slay him, and made this
song on him --
"To the wolf in Woden's harness,
Uggi's worthy warlike son,
I, steel's swinger dearly loving,
This my dimple bidding send;
That the wolf of Gods (4) he chaseth --
Man who snaps at chink of gold --
Wolf who base our Gods blasphemeth,
I the other wolf (5) will crush."
Wolf sang another song in return:
"Swarthy skarf from mouth that skimmeth
Of the man who speaks in song
Never will I catch, though surely
Wealthy warrior it hath sent;
Tender of the sea-horse snorting,
E'en though ill deeds are on foot,
Still to risk mine eyes are open;
Harmful 'tis to snap at flies (6)."
"And," says he, "I don't mean to be made a catspaw by him, but
let him take heed lest his tongue twists a noose for his own
And after that the messenger fared back to Thorwald the Scurvy
and told him Wolf's words. Thorwald had many men about him, and
gave it out that he would lie in wait for them on Bluewood-heath.
Now those two, Thangbrand and Gudleif, ride out of Hawkdale, and
there they came upon a man who rode to meet them. That man asked
for Gudleif, and when he found him he said, "Thou shalt gain by
being the brother of Thorgil of Reykiahole, for I will let thee
know that they have set many ambushes, and this too, that
Thorwald the Scurvy is now with his band at Hestbeck on
"We shall not the less for all that ride to meet him," says
Gudleif, and then they turned down to Hestbeck. Thorwald was
then come across the brook, and Gudleif said to Thangbrand, "Here
is now Thorwald; let us rush on him now."
Thangbrand shot a spear through Thorwald, but Gudleif smote him
on the shoulder and hewed his arm off, and that was his death.
After that they ride up to the Thing, and it was a near thing
that the kinsmen of Thorwald had fallen on Thangbrand, but Njal
and the eastfirthers stood by Thangbrand.
Then Hjallti Skeggi's son sang this rhyme at the Hill of Laws:
"Ever will I Gods blaspheme
Freyja methinks a dog does seem,
Freyja a dog? Aye! let them be
Both dogs together Odin and she (7)."
Hjallti fared abroad that summer and Gizur the White with him,
but Thangbrand's ship was wrecked away east at Bulandsness, and
the ship's name was Bison.
Thangbrand and his messmate fared right through the west country,
and Steinvora, the mother of Ref the Skald, came against him; she
preached the heathen faith to Thangbrand and made him a long
speech. Thangbrand held his peace while she spoke, but made a
long speech after her, and turned all that she had said the wrong
way against her.
"Hast thou heard," she said, "how Thor challenged Christ to
single combat, and how he did not dare to fight with Thor?"
"I have heard tell," says Thangbrand, "that Thor was naught but
dust and ashes, if God had not willed that he should live."
"Knowest thou," she says, "who it was that shattered thy ship?"
"What hast thou to say about that?" he asks.
"That I will tell thee," she says:
"He that giant's offspring (8) slayeth
Broke the mew-field's bison stout (9),
Thus the Gods, bell's warder (10) grieving,
Crushed the falcon of the strand (11);
To the courser of the causeway (12)
Little good was Christ I ween,
When Thor shattered ships to pieces
Gylfi's hart (13) no God could help."
And again she sung another song:
"Thangbrand's vessel from her moorings,
Sea-king's steed, Thor wrathful tore,
Shook and shattered all her timbers,
Hurled her broadside on the beach;
Ne'er again shall Viking's snow-shoe (14),
On the briny billows glide,
For a storm by Thor awakened,
Dashed the bark to splinters small."
After that Thangbrand and Steinvora parted, and they fared west
(1) "Forge which foams with song," the poet's head, in which
songs are forged, and gush forth like foaming mead.
(2) "Hero's helm-prop," the hero's, man's, head which supports
(3) It is needless to say that this Hall was not Hall of the
(4) "Wolf of Gods," the "caput lupinum," the outlaw of heaven,
the outcast from Valhalla, Thangbrand.
(5) "The other wolf," Gudleif.
(6) "Swarthy skarf," the skarf, or "pelecanus carbo", the
cormorant. He compares the message of Thorwald to the
cormorant skimming over the waves, and says he will never
take it. "Snap at flies," a very common Icelandic metaphor
from fish rising to a fly.
(7) Maurer thinks the allusion is here to some mythological
legend on Odin's adventures which has not come down to us.
(8) "He that giant's," etc., Thor.
(9) "Mew-field's bison," the sea-going ship, which sails over
the plain of the sea-mew.
(10) "Bell's warder," the Christian priest whose bell-ringing
formed part of the rites of the new faith.
(11) "Falcon of the strand," ship.
(12) "Courser of the causeway," ship.
(13) "Gylfi's hart," ship.
(14) "Viking's snow-shoe," sea-king's ship.
99. OF GEST ODDLEIF'S SON
Gest Oddleit's son dwelt at Hagi on Bardastrand. He was one of
the wisest of men, so that he foresaw the fates and fortunes of
men. He made a feast for Thangbrand and his men. They fared to
Hagi with sixty men. Then it was said that there were two
hundred heathen men to meet them, and that a Baresark was looked
for to come thither, whose name was Otrygg, and all were afraid
of him. Of him such great things as these were said, that he
feared neither fire nor sword, and the heathen men were sore
afraid at his coming. Then Thangbrand asked if men were willing
to take the faith, but all the heathen met spoke against it.
"Well," says Thangbrand, "I will give you the means whereby ye
shall prove whether my faith is better. We will hallow two
fires. The heathen men shall hallow one and I the other, but a
third shall be unhallowed; and if the Baresark is afraid of the
one that I hallow, but treads both the others, then ye shall take
"That is well spoken," says Gest, "and I will agree to this for
myself and my household."
And when Gest had so spoken, then many more agreed to it.
Then it was said that the Baresark was coming up to the
homestead, and then the fires were made and burnt strong. Then
men took their arms and sprang up on the benches, and so
The Baresark rushed in with his weapons. He comes into the room,
and treads at once the fire which the heathen men had hallowed,
and so comes to the fire that Thangbrand had hallowed, and dares
not to tread it, but said that he was on fire all over. He hews
with his sword at the bench, but strikes a crossbeam as he
brandished the weapon aloft. Thangbrand smote the arm of the
Baresark with his crucifix, and so mighty a token followed that
the sword fell from the Baresark's hand.
Then Thangbrand thrusts a sword into his breast, and Gudleif
smote him on the arm and hewed it off. Then many went up and
slew the Baresark.
After that Thangbrand asked if they would take the faith now?
Gest said he had only spoken what he meant to keep to.
Then Thangbrand baptized Gest and all his house and many others.
Then Thangbrand took counsel with Gest whether he should go any
further west among the firths, but Gest set his face against
that, and said they were a hard race of men there, and ill to
deal with, "but if it be foredoomed that this faith shall make
its way, then it will be taken as law at the Althing, and then
all the chiefs out of the districts will be there."
"I did all that I could at the Thing," says Thangbrand, "and it
was very uphill work."
"Still thou hast done most of the work," says Gest, "though it
may be fated that others shall make Christianity law; but it is
here as the saying runs, `No tree falls at the first stroke.'"
After that Gest gave Thangbrand good gifts, and he fared back
south. Thangbrand fared to the Southlander's Quarter, and so to
the Eastfirths. He turned in as a guest at Bergthorsknoll, and
Njal gave him good gifts. Thence he rode east to Alftafirth to
meet Hall of the Side. He caused his ship to be mended, and
heathen men called it "Iron-basket." On board that ship
Thangbrand fared abroad, and Gudleif with him.
100. OF GIZUR THE WHITE AND HJALLTI
That same summer Hjallti Skeggi's son was outlawed at the Thing
for blasphemy against the Gods.
Thangbrand told King Olaf of all the mischief that the Icelanders
had done to him, and said that they were such sorcerers there
that the earth burst asunder under his horse and swallowed up the
Then King Olaf was so wroth that he made them seize all the men
from Iceland and set them in dungeons, and meant to slay them.
Then they, Gizur the White and Hjallti, came up and offered to
lay themselves in pledge for those men, and fare out to Iceland
and preach the faith. The king took this well, and they got them
all set free again.
Then Gizur and Hjallti busked their ship for Iceland, and were
soon "boun." They made the land at Eyrar when ten weeks of
summer had passed; they got them horses at once, but left other
men to strip their ship. Then they ride with thirty men to the
Thing, and sent word to the Christian men that they must be ready
to stand by them.
Hjallti stayed behind at Reydarmull, for he had heard that he had
been made an outlaw for blasphemy, but when they came to the
"Boiling Kettle" (1) down below the brink of the Rift (2), there
came Hjallti after them, and said he would not let the heathen
men see that he was afraid of them.
Then many Christian men rode to meet them, and they ride in
battle array to the Thing. The heathen men had drawn up their
men in array to meet them, and it was a near thing that the whole
body of the Thing had come to blows, but still it did not go so
(1) "Boiling kettle." This was a hyer, or hot spring.
(2) This was the "Raven's Rift," opposite to the "Great Rift" on
the other side of Thingfield.
101. OF THORGEIR OF LIGHTWATER
There was a man named Thorgeir who dwelt at Lightwater; he was
the son of Tjorfi, the son of Thorkel the Long, the son of Kettle
Longneck. His mother's name was Thoruna, and she was the
daughter of Thorstein, the son of Sigmund, the son of Bard of the
Nip. Gudrida was the name of his wife; she was a daughter of
Thorkel the Black of Hleidrargarth. His brother was Worm Wallet-
back, the father of Hlenni the Old of Saurby (1).
The Christian men set up their booths, and Gizur the White and
Hjallti were in the booths of the men from Mossfell. The day
after both sides went to the Hill of Laws, and each, the
Christian men as well as the heathen, took witness, and declared
themselves out of the other's laws, and then there was such an
uproar on the Hill of Laws that no man could hear the other's
After that men went away, and all thought things looked like the
greatest entanglement. The Christian men chose as their Speaker
Hall of the Side, but Hall went to Thorgeir, the priest of
Lightwater, who was the old Speaker of the law, and gave him
three marks of silver (2) to utter what the law should be, but
still that was most hazardous counsel, since he was an heathen.
Thorgeir lay all that day on the ground, and spread a cloak over
his head, so that no man spoke with him; but the day after men
went to the Hill of Laws, and then Thorgeir bade them be silent
and listen, and spoke thus: "It seems to me as though our matters
were come to a dead lock, if we are not all to have one and the
same law; for if there be a sundering of the laws, then there
will be a sundering of the peace, and we shall never be able to
live in the land. Now, I will ask both Christian men and heathen
whether they will hold to those laws which I utter?"
They all said they would.
He said he wished to take an oath of them, and pledges that they
would hold to them, and they all said "yea" to that, and so he
took pledges from them.
"This is the beginning of our laws," he said, "that all men shall
be Christian here in the land, and believe in one God, the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, but leave off all idol-
worship, not expose children to perish, and not eat horseflesh.
It shall be outlawry if such things are proved openly against any
man; but if these things are done by stealth, then it shall be
But all this heathendom was all done away with within a few
years' space, so that those things were not allowed to be done
either by stealth or openly.
Thorgeir then uttered the law as to keeping the Lord's day and
fast days, Yuletide and Easter, and all the greatest highdays and
The heathen men thought they had been greatly cheated; but still
the true faith was brought into the law, and so all men became
Christian here in the land.
After that men fare home from the Thing.
(1) Kettle and Thorkel were both sons of Thorir Tag, the son of
Kettle the Seal, the son of Ornolf, the son of Bjornolf, the
son of Grim Hairycheek, the son of Kettle Haeing, the son of
Hallbjorn Halftroll of Ravensfood.
(2) This was no bribe, but his lawful fee.
102. THE WEDDING OF HAUSKULD, THE PRIEST OF WHITENESS
Now we must take up the story, and say that Njal spoke thus to
Hauskuld, his foster-son, and said, "I would seek thee a match."
Hauskuld bade him settle the matter as he pleased, and asked
whether he was most likely to turn his eyes.
"There is a woman called Hildigunna," answers Njal, "and she is
the daughter of Starkad, the son of Thord Freyspriest. She is
the best match I know of."
"See thou to it, foster-father," said Hauskuld; "that shall be my
choice which thou choosest."
"Then we will look thitherward," says Njal.
A little while after, Njal called on men to go along with him.
Then the sons of Sigfus, and Njal's sons, and Kari Solmund's son,
all of them fared with him and they rode east to Swinefell.
There they got a hearty welcome.
The day after, Njal and Flosi went to talk alone, and the speech
of Njal ended thus, that he said, "This is my errand here, that
we have set out on a wooing-journey, to ask for thy kinswoman
"At whose hand?" says Flosi.
"At the hand of Hauskuld, my foster-son," says Njal.
"Such things are well meant," says Flosi, "but still ye run each
of you great risk, the one from the other; but what hast thou to
say of Hauskuld?"
"Good I am able to say of him," says Njal; "and besides, I will
lay down as much money as will seem fitting to thy niece and
thyself, if thou wilt think of making this match.
"We will call her hither," says Flosi, "and know how she looks on
Then Hildigunna was called, and she came thither.
Flosi told her of the wooing, but she said she was a proudhearted
"And I know not how things will turn out between me and men of
like spirit; but this, too, is not the least of my dislike, that
this man has no priesthood or leadership over men, but thou hast
always said that thou wouldest not wed me to a man who had not
"This is quite enough," says Flosi, "if thou wilt not be wedded
to Hauskuld, to make me take no more pains about the match."
"Nay! " she says, "I do not say that I will not be wedded to
Hauskuld if they can get him a priesthood or a leadership over
men; but otherwise I will have nothing to say to the match."
"Then," said Njal, "I will beg thee to let this match stand over
for three winters, that I may see what I can do."
Flosi said that so it should be.
"I will only bargain for this one thing," says Hildigunna, "if
this match comes to pass, that we shall stay here away east."
Njal said he would rather leave that to Hauskuld, but Hauskuld
said that he put faith in many men, but in none so much as his
Now they ride from the east.
Njal sought to get a priesthood and leadership for Hauskuld, but
no one was willing to sell his priesthood, and now the summer
passes away till the Althing.
There were great quarrels at the Thing that summer, and many a
man then did as was their wont, in faring to see Njal; but he
gave such counsel in men's lawsuits as was not thought at all
likely, so that both the pleadings and the defence came to
naught, and out of that great strife arose, when the lawsuits
could not be brought to an end, and men rode home from the Thing
Now things go on till another Thing comes. Njal rode to the
Thing, and at first all is quiet until Njal says that it is high
time for men to give notice of their suits.
Then many said that they thought that came to little, when no man
could get his suit settled, even though the witnesses were
summoned to the Althing, "and so," say they, "we would rather
seek our rights with point and edge."
"So it must not be," says Njal, "for it will never do to have no
law in the land. But yet ye have much to say on your side in
this matter, and it behoves us who know the law, and who are
bound to guide the law, to set men at one again, and to ensue
peace. 'Twere good counsel, then, methinks, that we call
together all the chiefs and talk the matter over."
Then they go to the Court of Laws, and Njal spoke and said,
"Thee, Skapti Thorod's son and you other chiefs, I call on, and
say, that methinks our lawsuits have come into a dead lock, if we
have to follow up our suits in the Quarter Courts, and they get
so entangled that they can neither be pleaded nor ended.
Methinks, it were wiser if we had a Fifth Court, and there
pleaded those suits which cannot be brought to an end in the
"How," said Skapti, "wilt thou name a Fifth Court, when the
Quarter Court is named for the old priesthoods, three twelves in
"I can see help for that," says Njal, "by setting up new
priesthoods, and filling them with the men who are best fitted in
each Quarter, and then let those men who are willing to agree to
it, declare themselves ready to join the new priest's Thing."
"Well," says Skapti, "we will take this choice; but what weighty
suits shall come before the court?"
"These matters shall come before it," says Njal, -- "all matters
of contempt of the Thing, such as if men bear false witness, or
utter a false finding; hither, too, shall come all those suits in
which the judges are divided in opinion in the Quarter Court;
then they shall be summoned to the Fifth Court; so, too, if men
offer bribes, or take them, for their help in suits. In this
court all the oaths shall be of the strongest kind, and two men
shall follow every oath, who shall support on their words of
honour what the others swear. So it shall be also, if the
pleadings on one side are right in form, and the other wrong,
that the judgment shall be given for those that are right in
form. Every suit in this court shall be pleaded just as is now
done in the Quarter Court, save and except that when four twelves
are named in the Fifth Court, then the plaintiff shall name and
set aside six men out of the court, and the defendant other six;
but if he will not set them aside, then the plaintiff shall name
them and set them aside as he has done with his own six; but if
the plaintiff does not set them aside, then the suit comes to
naught, for three twelves shall utter judgment on all suits. We
shall also have this arrangement in the Court of Laws, that those
only shall have the right to make or change laws who sit on the
middle bench, and to this bench those only shall be chosen who
are wisest and best. There, too, shall the Fifth Court sit; but
if those who sit in the Court of Laws are not agreed as to what
they shall allow or bring in as law, then they shall clear the
court for a division, and the majority shall bind the rest; but
if any man who has a seat in the Court be outside the Court of
Laws and cannot get inside it, or thinks himself overborne in the
suit, then he shall forbid them by a protest, so that they can
hear it in the Court, and then he has made all their grants and
all their decisions void and of none effect, and stopped them by
After that, Skapti Thorod's son brought the Fifth Court into the
law, and all that was spoken of before. Then men went to the
Hill of Laws, and men set up new priesthoods: In the
Northlanders' Quarter were these new priesthoods. The priesthood
of the Melmen in Midfirth, and the Laufesingers' priesthood in
Then Njal begged for a hearing, and spoke thus: "It is known to
many men what passed between my sons and the men of Gritwater
when they slew Thrain Sigfus' son. But for all that we settled
the matter; and now I have taken Hauskuld into my house, and
planned a marriage for him if he can get a priesthood anywhere;
but no man will sell his priesthood, and so I will beg you to
give me leave to set up a new priesthood at Whiteness for
He got this leave from all, and after that he set up the new
priesthood for Hauskuld; and he was afterwards called Hauskuld,
the Priest of Whiteness.
After that, men ride home from the Thing, and Njal stayed but a
short time at home ere he rides east to Swinefell, and his sons
with him, and again stirs in the matter of the marriage with
Flosi; but Flosi said he was ready to keep faith with them in
Then Hildigunna was betrothed to Hauskuld, and the day for the
wedding feast was fixed, and so the matter ended. They then ride
home, but they rode again shortly to the bridal, and Flosi paid
down all her goods and money after the wedding, and all went off
They fared home to Bergthorsknoll, and were there the next year,
and all went well between Hildigunna and Bergthom. But the next
spring Njal bought land in Ossaby, and hands it over to Hauskuld,
and thither he fares to his own abode. Njal got him all his
household, and there was such love between them all, that none of
them thought anything that he said or did any worth unless the
others had a share in it.
Hauskuld dwelt long at Ossaby, and each backed the other's
honour, and Njal's sons were always in Hauskuld's company. Their
friendship was so warm, that each house bade the other to a feast
every harvest, and gave each other great gifts; and so it goes on
for a long while.
103. THE SLAYING OF HAUSKULD NJAL'S SON
There was a man named Lyting; he dwelt at Samstede, and he had to
wife a woman named Steinvora; she was a daughter of Sigfus, and
Thrain's sister. Lyting was tall of growth and a strong man,
wealthy in goods and ill to deal with.
It happened once that Lyting had a feast in his house at
Samstede, and he had bidden thither Hauskuld and the sons of
Sigfus, and they all came. There, too, was Grani Gunnar's son,
and Gunnar Lambi's son, and Lambi Sigurd's son.
Hauskuld Njal's son and his mother had a farm at Holt, and he was
always riding to his farm from Bergthorsknoll, and his path lay
by the homestead at Samstede. Hauskuld had a son called Amund;
he had been born blind, but for all that he was tall and strong.
Lytina had two brothers -- the one's name was Hallstein, and the
other's Hallgrim. They were the most unruly of men, and they
were ever with their brother, for other men could not bear their
Lyting was out of doors most of that day, but every now and then
he went inside his house. At last he had gone to his seat, when
in came a woman who had been out of doors, and she said, "You
were too far off to see outside how that proud fellow rode by the
"What proud fellow was that," says Lyting "of whom thou
"Hauskuld Njal's son rode here by the yard," she says.
"He rides often here by the farm-yard," said Lyting, "and I can't
say that it does not try my temper; and now I will make thee an
offer, Hauskuld, to go along with thee if thou wilt avenge thy
father and slay Hauskuld Njal's son."
"That I will not do," says Hauskuld, "for then I should repay
Njal, my foster-father, evil for good, and mayst thou and thy
feasts never thrive henceforth."
With that he sprang up away from the board, and made them catch
his horses, and rode home.
Then Lyting said to Grani Gunnar's son, "Thou wert by when Thrain
was slain, and that will still be in thy mind; and thou, too,
Gunnar Lambi's son, and thou, Lambi Sigurd's son. Now, my will
is that we ride to meet him this evening, and slay him."
"No," says Grani, "I will not fall on Njal's son, and so break
the atonement which good men and true have made."
With like words spoke each man of them, and so, too, spoke all
the sons of Sigfus; and they took that counsel to ride away.
Then Lyting said, when they had gone away, "All men know that I
have taken no atonement for my brother-in-law Thrain, and I shall
never be content that no vengeance -- man for man -- shall be
taken for him."
After that he called on his two brothers to go with him, and
three house-carles as well. They went on the way to meet
Hauskuld as he came back, and lay in wait for him north of the
farm-yard in a pit; and there they bided till it was about
mideven (1). Then Hauskuld rode up to them. They jump up all of
them with their arms, and fall on him. Hauskuld guarded himself
well, so that for a long while they could not get the better of
him; but the end of it was at last that he wounded Lyting on the
arm, and slew two of his serving-men, and then fell himself.
They gave Hauskuld sixteen wounds, but they hewed not off the
head from his body. They fared away into the wood east of
Rangriver, and hid themselves there.
That same evening, Rodny's shepherd found Hauskuld dead, and went
home and told Rodny of her son's slaying.
"Was he surely dead?" she asks; "was his head off?"
"It was not," he says.
"I shall know if I see," she says; "so take thou my horse and
He did so, and got all things ready, and then they went thither
where Hauskuld lay.
She looked at the wounds, and said, "'Tis even as I thought, that
he could not be quite dead, and Njal no doubt can cure greater
After that they took the body and laid it on the sledge and drove
to Bergthorsknoll, and drew it into the sheepcote, and made him
sit upright against the wall.
Then they went both of them and knocked at the door, and a house-
carle went to the door. She steals in by him at once, and goes
till she comes to Njal's bed.
She asked whether Njal were awake? He said he had slept up to
that time, but was then awake.
"But why art thou come hither so early?"
"Rise thou up," said Rodny, "from thy bed by my rival's side, and
come out, and she too, and thy sons, to see thy son Hauskuld."
They rose and went out.
"Let us take our weapons," said Skarphedinn, "and have them
Njal said naught at that, and they ran in and came out again
She goes first till they come to the sheepcote; she goes in and
bade them follow her. Then she lit a torch, and held it up and
said, "Here, Njal, is thy son Hauskuld, and he hath gotten many
wounds upon him, and now he will need leechcraft."
"I see death marks on him," said Njal, "but no signs of life; but
why hast thou not closed his eyes and nostrils? see, his
nostrils are still open!"
"That duty I meant for Skarphedinn," she says.
Then Skarphedinn went to close his eyes and nostrils, and said to
his father, "Who, sayest thou, hath slain him?"
"Lyting of Samstede and his brothers must have slain him," says
Then Rodny said, "Into thy hands, Skarphedinn, I leave it to take
vengeance for thy brother, and I ween that thou wilt take it
well, though he be not lawfully begotten, and that thou wilt not
be slow to take it."
"Wonderfully do ye men behave," said Bergthora, "when ye slay men
for small cause, but talk and tarry over such as this until no
vengeance at all is taken; and now of this will soon come to
Hauskuld, the Priest of Whiteness, and he will be offering you
atonement, and you will grant him that, but now is the time to
set about it, if ye seek for vengeance."
"Our mother eggs us on now with a just goading," said
Skarphedinn, and sang a song.
"Well we know the warrior's temper (2),
One and all, well, father thine,
But atonement to the mother,
Snake-land's stem (3) and thee were base;
He that hoardeth ocean's fire (4)
Hearing this will leave his home;
Wound of weapon us hath smitten,
Worse the lot of those that wait!"
After that they all ran out of the sheepcote, but Rodny went
indoors with Njal, and was there the rest of the night.
(1) Mideven, six o'clock p.m.
(2) "Warrior's temper," the temper of Hauskuld of Whiteness.
(3) "Snake-land's stem," a periphrasis for woman, Rodny.
(4) "He that hoardeth ocean's fire," a periphrasis for man,
Hauskuld of Whiteness.
104. THE SLAYING OF LYTING'S BROTHERS
Now we must speak of Skarphedinn and his brothers, how they bend
their course up to Rangriver. Then Skarphedinn said, "Stand we
here and listen, and let us go stilly, for I hear the voices of
men up along the river's bank. But will ye, Helgi and Grim, deal
with Lyting single-handed, or with both his brothers?"
They said they would sooner deal with Lyting alone.
"Still," says Skarphedinn, "there is more game in him, and
methinks it were ill if he gets away, but I trust myself best for
not letting him escape."
"We will take such steps," says Helgi, "if we get a chance at
him, that he shall not slip through our fingers."
Then they went thitherward, where they heard the voices of men,
and see where Lyting and his brothers are by a stream.
Skarphedinn leaps over the stream at once, and alights on the
sandy brink on the other side. There upon it stands Hallgrim and
his brother. Skarphedinn smites at Hallgrim's thigh, so that he
cut the leg clean off, but he grasps Hallstein with his left
hand. Lyting thrust at Skarphedinn, but Helgi came up then and
threw his shield before the spear, and caught the blow on it.
Lyting took up a stone and hurled it at Skarphedinn, and he lost
his hold on Hallstein. Hallstein sprang up the sandy bank, but
could get up it in no other way than by crawling on his hands and
knees. Skarphedinn made a side blow at him with his axe, "the
ogress of war," and hews asunder his backbone. Now Lyting turns
and flies, but Helgi and Grim both went after him, and each gave
him a wound, but still Lyting got across the river away from
them, and so to the horses, and gallops till he comes to Ossaby.
Hauskuld was at home, and meets him at once. Lyting told him of
"Such things were to be looked for by thee," says Hauskuld.
"Thou hast behaved like a madman, and here the truth of the old
saw will be proved; `but a short while is hand fain of blow.'
Methinks what thou hast got to look to now is whether thou wilt
be able to save thy life or not."
"Sure enough," says Lyting, "I had hard work to get away, but
still I wish now that thou wouldest get me atoned with Njal and
his sons, so that I might keep my farm."
"So it shall be," says Hauskuld.
After that Hauskuld made them saddle his horse, and rode to
Bergthorsknoll with five men. Njal's sons were then come home
and had laid them down to sleep.
Hauskuld went at once to see Njal, and they began to talk.
"Hither am I come," said Hauskuld to Njal, "to beg a boon on
behalf of Lyting, my uncle. He has done great wickedness against
you and yours, broken his atonement and slain thy son."
"Lyting will perhaps think," said Njal, "that he has already paid
a heavy fine in the loss of his brothers, but if I grant him any
terms, I shall let him reap the good of my love for thee, and I
will tell thee before I utter the award of atonement, that
Lyting's brothers shall fall as outlaws. Nor shall Lyting have
any atonement for his wounds, but on the other hand, he shall pay
the full blood-fine for Hauskuld."
"My wish," said Hauskuld, "is, that thou shouldest make thine own
"Well," says Njal, "then I will utter the award at once if thou
"Wilt thou," says Hauskuld, "that thy sons should be by?"
"Then we should be no nearer an atonement than we were before,"
says Njal, "but they will keep to the atonement which I utter."
Then Hauskuld said, "Let us close the matter then, and handsel
him peace on behalf of thy sons."
"So it shall be," says Njal. "My will then is, that he pays two
hundred in silver for the slaying of Hauskuld, but he may still
dwell at Samstede; and yet I think it were wiser if he sold his
land and changed his abode; but not for this quarrel; neither I
nor my sons will break our pledges of peace to him; but methinks
it may be that some one may rise up in this country against whom
he may have to be on his guard. Yet, lest it should seem that I
make a man an outcast from his native place, I allow him to be
here in this neighbourhood, but in that case he alone is
answerable for what may happen."
After that Hauskuld fared home, and Njal's sons woke up as he
went and asked their father who had come, but he told them that
his foster-son Hauskuld had been there.
"He must have come to ask a boon for Lyting then," said
"So it was," says Njal.
"Ill was it then," says Grim.
"Hauskuld could not have thrown his shield before him," says
Njal, "if thou hadst slain him, as it was meant thou shouldst."
"Let us throw no blame on our father," says Skarphedinn.
Now it is to be said that this atonement was kept between them
105. OF AMUND THE BLIND
That event happened three winters after at the Thingskala-Thing
that Amund the Blind was at the Thing; he was the son of Hauskuld
Njal's son. He made men lead him about among the booths, and so
he came to the booth inside which was Lyting of Samstede. He
made them lead him into the booth till he came before Lyting.
"Is Lyting of Samstede here?" he asked.
"What dost thou want?" says Lyting.
"I want to know," says Amund, "what atonement thou wilt pay me
for my father. I am base-born, and I have touched no fine."
"I have atoned for the slaying of thy father," says Lyting, "with
a full price, and thy father's father and thy father's brothers
took the money; but my brothers fell without a price as outlaws;
and so it was that I had both done an ill deed, and paid dear for
"I ask not," says Amund, "as to thy having paid an atonement to
them. I know that ye two are now friends, but I ask this, what
atonement thou wilt pay to me?"
"None at all," says Lyting.
"I cannot see," says Amund, "how thou canst have right before
God, when thou hast stricken me so near the heart; but all I can
say is, that if I were blessed with the sight of both my eyes, I
would have either a money fine for my father, or revenge man for
man, and so may God judge between us."
After that he went out; but when he came to the door of the
booth, he turned short round towards the inside. Then his eyes
were opened, and he said, "Praised be the Lord! Now I see what
his will is."
With that he ran straight into the booth until he comes before
Lyting, and smites him with an axe on the head, so that it sunk
in up to the hammer, and gives the axe a pull towards him.
Lyting fell forwards and was dead at once.
Amund goes out to the door of the booth, and when he got to the
very same spot on which he had stood when his eyes were opened,
lo! they were shut again, and he was blind all his life after.
Then he made them lead him to Njal and his sons, and he told them
of Lyting's slaying.
"Thou mayest not be blamed for this," says Njal, "for such things
are settled by a higher power; but it is worth while to take
warning from such events, lest we cut any short who have such
near claims as Amund had."
After that Njal offered an atonement to Lyting's kinsmen.
Hauskuld the Priest of Whiteness had a share in bringing Lyting's
kinsmen to take the fine, and then the matter was put to an
award, and half the fines fell away for the sake of the claim
which he seemed to have on Lyting.
After that men came forward with pledges of peace and good faith,
and Lyting's kinsmen granted pledges to Amund. Men rode home
from the Thing; and now all is quiet for a long while.
106. OF VALGARD THE GUILEFUL
Valgard the Guileful came back to Iceland that summer; he was
then still heathen. He fared to Hof to his son Mord's house, and
was there the winter over. He said to Mord, "Here I have ridden
far and wide all over the neighbourhood, and methinks I do not
know it for the same. I came to Whiteness, and there I saw many
tofts of booths and much ground levelled for building. I came to
Thingskala-Thing, and there I saw all our booths broken down.
What is the meaning of such strange things?
"New priesthoods," answers Mord, "have been set up here, and a
law for a Fifth Court, and men have declared themselves out of my
Thing, and have gone over to Hauskuld's Thing."
"Ill hast thou repaid me," said Valgard, "for giving up to thee
my priesthood, when thou hast handled it so little like a man,
and now my wish is that thou shouldst pay them off by something
that will drag them all down to death; and this thou canst do by
setting them by the ears by talebearing, so that Njal's sons may
slay Hauskuld; but there are many who will have the blood-feud
after him, and so Njal's sons will be slain in that quarrel."
"I shall never be able to get that done," says Mord.
"I will give thee a plan," says Valgard; "thou shalt ask Njal's
sons to thy house, and send them away with gifts, but thou shalt
keep thy tale-bearing in the background until great friendship
has sprung up between you, and they trust thee no worse than
their own selves. So wilt thou be able to avenge thyself on
Skarphedinn for that he took thy money from thee after Gunnar's
death; and in this wise, further on, thou wilt be able to seize
the leadership when they are all dead and gone."
This plan they settled between them should be brought to pass;
and Mord said, "I would, father, that thou wouldst take on thee
the new faith. Thou art an old man.
"I will not do that," says Valgard. "I would rather that thou
shouldst cast off the faith, and see what follows then."
Mord said he would not do that. Valgard broke crosses before
Mord's face, and all holy tokens. A little after Valgard took a
sickness and breathed his last, and he was laid in a cairn by
107. OF MORD AND NJAL'S SONS
Some while after Mord rode to Bergthorsknoll and saw Skarphedinn
there; he fell into very fair words with them, and so he talked
the whole day, and said he wished to be good friends with them,
and to see much of them.
Skarphedinn took it all well, but said he had never sought for
anything of the kind before. So it came about that he got
himself into such great friendship with them, that neither side
thought they had taken any good counsel unless the other had a
share in it.
Njal always disliked his coming thither, and it often happened
that he was angry with him.
It happened one day that Mord came to Bergthorsknoll, and Mord
said to Njal's sons, "I have made up my mind to give a feast
yonder, and I mean to drink in my heirship after my father, but
to that feast I wish to bid you, Njal's sons, and Kari; and at
the same time I give you my word that ye shall not fare away
They promised to go, and now he fares home and makes ready the
feast. He bade to it many householders, and that feast was very
Thither came Njal's sons and Kari. Mord gave Skarphedinn a
brooch of gold, and a silver belt to Kari, and good gifts to Grim
They come home and boast of these gifts, and show them to Njal.
He said they would be bought full dear, "and take heed that ye do
not repay the giver in the coin which he no doubt wishes to get."
108. OF THE SLANDER OF MORD VALGARD'S SON.
A little after Njal's sons and Hauskuld were to have their yearly
feasts, and they were the first to bid Hauskuld to come to them.
Skarphedinn had a brown horse four winters old, both tall and
sightly. He was a stallion, and had never yet been matched in
fight. That horse Skarphedinn gave to Hauskuld, and along with
him two mares. They all gave Hauskuld gifts, and assured him of
After that Hauskuld bade them to his house at Ossaby, and had
many guests to meet them, and a great crowd.
It happened that he had just then taken down his hall, but he had
built three outhouses, and there the beds were made.
So all that were bidden came, and the feast went off very well.
But when men were to go home Hauskuld picked out good gifts for
them, and went a part of the way with Njal's sons.
The sons of Sigfus followed him and all the crowd, and both sides
said that nothing should ever come between them to spoil their
A little while after Mord came to Ossaby and called Hauskuld out
to talk with him, and they went aside and spoke.
"What a difference in manliness there is," said Mord, "between
thee and Njal's sons! Thou gavest them good gifts, but they gave
thee gifts with great mockery."
"How makest thou that out?" says Hauskuld.
"They gave thee a horse which they called a `dark horse,' and
that they did out of mockery to thee, because they thought thee
too untried. I can tell thee also that they envy thee the
priesthood. Skarphedinn took it up as his own at the Thing when
thou camest not to the Thing at the summoning of the Fifth Court,
and Skarphedinn never means to let it go."
"That is not true," says Hauskuld, "for I got it back at the
Folkmote last harvest."
"Then that was Njal's doing," says Mord. "They broke, too, the
atonement about Lyting."
"I do not mean to lay that at their door," says Hauskuld.
"Well," says Mord, "thou canst not deny that when ye two,
Skarphedinn and thou, were going east towards Markfleet, an axe
fell out from under his belt, and he meant to have slain thee
then and there."
"It was his woodman's axe," says Hauskuld, "and I saw how he put
it under his belt; and now, Mord, I will just tell thee this
right out, that thou canst never say so much ill of Njal's sons
as to make me believe it; but though there were aught in it, and