Part 6 out of 9
it were true as thou sayest, that either I must slay them or they
me, then would I far rather suffer death at their hands than work
them any harm. But as for thee, thou art all the worse a man for
having spoken this."
After that Mord fares home. A little after Mord goes to see
Njal's sons, and he talks much with those brothers and Kari.
"I have been told," says Mord, "that Hauskuld has said that thou,
Skarphedinn, hast broken the atonement made with Lyting; but I
was made aware also that he thought that thou hadst meant some
treachery against him when ye two fared to Markfleet. But still,
methinks that was no less treachery when he bade you to a feast
at his house, and stowed you away in an outhouse that was
farthest from the house, and wood was then heaped round the
outhouse all night, and he meant to burn you all inside; but it
so happened that Hogni Gunnar's son came that night, and naught
came of their onslaught, for they were afraid of him. After that
he followed you on your way and great band of men with him, then
he meant to make another onslaught on you, and set Grani Gunnar's
son, and Gunnar Lambi's son to kill thee; but their hearts failed
them, and they dared not to fall on thee."
But when he had spoken thus, first of all they spoke against it,
but the end of it was that they believed him, and from that day
forth a coldness sprung up on their part towards Hauskuld, and
they scarcely ever spoke to him when they met; but Hauskuld
showed them little deference, and so things went on for a while.
Next harvest Hauskuld fared east to Swinefell to a feast, and
Flosi gave him a hearty welcome. Hildigunna was there too. Then
Flosi spoke to Hauskuld and said, "Hildigunna tells me that there
is great coldness with you and Njal's sons, and methinks that is
ill, and I will beg thee not to ride west, but I will get thee a
homestead in Skaptarfell, and I will send my brother, Thorgeir,
to dwell at Ossaby."
"Then some will say," says Hauskuld, "that I am flying thence for
fear's sake, and that I will not have said."
"Then it is more likely that great trouble will arise," says
"Ill is that then," says Hauskuld, "for I would rather fall
unatoned, than that many should reap ill for my sake."
Hauskuld busked him to ride home a few nights after, but Flosi
gave him a scarlet cloak, and it was embroidered with needlework
down to the waist.
Hauskuld rode home to Ossaby, and now all is quiet for a while.
Hauskuld was so much beloved that few men were his foes, but the
same ill-will went on between him and Njal's sons the whole
Njal had taken as his foster-child, Thord, the son of Kari. He
had also fostered Thorhall, the son of Asgrim Ellidagrim's son.
Thorhall was a strong man, and hardy both in body and mind, he
had learnt so much law that he was the third greatest lawyer in
Next spring was an early spring, and men are busy sowing their
109. OF MORD AND NJAL'S SONS
It happened one day that Mord came to Berathorsknoll. He and
Kari and Njal's sons fell a-talking at once, and Mord slanders
Hauskuld after his wont, and has now many new tales to tell, and
does naught but egg Skarphedinn and them on to slay Hauskuld, and
said he would be beforehand with them if they did not fall on him
"I will let thee have thy way in this," says Skarphedinn, "if
thou wilt fare with us, and have some hand in it."
"That I am ready to do," says Mord, and so they bound that fast
with promises, and he was to come there that evening.
Bergthora asked Njal, "What are they talking about out of doors?"
"I am not in their counsels," says Njal, "but I was seldom left
out of them when their plans were good."
Skarphedinn did not lie down to rest that evening, nor his
brothers, nor Kari.
That same night, when it was well-nigh spent, came Mord Valgard's
son, and Njal's sons and Kari took their weapons and rode away.
They fared till they came to Ossaby, and bided there by a fence.
The weather was good, and the sun just risen.
110. THE SLAYING OF HAUSKULD, THE PRIEST OFWHITENESS
About that time Hauskuld, the Priest of Whiteness, awoke; he put
on his clothes, and threw over him his cloak, Flosi's gift. He
took his corn-sieve, and had his sword in his other hand, and
walks towards the fence, and sows the corn as he goes.
Skarphedinn and his band had agreed that they would all give
him a wound. Skarphedinn sprang up from behind the fence, but
when Hauskuld saw him he wanted to turn away, then Skarphedinn
ran up to him and said, "Don't try to turn on thy heel, Whiteness
priest," and hews at him, and the blow came on his head, and he
fell on his knees. Hauskuld said these words when he fell, "God
help me, and forgive you!"
Then they all ran up to him and gave him wounds.
After that Mord said, "A plan comes into my mind."
"What is that?" says Skarphedinn.
"That I shall fare home as soon as I can, but after that I will
fare up to Gritwater, and tell them the tidings, and say 'tis an
ill deed; but I know surely that Thorgerda will ask me to give
notice of the slaying, and I will do that, for that will be the
surest way to spoil their suit. I will also send a man to Ossaby
and know how soon they take any counsel in the matter, and that
man will learn all these tidings thence, and I will make believe
that I have heard them from him."
"Do so by all means," says Skarphedinn.
Those brothers fared home, and Kari with them, and when they came
home they told Njal the tidings.
"Sorrowful tidings are these," says Njal, "and such are ill to
hear, for sooth to say this grief touches me so nearly, that
methinks it were better to have lost two of my sons and that
"It is some excuse for thee," says Skarphedinn, "that thou art
an old man, and it is to be looked for that this touches thee
"But this," says Njal, "no less than old age, is why I grieve,
that I know better than thou what will come after."
"What will come after?" says Skarphedinn.
"My death," says Njal, "and the death of my wife and of all my
"What dost thou foretell for me?" says Kari.
"They will have hard work to go against thy good fortune, for
thou wilt be more than a match for all of them."
This one thing touched Njal so nearly that he could never speak
of it without shedding tears.
111. OF HILDIGNNA AND MORD VALGARD'S SON
Hildigunna woke up and found that Hauskuld was away out of his
"Hard have been my dreams," she said, "and not good; but go and
search for him, Hauskuld."
So they searched for him about the homestead and found him not.
By that time she had dressed herself; then she goes and two men
with her, to the fence, and there they find Hauskuld slain.
Just then, too, came up Mord Valgard's son's shepherd, and told
her that Njal's sons had gone down thence, "and," he said,
"Skarphedinn called out to me and gave notice of the slaying as
done by him."
"It were a manly deed," she says, "if one man had been at it."
She took the cloak and wiped off all the blood with it, and
wrapped the gouts of gore up in it, and so folded it together and
laid it up in her chest.
Now she sent a man up to Gritwater to tell the tidings thither,
but Mord was there before him, and had already told the tidings.
There, too, was come Kettle of the Mark.
Thorgerda said to Kettle, "Now is Hauskuld dead as we know, and
now bear in mind what thou promisedst to do when thou tookest him
for thy fosterchild."
"It may well be," says Kettle, "that I promised very many things
then, for I thought not that these days would ever befall us that
have now come to pass; but yet I am come into a strait, for `nose
is next of kin to eyes,' since I have Njal's daughter to wife."
"Art thou willing, then," says Thorgerda, "that Mord should give
notice of the suit for the slaying?"
"I know not that," says Kettle, "for me ill comes from him more
often than good."
But as soon as ever Mord began to speak to Kettle he fared the
same as others, in that he thought as though Mord would be true
to him, and so the end of their counsel was that Mord should give
notice of the slaying, and get ready the suit in every way before
Then Mord fared down to Ossaby, and thither came nine neighbours
who dwelt nearest the spot.
Mord had ten men with him. He shows the neighbours Hauskuld's
wounds, and takes witness to the hurts, and names a man as the
dealer of every wound save one; that he made as though he knew
not who had dealt it, but that wound he had dealt himself. But
the slaying he gave notice of at Skarphedinn's hand, and the
wounds at his brothers' and Kari's.
After that he called on nine neighbours who dwelt nearest the
spot to ride away from home to the Althing on the inquest.
After that he rode home. He scarce ever met Njal's sons, and
when he did meet them, he was cross, and that was part of their
The slaying of Hauskuld was heard over all the land, and was
ill-spoken of. Njal's sons went to see Asgrim Ellidagrim's son,
and asked him for aid.
"Ye very well know that ye may look that I shall help you in all
great suits, but still my heart is heavy about this suit, for
there are many who have the blood feud, and this slaying is ill-
spoken of over all the land."
Now Njal's sons fare home.
112. THE PEDIGREE OF GUDMUND THE POWERFUL
There was a man named Gudmund the Powerful, who dwelt at
Modruvale in Eyjafirth. He was the son of Eyjolf the son of
Einar (1). Gudmund was a mighty chief, wealthy in goods; he had
in his house a hundred hired servants. He overbore in rank and
weight all the chiefs in the north country, so that some left
their homesteads, but some he put to death, and some gave up
their priesthoods for his sake, and from him are come the
greatest part of all the picked and famous families in the land,
such as "the Pointdwellers" and the "Sturlungs" and the
"Hvamdwellers," and the "Fleetmen," and Kettle the Bishop, and
many of the greatest men.
Gudmund was a friend of Asgrim Ellidagrim's son, and so he hoped
to get his help.
(1) Einar was the son of Audun the Bald, the son of Thorolf
Butter, the son of Thorstein the Unstable, the son of Grim
with the Tuft. The mother of Gudmund was Hallberg, the
daughter of Thorodd Helm, but the mother of Hallbera was
Reginleifa, daughter of Saemund the South-islander; after
him is named Saemundslithe in Skagafirth. The mother of
Eyjolf, Gudmund's father, was Valgerda Runolf's daughter;
the mother of Valgerda was Valbjorg, her mother was Joruna
the Disowned, a daughter of King Oswald the Saint. The
mother of Einar, the father of Eyjolf, was Helga, a daughter
of Helgi the Lean, who took Eyjafirth as the first settler.
Helgi was the son of Eyvind the Easterling. The mother of
Helgi was Raforta, the daughter of Kjarval, the Erse King.
The mother of Helga Helgi's daughter, was Thoruna the
Horned, daughter of Kettle Flatnose, the son of Bjorn the
Rough-footed, the son of Grim, Lord of Sogn. The mother of
Grim was Hervora, but the mother of Hervora was Thorgerda,
daughter of King Haleyg of Helgeland. Thorlauga was the
name of Gudmund the Powerful's wife, she was a daughter of
Atli the Strong, the son of Eilif the Eagle. the son of
Bard, the son of Jalkettle, the son of Ref, the son of Skidi
the Old. Herdisa was the name of Thorlauga's mother, a
daughter of Thord of the Head, the son of Bjorn Butter-
carrier, the son of Hroald the son of Hrodlaug the Sad, the
son of Bjorn Ironside, the son of Ragnar Hairybreeks, the
son of Sigurd Ring, the son of Randver, the son of Radbard.
The mother of Herdisa Thord's daughter was Thorgerda Skidi's
daughter, her mother was Fridgerda, a daughter of Kjarval,
the Erse King.
113. OF SNORRI THE PRIEST, AND HIS STOCK
There was a man named Snorri, who was surnamed the Priest. He
dwelt at Helgafell before Gudruna Oswif's daughter bought the
land of him, and dwelt there till she died of old age; but Snorri
then went and dwelt at Hvamsfirth on Saelingdale's tongue.
Thorgrim was the name of Snorri's father, and he was a son of
Thorstein codcatcher (1). Snorri was a great friend of Asgrim
Ellidagrim's son, and he looked for help there also. Snorri was
the wisest and shrewdest of all these men in Iceland who had not
the gift of foresight. He was good to his friends, but grim to
At that time there was a great riding to the Thing out of all the
Quarters, and men had many suits set on foot.
(1) Thorstein Codcatcher was the son of Thorolf Mostrarskegg,
the son of Ornolf Fish-driver, but Ari the Wise ways he was
the son of Thorgil Reydarside. Thorolf Mostrarskegg had to
wife Oska, the daughter of Thorstein the Red. The mother of
Thorgrim was named Thora, a daughter of Oleif the Shy, the
son of Thorstein the Red, the son of Oleif the White, the
son of Ingialld, the son of Helgi; but the mother of
Ingialld was Thora, a daughter of Sigurd Snake-eye, son of
Ragnar Hairybreeks; but the mother of Snorri the Priest was
Thordisa, the daughter of Sur, and the sister of Gisli.
114. OF FLOSI THORD'S SON
Flosi hears of Hauskuld's slaying, and that brings him much grief
and wrath, but still he kept his feelings well in hand. He was
told how the suit had been set on foot, as has been said, for
Hauskuld's slaying, and he said little about it. He sent word to
Hall of the Side, his father-in-law, and to Ljot his son, that
they must gather in a great company at the Thing. Ljot was
thought the most hopeful man for a chief away there east. It had
been foretold that if he could ride three summers running to the
Thing, and come safe and sound home, that then he would be the
greatest chief in all his family, and the oldest man. He had
then ridden one summer to the Thing, and now he meant to ride the
Flosi sent word to Kol Thorstein's son, and Glum the son of
Hilldir the Old, the son of Gerleif, the son of Aunund Wallet-
back, and to Modolf Kettle's son, and they all rode to meet
Hall gave his word, too, to gather a great company, and Flosi
rode till he came to Kirkby, to Surt Asbjorn's son. Then Flosi
sent after Kolbein Egil's son, his brother's son, and he came to
him there. Thence he rode to Headbrink. There dwelt Thorgrim
the Showy, the son of Thorkel the Fair. Flosi begged him to ride
to the Althing with him, and he said yea to the journey, and
spoke thus to Flosi, "Often hast thou been more glad, master,
than thou art now, but thou hast some right to be so."
"Of a truth," said Flosi, "that hath now come on my hands, which
I would give all my goods that it had never happened. Ill seed
has been sown, and so an ill crop will spring from it."
Thence he rode over Amstacksheath, and so to Solheim that
evening. There dwelt Lodmund Wolf's son, but he was a great
friend of Flosi, and there he stayed that night, and next morning
Lodmund rode with him into the Dale.
There dwelt RunoIf, the son of Wolf Aurpriest.
Flosi said to Runolf, "Here we shall have true stories as to the
slaying of Hauskuld, the Priest of Whiteness. Thou art a
truthful man, and hast got at the truth by asking, and I will
trust to all that thou tellest me as to what was the cause of
quarrel between them."
"There is no good in mincing the matter," said Runolf, "but we
must say outright that he has been slain for less than no cause;
and his death is a great grief to all men. No one thinks it so
much a loss as Njal, his foster-father."
"Then they will be ill off for help from men," says Flosi; "and
they will find no one to speak up for them."
"So it will be," says Runolf, "unless it be otherwise
"What has been done in the suit?" says Flosi.
"Now the neighbours have been summoned on the inquest," says
Runolf, "and due notice given of the suit for manslaughter."
"Who took that step?" asks Flosi.
"Mord Valgard's son," says Runolf.
"How far is that to be trusted?" says Flosi.
"He is of my kin," says Runolf; "but still if I tell the truth of
him, I must say that more men reap ill than good from him. But
this one thing I will ask of thee, Flosi, that thou givest rest
to thy wrath, and takest the matter up in such a way as may lead
to the least trouble. For Njal will make a good offer, and so
will others of the best men."
"Ride thou then to the Thing, Runolf," said Flosi, "and thy words
shall have much weight with me, unless things turn out worse than
After that they cease speaking about it, and Runolf promised to
go to the Thing.
Runolf sent word to Hafr the Wise, his kinsman, and he rode
thither at once.
Thence Flosi rode to Ossaby.
115. OF FLOSI AND HILDIGUNNA
Hildigunna was out of doors, and said, "Now shall all the men of
my household be out of doors when Flosi rides into the yard; but
the women shall sweep the house and deck it with hangings, and
make ready the high seat for Flosi."
Then Flosi rode into the town, and Hildigunna turned to him and
said, "Come in safe and sound and happy kinsman, and my heart is
fain at thy coming hither."
"Here," says Flosi, "we will break our fast, and then we will
Then their horses were tethered, and Flosi went into the sitting-
room and sat him down, and spurned the high seat away from him on
the dais, and said, "I am neither king nor earl, and there is no
need to make a high seat for me to sit on, nor is there any need
to make a mock of me."
Hildigunna was standing close by, and said, "It is ill if it
mislikes thee, for this we did with a whole heart."
"If thy heart is whole towards me, then what I do will praise
itself if it be well done, but it will blame itself if it be ill
Hildigunna laughed a cold laugh, and said, "There is nothing new
in that, we will go nearer yet ere we have done."
She sat her down by Flosi, and they talked long and low.
After that the board was laid, and Flosi and his band washed
their hands. Flosi looked hard at the towel and saw that it was
all in rags, and had one end torn off. He threw it down on the
bench and would not wipe himself with it, but tore off a piece of
the tablecloth, and wiped himself with that, and then threw it to
After that Flosi sat down to the board and bade men eat.
Then Hildigunna came into the room and went before Flosi, and
threw her hair off her eyes and wept.
"Heavy-hearted art thou now, kinswoman," said Flosi, "when thou
weepest, but still it is well that thou shouldst weep for a good
"What vengeance or help shall I have of thee?" she says.
"I will follow up thy suit," said Flosi, "to the utmost limit of
the law, or strive for that atonement which good men and true
shall say that we ought to have as full amends."
"Hauskuld would avenge thee," she said, "if he had the blood-feud
"Thou lackest not grimness," answered Flosi, "and what thou
wantest is plain."
"Arnor Ornolf's son, of Forswaterwood," said Hildigunna, "had
done less wrong towards Thord Frey's priest thy father; and yet
thy brothers Kolbein and Egil slew him at Skaptarfells-Thing."
Then Hildigunna went back into the hall and unlocked her chest,
and then she took out the cloak, Flosi's gift, and in it Hauskuld
had been slain, and there she had kept it, blood and all. Then
she went back into the sitting-room with the Cloak; she went up
silently to Flosi. Flosi had just then eaten his full, and the
board was cleared. Hildigunna threw the cloak over Flosi, and
the gore rattled down all over him.
Then she spoke and said, "This cloak, Flosi, thou gavest to
Hauskuld, and now I will give it back to thee; he was slain in
it, and I call God and all good men to witness, that I abjure
thee, by all the might of thy Christ, and by thy manhood and
bravery, to take vengeance for all those wounds which he had on
his dead body, or else to be called every man's dastard."
Flosi threw the cloak off him and hurled it into her lap, and
said, "Thou art the greatest hell-hag, and thou wishest that we
should take that course which will be the worst for all of us.
But `women's counsel is ever cruel.'"
Flosi was so stirred at this, that sometimes he was bloodred in
the face, and sometimes ashy pale as withered grass, and
sometimes blue as death.
Flosi and his men rode away; he rode to Holtford, and there waits
for the sons of Sigfus and other of his men.
Ingialld dwelt at the Springs; he was the brother of Rodny,
Hauskuld Njal's son's mother (1). Ingialld had to wife
Thraslauga, the daughter of Egil, the son of Thord Frey's priest
(2). Flosi sent word to Ingialld to come to him, and Ingialld
went at once, with fourteen men. They were all of his household.
Ingialld was a tall man and a strong, and slow to meddle with
other men's business, one of the bravest of men, and very
bountiful to his friends.
Flosi greeted him well, and said to him, "Great trouble hath now
come on me and my brothers-in-law, and it is hard to see our way
out of it; I beseech thee not to part from my suit until this
trouble is past and gone."
"I am come into a strait myself," said Ingialld, "for the sake of
the ties that there are between me and Njal and his sons, and
other great matters which stand in the way."
"I thought," said Flosi, "when I gave away my brother's daughter
to thee, that thou gavest me thy word to stand by me in every
"It is most likely," says Ingialld, "that I shall do so, but
still I will now, first of all, ride home, and thence to the
(1) They were children of Hauskuld the White, the son of
Ingialld the Strong, the son of Gerfinn the Red, the son of
Solvi, the son of Tborstein Baresarks-bane.
(2) The mother of Egil was Thraslauga, the daughter of Thorstein
Titling; the mother of Thraslauga was Unna, the daughter of
116. OF FLOSI AND MORD AND THE SONS OF SIGFUS
The sons of Sigfus heard how Flosi was at Holtford, and they rode
thither to meet him, and there were Kettle of the Mark, and Lambi
his brother, Thorkell and Mord, the sons of Sigfus, Sigmund their
brother, and Lambi Sigurd's son, and Gunnar Lambi's son, and
Grani Gunnar's son, and Vebrand Hamond's son.
Flosi stood up to meet them, and greeted them gladly. So they
went down the river. Flosi had the whole story from them about
the slaying, and there was no difference between them and Kettle
of the Mark's story.
Flosi spoke to Kettle of the Mark, and said, "This now I ask of
thee; how tightly are your hearts knit as to this suit, thou and
the other sons of Sigfus?"
"My wish is," said Kettle, "that there should be peace between
us, but yet I have sworn an oath not to part from this suit till
it has been brought somehow to an end; and to lay my life on it."
"Thou art a good man and true," said Flosi, "and it is well to
have such men with one."
Then Grani Gunnar's son and Lambi Sigurd's son both spoke
together, and said, "We wish for outlawry and death."
"It is not given us," said Flosi, "both to share and choose, we
must take what we can get."
"I have had it in my heart," says Grani, "ever since they slew
Thrain by Markfleet, and after that his son Hauskuld, never to be
atoned with them by a lasting peace, for I would willingly stand
by when they were all slain, every man of them."
"Thou hast stood so near to them," said Flosi, "that thou
mightest have avenged these things hadst thou had the heart and
manhood. Methinks thou and many others now ask for what ye would
give much money hereafter never to have had a share in. I see
this clearly, that though we slay Njal or his sons, still they
are men of so great worth, and of such good family, that there
will be such a blood feud and hue and cry after them, that we
shall have to fall on our knees before many a man, and beg for
help, ere we get an atonement and find our way out of this
strait. Ye may make up your minds, then, that many will become
poor who before had great goods, but some of vou will lose both
goods and life."
Mord Valgard's son rode to meet Flosi, and said he would ride to
the Thing with him with all his men. Flosi took that well, and
raised a matter of a wedding with him, that he should give away
Rannveiga his daughter to Starkad Flosi's brother's son, who
dwelt at Staffell. Flosi did this because he thouoht he would so
make sure both of his faithfulness and force.
Mord took the wedding kindly, but handed the matter over to Gizur
the White, and bade him talk about it at the Thing.
Mord had to wife Thorkatla, Gizur the White's daughter.
They two, Mord and Flosi, rode both together to the Thing, and
talked the whole day, and no man knew aught of their counsel.
117. NJAL AND SKARPHEDINN TALK TOGETHER
Now, we must say how Njal said to Skarphedinn.
"What plan have ye laid down for yourselves, thou and thy
brothers and Kari?"
"Little reck we of dreams in most matters," said Skarphedinn;
"but if thou must know, we shall ride to Tongue to Asgrim
Ellidagrim's son, and thence to the Thing; but, what meanest thou
to do about thine own journey, father?"
"I shall ride to the Thing," says Njal, "for it belongs to my
honour not to be severed from your suit so long as I live. I
ween that many men will have good words to say of me, and so I
shall stand you in good stead, and do you no harm."
There, too, was Thorhall Asgrim's son, and Njal's fosterson. The
sons of Njal laughed at him because he was clad in a coat of
russet, and asked how long he meant to wear that?
"I shall have thrown it off," he said, "when I have to follow up
the blood-feud for my foster-father."
"There will ever be most good in thee," said Njal, "when there
is most need of it."
So they all busked them to ride away from home, and were nigh
thirty men in all, and rode till they came to Thursowater. Then
came after them Njal's kinsmen, Thorleif Crow, and Thorgrim the
Big; they were Holt-Thorir's sons, and offered their help and
following to Njal's sons, and they took that gladly.
So they rode altogether across Thursowater, until they came on
Laxwater bank, and took a rest and baited their horses there, and
there Hjallti Skeggi's son came to meet them, and Njal's sons
fell to talking with him, and they talked long and low.
"Now, I will show," said Hjallti, "that I am not blackhearted;
Njal has asked me for help, and I have agreed to it, and given my
word to aid him; he has often given me and many others the worth
of it in cunning counsel."
Hjallti tells Njal all about Flosi's doings. They sent Thorhall
on to Tongue to tell Asgrim that they would be there that
evening; and Asgrim made ready at once, and was out of doors to
meet them when Njal rode into the town."
Njal was clad in a blue cape, and had a felt hat on his head, and
a small axe in his hand. Asgrim helped Njal off his horse, and
led him and sate him down in his own seat. After that they all
went in, Njal's sons and Kari. Then Asgrim went out.
Hjallti wished to turn away, and thought there were too many
there; but Asgrim caught hold of his reins, and said he should
never have his way in riding off, and made men unsaddle their
horses, and led Hjallti in and sate him down by Njal's side; but
Thorleif and his brother sat on the other bench and their men
Asgrim sate him down on a stool before Njal, and asked, "What
says thy heart about our matter?"
"It speaks rather heavily," says Njal, "for I am afraid that we
shall have no lucky men with us in the suit; but I would, friend,
that thou shouldest send after all the men who belong to thy
Thing, and ride to the Althing with me."
"I have always meant to do that," says Asgrim; "and this I will
promise thee at the same time, that I will never leave thy cause
while I can get any men to follow me."
But all those who were in the house thanked him, and said that
was bravely spoken. They were there that night, but the day
after all Asgrim's band came thither.
And after that they all rode together till they come up on the
Thing-field, and fit up their booths.
118. ASGRIM AND NJAL'S SONS PRAY MEN FOR HELP
By that time Flosi had come to the Thing, and filled all his
booths. Runolf filled the Dale-dwellers' booths, and Mord the
booths of the men from Rangriver. Hall of the Side had long
since come from the east, but scarce any of the other men; but
still Hall of the Side had come with a great band, and joined
this at once to Flosi's company, and begged him to take an
atonement and to make peace.
Hall was a wise man and good-hearted. Flosi answered him well in
everything, but gave way in nothing.
Hall asked what men had promised him help? Flosi named Mord
Valgard's son, and said he had asked for his daughter at the hand
of his kinsman Starkad.
Hall said she was a good match, but it was ill dealing with Mord,
"And that thou wilt put to the proof ere this Thing be over."
After that they ceased talking.
One day Njal and Asgrim had a long talk in secret.
Then all at once Asgrim sprang up and said to Njal's sons, "We
must set about seeking friends, that we may not be overborne by
force; for this suit will be followed up boldly."
Then Asgrim went out, and Helgi Njal's son next; then Kari
Solmund's son; then Grim Njal's son; then Skarphedinn; then
Thorhall; then Thorgrim the Big; then Thorleif Crow.
They went to the booth of Gizur the White and inside it. Gizur
stood up to meet them, and bade them sit down and drink.
"Not thitherward," says Asgrim, "tends our way, and we will speak
our errand out loud, and not mutter and mouth about it. What
help shall I have from thee, as thou art my kinsman?"
"Jorunn, my sister," said Gizur, "would wish that I should not
shrink from standing by thee; and so it shall be now and
hereafter, that we will both of us have the same fate."
Asgrim thanked him, and went away afterwards.
Then Skarphedinn asked, "Whither shall we go now?"
"To the booths of the men of Olfus," says Asgrim.
So they went thither, and Asgrim asked whether Skapti Thorod's
son were in the booth? He was told that he was. Then they went
inside the booth.
Skapti sate on the cross-bench, and greeted Asgrim, and he took
the greeting well.
Skapti offered Asgrim a seat by his side, but Asgrim said he
should only stay there a little while, "But still we have an
errand to thee."
"Let me hear it?" says Skapti.
"I wish to beg thee for thy help, that thou wilt stand by us in
"One thing I had hoped," says Skapti, "and that is, that neither
you nor your troubles would ever come into my dwelling."
"Such things are ill-spoken," says Asgrim, "when a man is the
last to help others, when most lies on his aid."
"Who is yon man," says Skapti, "before whom four men walk, a big
burly man, and pale-faced, unlucky-looking, well-knit, and
"My name is Skarphedinn," he answers, "and thou hast often seen
me at the Thing; but in this I am wiser than you, that I have no
need to ask what thy name is. Thy name is Skapti Thorod's son,
but before thou calledst thyself `Bristlepoll,' after thou hadst
slain Kettle of Elda; then thou shavedst thy poll, and puttedst
pitch on thy head, and then thou hiredst thralls to cut up a sod
of turf, and thou creptest underneath it to spend the night.
After that thou wentest to Thorolf Lopt's son of Eyrar, and he
took thee on board, and bore thee out here in his meal sacks."
After that Asgrim and his band went out, and Skarphedinn asked,
"Whither shall we go now?"
"To Snorri the Priest's booth," says Asgrim.
Then they went to Snorri's booth. There was a man outside before
the booth, and Asgrim asked whether Snorri were in the booth.
The man said he was.
Asgrim went into the booth, and all the others. Snorri was
sitting on the cross-bench, and Asgrim went and stood before him,
and hailed him well.
Snorri took his greeting blithely, and bade him sit down.
Asgrim said he should be only a short time there, "But we have
an errand with thee."
Snorri bade him tell it.
"I would," said Asgrim, "that thou wouldst come with me to the
court, and stand by me with thy help, for thou art a wise man,
and a great man of business."
"Suits fall heavy on us now," says Snorri the Priest, "and now
many men push forward against us, and so we are slow to take up
the troublesome suits of other men from other quarters."
"Thou mayest stand excused," says Asgrim "for thou art not in our
debt for any service."
"I know," says Snorri, "that thou art a good man and true, and
I will promise thee this, that I will not be against thee, and
not yield help to thy foes."
Asgrim thanked him, and Snorri the Priest asked, "Who is that man
before whom four go, pale-faced, and sharp-featured, and who
shows his front teeth, and has his axe aloft on his shoulder."
"My name is Hedinn," he says, "but some men call me Skarphedinn
by my full name; but what more hast thou to say to me."
"This," said Snorri the Priest, "that methinks thou art a well-
knit, ready-handed man, but yet I guess that the best part of thy
good fortune is past, and I ween thou hast now not long to live."
"That is well," says Skarphedinn, "for that is a debt we all have
to pay, but still it were more needful to avenge thy father than
to foretell my fate in this way."
"Many have said that before," says Snorri, "and I will not be
angry at such words."
After that they went out, and got no help there. Then they fared
to the booths of the men of Skagafirth. There Hafr (1) the
Wealthy had his booth. The mother of Hafr was named Thoruna, she
was a daughter of Asbjorn Baldpate of Myrka, the son of
Asgrim and his band went into the booth, and Hafr sate in the
midst of it, and was talking to a man.
Asgrim went up to him, and bailed him well; he took it kindly,
and bade him sit down.
"This I would ask of thee," said Asgrim, "that thou wouldst
grant me and my sons-in-law help.
Hafr answered sharp and quick, and said he would have nothing to
do with their troubles.
"But still I must ask who that pale-faced man is before whom
four men go, so ill-looking, as though he had come out of the
"Never mind, milksop that thou art!" said Skarphedinn, "who I
am, for I will dare to go forward wherever thou standest before
me, and little would I fear though such striplings were in my
path. 'Twere rather thy duty, too, to get back thy sister
Swanlauga, whom Eydis Ironsword and his messmate Stediakoll took
away out of thy house, but thou didst not dare to do aught
"Let us go out," said Asgrim, "there is no hope of help here."
Then they went out to the booths of men of Modruvale, and asked
whether Gudmund the Powerful were in the booth, but they were
told he was.
Then they went into the booth. There was a high seat in the
midst of it, and there sate Gudmund the Powerful.
Asgrim went and stood before him, and hailed him.
Gudmund took his greeting well, and asked him to sit down.
"I will not sit," said Asgrim, "but I wish to pray thee for help,
for thou art a bold man and a mighty chief."
"I will not be against thee," said Gudmund, "but if I see fit to
yield thee help, we may well talk of that afterwards," and so he
treated them well and kindly in every way.
Asgrim thanked him for his words, and Gudmund said, "There is one
man in your band at whom I have gazed for a while, and he seems
to me more terrible than most men that I have seen."
"Which is he?" says Asgrim.
"Four go before him," says Gudmund; "dark brown is his hair, and
pale is his face; tall of growth and sturdy. So quick and shifty
in his manliness that I would rather have his following than that
of ten other men; but yet the man is unlucky-looking."
"I know," said Skarphedinn, "that thou speakest at me, but it
does not go in the same way as to luck with me and thee. I have
blame, indeed, from the slaying of Hauskuld, the Whiteness
Priest, as is fair and right; but both Thorkel Foulmouth and
Thorir Helgi's son spread abroad bad stories about thee, and that
has tried thy temper very much."
Then they went out, and Skarphedinn said, "Whither shall we go
"To the booths of the men of Lightwater," said Asgrim.
There Thorkel Foulmouth (2) had set up his booth.
Thorkel Foulmouth had been abroad and worked his way to fame in
other lands. He had slain a robber east in Jemtland's wood, and
then he fared on east into Sweden, and was a messmate of Saurkvir
the Churl, and they harried eastward ho; but to the east of
Baltic side (3) Thorkel had to fetch water for them one evening;
then he met a wild man of the woods (4), and struggled against
him long; but the end of it was that he slew the wild man.
Thence he fared east into Adalsyssla, and there he slew a flying
fire-drake. After that he fared back to Sweden, and thence to
Norway, and so out to Iceland, and let these deeds of derring do
be carved over his shut bed, and on the stool before his high
seat. He fought, too, on Lightwater way with his brothers
against Gudmund the Powerful, and the men of Lightwater won the
day. He and Thorir Helgi's son spread abroad bad stories about
Gudmund. Thorkel said there was no man in Iceland with whom he
would not fight in single combat, or yield an inch to, if need
were. He was called Thorkel Foulmouth, because he spared no one
with whom he had to do either in word or deed.
(1) Hafr was the son of Thorkel, the son of Eric of Gooddale,
the son of Geirmund, the son of Hroald, the son of Eric
Frizzlebeard who felled Gritgarth in Soknardale in Norway.
(2) Thorkel was the son of Thorgeir the Priest, the son of
Tjorfi, the son of Thorkel the Long; but the mother of
Thorgeir was Thoruna, the daughter of Thorstein, the son of
Sigmund, son of Bard of the Nip. The mother of Thorkel
Foulmouth was named Gudrida; she was a daughter of Thorkel
the B1ack of Hleidrargarth, the son of Thorir Tag, the son
of Kettle the Seal, the son of Ornolf, the son of Bjornolf,
the son of Grim Hairy-cheek, the son of Kettle Haeing, the
son of Hallbjorn Halftroll.
(3) "Baltic side." This probably means a part of the Finnish
coast in the Gulf of Bothnia. See "Fornm. Sogur", xii.
(4) "Wild man of the woods." In the original Finngalkn, a
fabulous monster, half man and half beast.
119. OF SKARPHEDINN AND THORKEL FOULMOUTH
Asgrim and his fellows went to Thorkel Foulmouth's booth, and
Asgrim said then to his companions, "This booth Thorkel Foulmouth
owns, a great champion, and it were worth much to us to get
his-help. We must here take heed in everything, for he is self-
willed and bad tempered; and now I will beg thee, Skarphedinn,
not to let thyself be led into our talk."
Skarphedinn smiled at that. He was so clad, he had on a blue
kirtle and grey breeks, and black shoes on his feet, coming high
up his leg; he had a silver belt about him, and that same axe in
his hand with which he slew Thrain, and which he called the
"ogress of war," a round buckler, and a silken band round his
brow, and his hair brushed back behind his ears. He was the most
soldier-like of men, and by that all men knew him. He went in
his appointed place, and neither before nor behind.
Now they went into the booth and into its inner chamber. Thorkel
sate in the middle of the cross-bench, and his men away from him
on all sides. Asgrim hailed him, and Thorkel took the greeting
well, and Asgrim said to him, "For this have we come hither, to
ask help of thee, and that thou wouldst come to the Court with
"What need can ye have of my help," said Thorkel, "when ye have
already gone to Gudmund; he must surely have promised thee his
"We could not get his help," says Asgrim.
"Then Gudmund thought the suit likely to make him foes," said
Thorkel; "and so no doubt it will be, for such deeds are the
worst that have ever been done; nor do I know what can have
driven you to come hither to me, and to think that I should be
easier to undertake your suit than Gudmund, or that I would back
a wrongful quarrel."
Then Asgrim held his peace, and thought it would be hard work to
win him over.
Then Thorkel went on and said, "Who is that big and ugly fellow,
before whom four men go, pale-faced and sharp featured, and
unlucky-looking, and cross-grained?"
"My name is Skarphedinn," said Skarphedinn, "and thou hast no
right to pick me out, a guiltless man, for thy railing. It never
has befallen me to make my father bow down before me, or to have
fought against him, as thou didst with thy father. Thou hast
ridden little to the Althing, or toiled in quarrels at it, and no
doubt it is handier for thee to mind thy milking pails at home
than to be here at Axewater in idleness. But stay, it were as
well if thou pickedst out from thy teeth that steak of mare's
rump which thou atest ere thou rodest to the Thing while thy
shepherd looked on all the while, and wondered that thou couldst
work such filthiness!"
Then Thorkel sprang up in mickle wrath, and clutched his short
sword and said, "This sword I got in Sweden when I slew the
greatest champion, but since then I have slain many a man with
it, and as soon as ever I reach thee I will drive it through
thee, and thou shalt take that for thy bitter words."
Skarphedinn stood with his axe aloft, and smiled scornfully and
said, "This axe I had in my hand when I leapt twelve ells across
Markfleet and slew Thrain Sigfus' son, and eight of them stood
before me, and none of them could touch me. Never have I aimed
weapon at man that I have not smitten him."
And with that he tore himself from his brothers, and Kari his
brother-in-law, and strode forward to Thorkel.
Then Skarphedinn said, "Now, Thorkel Foulmouth, do one of these
two things: sheathe thy sword and sit thee down, or I drive the
axe into thy head and cleave thee down to the chine."
Then Thorkel sate him down and sheathed the sword, and such a
thing never happened to him either before or since.
Then Asgrim and his band go out, and Skarphedinn said, "Whither
shall we now go?"
"Home to our booths," answered Asgrim.
"Then we fare back to our booths wearied of begging," says
"In many places," said Asgrim, "hast thou been rather sharp-
tongued, but here now, in what Thorkel had a share methinks thou
hast only treated him as is fitting,"
Then they went home to their booths, and told Njal, word for
word, all that had been done.
"Things," he said, "draw on to what must be."
Now Gudmund the Powerful heard what has passed between Thorkel
and Skarphedinn, and said, "Ye all know how things fared between
us and the men of Lightwater, but I have never suffered such
scorn and mocking at their hands as has befallen Thorkel from
Skarphedinn, and this is just as it should be."
Then he said to Einar of Thvera, his brother, "Thou shalt go with
all my band, and stand by Njal's sons when the courts go out to
try suits; but if they need help next summer, then I myself will
yield them help."
Einar agreed to that, and sent and told Asgrim, and Asgrim said,
"There is no man like Gudmund for nobleness of mind," and then
he told it to Njal.
120. OF THE PLEADING OF THE SUIT
The next day Asgrim, and Gizur the White, and Hjallti Skeggi's
son, and Einar of Thvera, met together. There, too, was Mord
Valgard's son; he had then let the suit fall from his hand, and
given it over to the sons of Sigfus.
Then Asgrim spoke.
"Thee first I speak to about this matter, Gizur the White and
thee Hjallti, and thee Einar, that I may tell you how the suit
stands. It will be known to all of you that Mord took up the
suit, but the truth of the matter is, that Mord was at Hauskuld's
slaying, and wounded him with that wound, for giving which no man
was named. It seems to me, then, that this suit must come to
naught by reason of a lawful flaw."
"Then we will plead it at once," says Hjallti.
"It is not good counsel," said Thorhall Asgrim's son, "that this
should not be hidden until the courts are set."
"How so?" asks Hjallti.
"If," said Thorhall, "they knew now at once that the suit has
been wrongly set on foot, then they may still save the suit by
sending a man home from the Thing, and summoning the neighbours
from home over again, and calling on them to ride to the Thing,
and then the suit will be lawfully set on foot."
"Thou art a wise man, Thorhall," say they, "and we will take
After that each man went to his booth.
The sons of Sigfus gave notice of their suits at the Hill of
Laws, and asked in what Quarter Courts they lay, and in what
house in the district the defendants dwelt. But on the Friday
night the courts were to go out to try suits, and so the Thing
was quiet up to that day.
Many sought to bring about an atonement between them, but Flosi
was steadfast; but others were still more wordy, and things
Now the time comes when the courts were to go out, on the Friday
evening. Then the whole body of men at the Thing went to the
courts. Flosi stood south at the court of the men of Rangriver,
and his band with him. There with him was Hall of the Side, and
Runolf of the Dale, Wolf Aurpriest's son, and those other men who
had promised Flosi help.
But north of the court of the men of Rangriver stood Asgrim
Ellidagrim's son, and Gizur the White, Hjallti Skeggi's son, and
Einar of Thvera. But Njal's sons were at home at their booth,
and Kari and Thorleif Crow, and Thorgeir Craggeir, and Thorgrim
the Big. They sate all with their weapons, and their band looked
safe from onslaught.
Njal had already prayed the judges to go into the court, and now
the sons of Sigfus plead their suit. They took witness and bade
Njal's sons to listen to their oath; after that they took their
oath, and then they declared their suit; then they brought
forward witness of the notice, then they bade the neighbours on
the inquest to take their seats, then they called on Njal's sons
to challenge the inquest.
Then up stood Thorhall Asgrim's son, and took witness, and
forbade the inquest by a protest to utter their finding; and his
ground was, that he who had given notice of the suit was truly
under the ban of the law, and was himself an outlaw.
"Of whom speakest thou this?" says Flosi.
"Mord Valgard's son," said Thorhall, "fared to Hauskuld's slaying
with Njal's sons, and wounded him with that wound for which no
man was named when witness was taken to the death-wounds; and ye
can say nothing against this, and so the suit comes to naught."
121. OF THE AWARD OF ATONEMENT BETWEEN FLOSI AND NJAL
Then Njal stood up and said, "This I pray, Hall of the Side, and
Flosi, and all the sons of Sigfus, and all our men, too, that ye
will not go away but listen to my words."
They did so, and then he spoke thus: "It seems to me as though
this suit were come to naught, and it is likely it should, for it
hath sprung from an ill root. I will let you all know that I
loved Hauskuld more than my own sons, and when I heard that he
was slain, methought the sweetest light of my eyes was quenched,
and I would rather have lost all my sons, and that he were alive.
Now I ask thee, Hall of the Side, and thee Runolf of the Dale,
and thee Hjallti Skeggi's son, and thee Einar of Thvera, and thee
Hafr the Wise, that I may be allowed to make an atonement for the
slaying of Hauskuld on my son's behalf; and I wish that those men
who are best fitted to do so shall utter the award."
Gizur, and Hafr, and Einar, spoke each on their own part, and
prayed Flosi to take an atonement, and promised him their
friendship in return.
Flosi answered them well in all things, but still did not give
Then Hall of the Side said to Flosi, "Wilt thou now keep thy
word, and grant me my boon which thou hast already promised me,
when I put beyond sea Thorgrim, the son of Kettle the Fat, thy
kinsman, when he had slain Halli the Red."
"I will grant it thee, father-in-law," said Flosi, "for that
alone wilt thou ask which will make my honour greater than it
"Then," said Hall, "my wish is that thou shouldst be quickly
atoned, and lettest good men and true make an award, and so buy
the friendship of good and worthy men."
"I will let you all know," said Flosi, "that I will do according
to the word of Hall, my father-in-law, and other of the worthiest
men, that he and others of the best men on each side, lawfully
named, shall make this award. Methinks Njal is worthy that I
should grant him this."
Njal thanked him and all of them, and others who were by thanked
them too, and said that Flosi had behaved well.
Then Flosi said, "Now will I name my daysmen (1): First, I name
Hall, my father-in-law; Auzur from Broadwater; Surt Asbjorn's son
of Kirkby; Modolf Kettle's son," -- he dwelt then at Asar --
"Hafr the Wise; and Runoff of the Dale; and it is scarce worth
while to say that these are the fittest men out of all my
Now he bade Njal to name his daysmen, and then Njal stood up, and
said, "First of these I name, Asgrim Ellidagrim's son; and
Hjallti Skeggi's son; Gizur the White; Einar of Thvera; Snorri
the Priest; and Gudmund the Powerful."
After that Njal and Flosi, and the sons of Sigfus shook hands,
and Njal pledged his hand on behalf of all his sons, and of Kari,
his son-in-law, that they would hold to what those twelve men
doomed; and one might say that the whole body of men at the Thing
was glad at that.
Then men were sent after Snorri and Gudmund, for they were in
Then it was given out that the judges in this award would sit in
the Court of Laws, but all the others were to go away.
(1) The true English word for "arbitrator," or " umpire." See
"Job" ix. 33 -- "Neither is there any daysman betwixt us,
that might lay his hand upon us both." See also Holland's
"Translations of Livy", Page 137 -- "A more shameful
precedent for the time to come: namely, that umpires and
dates-men should convert the thing in suit unto their own
and proper vantage."
122. OF THE JUDGES
Then Snorri the Priest spoke thus, "Now are we here twelve
judges to whom these suits are handed over, now I will beg you
all that we may have no stumbling blocks in these suits, so that
they may not be atoned."
"Will ye," said Gudmund, "award either the lesser or the greater
outlawry? Shall they be banished from the district, or from the
"Neither of them," says Snorri, "for those banishments are often
ill fulfilled, and men have been slain for that sake, and
atonements broken, but I will award so great a money fine that no
man shall have had a higher price here in the land than
They all spoke well of his words.
Then they talked over the matter, and could not agree which
should first utter how great he thought the fine ought to be, and
so the end of it was that they cast lots, and the lot fell on
Snorri to utter it.
Then Snorri said, "I will not sit long over this, I will now tell
you what my utterance is, I will let Hauskuld be atoned for with
triple manfines, but that is six hundred in silver. Now ye shall
change it, if ye think it too much or too little."
They said that they would change it in nothing.
"This too shall be added," he said, "that all the money shall be
paid down here at the Thing."
Then Gizur the White spoke and said, "Methinks that can hardly
be, for they will not have enough money to pay their fines."
"I know what Snorri wishes," said Gudmund the Powerful, "he wants
that all we daysmen should give such a sum as our bounty will
bestow, and then many will do as we do."
Hall of the Side thanked him, and said he would willingly give as
much as any one else gave, and then all the other daysmen agreed
After that they went away, and settled between them that Hall
should utter the award at the Hill of Laws.
So the bell was rung, and all men went to the Hill of Laws, and
Hall of the Side stood up and spoke, "In this suit, in which we
have come to an award, we have been all well agreed, and we have
awarded six hundred in silver, and half this sum we the daysmen
will pay, but it must all be paid up here at the Thing. But it
is my prayer to all the people that each man will give something
for God's sake."
All answered well to that, and then Hall took witness to the
award, that no one should be able to break it.
Njal thanked them for their award, but Skarphedinn stood by, and
held his peace, and smiled scornfully.
Then men went from the Hill of Laws and to their booths, but the
daysmen gathered together in the freemen's churchyard the money
which they had promised to give.
Njal's sons handed over that money which they had by them, and
Kari did the same, and that came to a hundred in silver.
Njal took out that money which he had with him, and that was
another hundred in silver.
So this money was all brought before the Hill of Laws, and then
men gave so much, that not a penny was wanting.
Then Njal took a silken scarf and a pair of boots and laid them
on the top of the heap.
After that, Hall said to Njal, that he should go to fetch his
sons, "But I will go for Flosi, and now each must give the other
pledges of peace."
Then Njal went home to his booth, and spoke to his sons and said,
"Now are our suits come into a fair way of settlement, now are
we men atoned, for all the money has been brought together in one
place; and now either side is to go and grant the other peace and
pledges of good faith. I will therefore ask you this, my sons,
not to spoil these things in any way."
Skarphedinn stroked his brow, and smiled scornfully. So they all
go to the Court of Laws.
Hall went to meet Flosi and said, "Go thou now to the Court of
Laws, for now all the money has been bravely paid down, and it
has been brought together in one place."
Then Flosi bade the sons of Sigfus to go up with him, and they
all went out of their booths. They came from the east, but Njal
went from the west to the Court of Laws, and his sons with him.
Skarphedinn went to the middle bench and stood there.
Flosi went into the Court of Laws to look closely at the money,
and said, "This money is both great and good, and well paid
down, as was to be looked for."
After that he took up the scarf, and waved it, and asked, "Who
may have given this?"
But no man answered him.
A second time he waved the scarf, and asked, "Who may have given
this?" and laughed, but no man answered him.
Then Flosi said, "How is it that none of you knows who has owned
this gear, or is it that none dares to tell me?"
"Who?" said Skarphedinn, "dost thou think, has given it?"
"If thou must know," said Flosi, "then I will tell thee; I think
that thy father the `Beardless Carle' must have given it, for
many know not who look at him whether he is more a man than a
"Such words are ill-spoken," said Skarphedinn, "to make game of
him, an old man, and no man of any worth has ever done so before.
Ye may know, too, that he is a man, for he has had sons by his
wife, and few of our kinsfolk have fallen unatoned by our house,
so that we have not had vengeance for them."
Then Skarphedinn took to himself the silken scarf, but threw a
pair of blue breeks to Flosi, and said he would need them more.
"Why," said Flosi, "should I need these more?"
"Because," said Skarphedinn, "thou art the sweetheart of the
Swinefell's goblin, if, as men say, he does indeed turn thee into
a woman every ninth night."
Then Flosi spurned the money, and said he would not touch a penny
of it, and then he said he would only have one of two things:
either that Hauskuld should fall unatoned, or they would have
vengeance for him.
Then Flosi would neither give nor take peace, and he said to the
sons of Sigfus, "Go we now home; one fate shall befall us all."
Then they went home to their booth, and Hall said, "Here most
unlucky men have a share in this suit."
Njal and his sons went home to their booth, and Njal said, "Now
comes to pass what my heart told me long ago, that this suit
would fall heavy on us."
"Not so," says Skarphedinn; "they can never pursue us by the laws
of the land."
"Then that will happen," says Njal, "which will be worse for all
Those men who had given the money spoke about it, and said that
they should take it back; but Gudmund the Powerful said, "That
shame I will never choose for myself, to take back what I have
given away, either here or elsewhere."
"That is well spoken," they said; and then no one would take it
Then Snorri the Priest said, "My counsel is, that Gizur the White
and Hjallti Skeggi's son keep the money till the next Althing; my
heart tells me that no long time will pass ere there may be need
to touch this money."
Hjallti took half the money and kept it safe, but Gizur took the
Then men went home to their booths.
123. AN ATTACK PLANNED ON NJAL AND HIS SONS
Flosi summoned all his men up to the "Great Rift," and went
So when all his men were come, there were one hundred and twenty
Then Flosi spake thus to the sons of Sigfus, "In what way shall
I stand by you in this quarrel, which will be most to your
"Nothing will please us," said Gunnar Lambi's son, "until those
brothers, Njal's sons, are all slain."
"This," said Flosi, "will I promise to you, ye sons of Sigfus,
not to part from this quarrel before one of us bites the dust
before the other. I will also know whether there be any man here
who will not stand by us in this quarrel."
But they all said they would stand by him.
Then Flosi said, "Come now all to me, and swear an oath that no
man will shrink from this quarrel."
Then all went up to Flosi and swore oaths to him; and then Flosi
said, "We will all of us shake hands on this, that he shall have
forfeited life and land who quits this quarrel ere it be over."
These were the chiefs who were with Flosi: -- Kol the son of
Thorstein Broadpaunch, the brother's son of Hall of the Side,
Hroald Auzur's son from Broadwater, Auzur son of Aunund Wallet-
back, Thorstein the Fair, the son of Gerleif, Glum Hildir's son,
Modolf Kettle's son, Thorir the son of Thord Illugi's son of
Mauratongue, Kolbein and Egil Flosi's kinsmen, Kettle Sigfus'
son, and Mord his brother, Ingialld of the Springs, Thorkel and
Lambi, Grani Gunnar's son, Gunnar Lambi's son, and Sigmund
Sigfus' son, and Hroar from Hromundstede.
Then Flosi said to the sons of Sigfus, "Choose ye now a leader,
whomsoever ye think best fitted; for some one man must needs be
chief over the quarrel"
Then Kettle of the Mark answered, "If the choice is to be left
with us brothers, then we will soon choose that this duty should
fall on thee; there are many things which lead to this. Thou art
a man of great birth, and a mighty chief, stout of heart, and
strong of body, and wise withal, and so we think it best that
thou shouldst see to all that is needful in the quarrel."
"It is most fitting," said Flosi, "that I should agree to
undertake this as your prayer asks; and now I will lay down the
course which we shall follow, and my counsel is, that each man
ride home from the Thing, and look after his household during the
summer, so long as men's haymaking lasts. I, too, will ride
home, and be at home this summer; but when that Lord's day comes
on which winter is eight weeks off, then I will let them sing me
a mass at home, and afterwards ride west across Loomnips Sand;
each of our men shall have two horses. I will not swell our
company beyond those which have now taken the oath, for we have
enough and to spare if all keep true tryst. I will ride all the
Lord's day and the night as well, but at even on the second day
of the week, I shall ride up to Threecorner ridge about mid-even.
There shall ye then be all come who have sworn an oath in this
matter. But if there be any one who has not come, and who has
joined us in this quarrel, then that man shall lose nothing save
his life, if we may have our way."
"How does that hang together," said Kettle, "that thou canst ride
from home on the Lord's day, and come the second day of the week
to Threecorner ridge?"
"I will ride," said Flosi "up from Skaptartongue, and north of
the Eyjafell Jokul, and so down into Godaland, and it may be done
if I ride fast. And now I will tell you my whole purpose, that
when we meet there all together, we shall ride to Bergthorsknoll
with all our band, and fall on Njal's sons with fire and sword,
and not turn away before they are all dead. Ye shall hide this
plan, for our lives lie on it. And now we will take to our
horses and ride home."
Then they all went to their booths.
After that Flosi made them saddle his horses, and they waited for
no man, and rode home.
Flosi would not stay to meet Hall his father-in-law, for he knew
of a surety that Hall would set his face against all strong
Njal rode home from the Thing and his sons. They were at home
that summcr. Njal asked Kari his son-in-law whether he thought
at all of riding east to Dyrholms to his own house.
"I will not ride east," answered Kari, "for one fate shall befall
me and thy sons.
Njal thanked him, and said that was only what was likely from
him. There were nearly thirty fighting men in Njal's house,
reckoning the house-carles.
One day it happened that Rodny Hauskuld's daughter, the mother of
Hauskuld Njal's son, came to the Springs. Her brother Ingialld
greeted her well, but she would not take his greeting, but yet
bade him go out with her. Ingialld did so, and went out with
her; and so they walked away from the farm-yard both together.
Then she clutched hold of him and they both sat down, and Rodny
said, "Is it true that thou hast sworn an oath to fall on Njal,
and slay him and his sons?"
"True it is," said he.
"A very great dastard art thou," she says, "thou, whom Njal hath
thrice saved from outlawry."
"Still it hath come to this," says Ingialld, "that my life lies
on it if I do not this?"
"Not so," says she, "thou shalt live all the same, and be called
a better man, if thou betrayest not him to whom thou oughtest to
Then she took a linen hood out of her bag, it was clotted with
blood all over, and torn and tattered, and said, "This hood,
Hauskuld Njal's son, and thy sister's son, had on his head when
they slew him; methinks, then, it is ill doing to stand by those
from whom this mischief sprang."
"Well!" answers Ingialld, "so it shall be that I will not be
against Njal whatever follows after, but still I know that they
will turn and throw trouble on me."
"Now mightest thou," said Rodny, "yield Njal and his sons great
help, if thou tellest him all these plans."
"That I will not do," says Ingialld, "for then I am every man's
dastard if I tell what was trusted to me in good faith; but it is
a manly deed to sunder myself from this quarrel when I know that
there is a sure looking for of vengeance but tell Njal and his
sons to be ware of themselves all this summer, for that will be
good counsel, and to keep many men about them."
Then she fared to Bergthoknoll, and told Njal all this talk; and
Njal thanked her, and said she had done well, "For there would be
more wickedness in his falling on me than of all men else."
She fared home, but he told this to his sons.
There was a carline at Bergthorsknoll, whose name was Saevuna.
She was wise in many things, and foresighted; but she was then
very old, and Njal's sons called her an old dotard, when she
talked so much, but still some things which she said came to
pass. It fell one day that she took a cudgel in her hand, and
went up above the house to a stack of vetches. She beat the
stack of vetches with her cudgel, and wished it might never
thrive, "Wretch that it was!"
Skarphedinn laughed at her, and asked why she was so angry with
the vetch stack.
"This stack of vetches," said the carline, "will be taken and
lighted with fire when Njal my master is burnt, house and all,
and Bergthorn my foster-child. Take it away to the water, or
burn it up as quick as you can."
"We will not do that," says Skarphedinn, "for something else will
be got to light a fire with, if that were foredoomed, though this
stack were not here."
The carline babbled the whole summer about the vetchstack that it
should be got indoors, but something always hindered it.
124. OF PORTENTS
At Reykium on Skeid dwelt one Runolf Thorstein's son. His son's
name was Hildiglum. He went out on the night of the Lord's day,
when nine weeks were still to winter; he heard a great crash, so
that he thought both heaven and earth shook. Then he looked into
the west "airt," and he thought he saw thereabouts a ring of
fiery hue, and within the ring a man on a grey horse. He passed
quickly by him, and rode hard. He had a flaming firebrand in his
hand, and he rode so close to him that he could see him plainly.
He was as black as pitch, and he sung this song with a mighty
"Here I ride swift steed,
His Bank flecked with rime,
Rain from his mane drips,
Horse mighty for harm;
Flames flare at each end,
Gall glows in the midst,
So fares it with Flosi's redes
As this flaming brand flies;
And so fares it with Flosi's redes
As this flaming brand flies."
Then he thought he hurled the firebrand east towards the fells
before him, and such a blaze of fire leapt up to meet it that he
could not see the fells for the blaze. It seemed as though that
man rode east among the flames and vanished there.
After that he went to his bed, and was senseless a long time,
but at last he came to himself. He bore in mind all that had
happened, and told his father, but he bade him tell it to Hjallti
Skeggi's son. So he went and told Hjallti, but he said he had
seen "`the Wolf's ride,' and that comes ever before great
125. FLOSI'S JOURNEY FROM HOME
Flosi busked him from the east when two months were still to
winter, and summoned to him all his men who had promised him help
and company. Each of them had two horses and good weapons, and
they all came to Swinefell, and were there that night.
Flosi made them say prayers betimes on the Lord's day, and
afterwards they sate down to meat. He spoke to his household,
and told them what work each was to do while he was away. After
that he went to his horses.
Flosi and his men rode first west on the Sand (1). Flosi bade
them not to ride too hard at first; but said they would do well
enough at that pace, and he bade all to wait for the others if
any of them had need to stop. They rode west to Woodcombe, and
came to Kirkby. Flosi there bade all men to come into the
church, and pray to God, and men did so.
After that they mounted their horses, and rode on the fell, and
so to Fishwaters, and rode a little to the west of the lakes, and
so struck down west on to the Sand (2). Then they left Eyjafell
Jokul on their left hand, and so came down into Godaland, and so
on to Markfleet, and came about nones (3) on the second day of
the week to Threecorner ridge, and waited till mid-even. Then
all had came thither save Ingialld of the Springs.
The sons of Sigfus spoke much ill of him, but Flosi bade them not
blame Ingialld when he was not by, "But we will pay him for this
(1) "Sand," Skeidara sand.
(2) "Sand," Maelifell's sand.
(3) "Nones," the well-known canonical hour of the day, the ninth
hour from six a.m., that is, about three o'clock when one of
the church services took place.
126. OF PORTENTS AT BERGTHORSKNOLL
Now we must take up the story, and turn to Bergthorsknoll, and
say that Grim and Helgi go to Holar. They had children out at
foster there, and they told their mother that they should not
come home that evening. They were in Holar all the day, and
there came some poor women and said they had come from far.
Those brothers asked them for tidings, and they said they had no
tidings to tell, "But still we might tell you one bit of news."
They asked what that might be, and bade them not hide it. They
said so it should be.
"We came down out of Fleetlithe, and we saw all the sons of
Sigfus riding fully armed -- they made for Threecorner ridge, and
were fifteen in company. We saw too Grani Gunnar's son and
Gunnar Lambi's son, and they were five in all. They took the
same road, and one may say now that the whole country-side is
faring and flitting about."
"Then," said Helgi Njal's son, "Flosi must have come from the
east, and they must have all gone to meet him, and we two, Grim,
should be where Skarphedinn is."
Grim said so it ought to be, and they fared home.
That same evening Bergthora spoke to her household, and said,
"Now shall ye choose your meat to-night, so that each may have
what he likes best; for this evening is the last that I shall set
meat before my household."
"That shall not be," they said.
"It will be though," she says, "and I could tell you much more
if I would, but this shall be a token, that Grim and Helgi will
be home ere men have eaten their full to-night; and if this turns
out so, then the rest that I say will happen too."
After that she set meat on the board, and Njal said "Wondrously
now it seems to me. Methinks I see all round the room, and it
seems as though the gable wall were thrown down, but the whole
board and the meat on it is one gore of blood."
All thought this strange but Skarphedinn, he bade men not be
downcast, nor to utter other unseemly sounds, so that men might
make a story out of them.
"For it befits us surely more than other men to bear us well, and
it is only what is looked for from us."
Grim and Helgi came home ere the board was cleared, and men were
much struck at that. Njal asked why they had returned so quickly
but they told what they had heard.
Njal bade no man go to sleep, but to be ware of themselves.
127. THE ONSLAUGHT (1) ON BERGTHORSKNOLL
Now Flosi speaks to his men, "Now we will ride to Bergthorsknoll,
and come thither before supper-time."
They do so. There was a dell in the knoll, and they rode
thither, and tethered their horses there, and stayed there till
the evening was far spent.
Then Flosi said, "Now we will go straight up to the house, and
keep close, and walk slow, and see what counsel they will take."
Njal stood out of doors, and his sons, and Kari and all the
serving-men, and they stood in array to meet them in the yard,
and they were near thirty of them.
Flosi halted and said, "Now we shall see what counsel they take,
for it seems to me, if they stand out of doors to meet us, as
though we should never get the mastery over them."
"Then is our journey bad," says Grani Gunnar's son, "if we are
not to dare to fall on them."
"Nor shall that be," says Flosi; "for we will fall on them though
they stand out of doors; but we shall pay that penalty, that many
will not go away to tell which side won the day."
Njal said to his men, "See ye now what a great band of men they
"They have both a great and well-knit band," says Skarphedinn;
"but this is why they make a halt now, because they think it will
be a hard struggle to master us."
"That cannot be why they halt," says Njal; "and my will is that
our men go indoors, for they had hard work to master Gunnar of
Lithend, though he was alone to meet them; but here is a strong
house as there was there, and they will be slow to come to close
"This is not to be settled in that wise," says Skarphedinn, "for
those chiefs fell on Gunnar's house, who were so nobleminded,
that they would rather turn back than burn him, house and all;
but these will fall on us at once with fire, if they cannot get
at us in any other way, for they will leave no stone unturned to
get the better of us; and no doubt they think, as is not
unlikely, that it will be their deaths if we escape out of their
hands. Besides, I am unwilling to let myself be stifled indoors
like a fox in his earth."
"Now," said Njal, "as often it happens, my sons, ye set my
counsel at naught, and show me no honour, but when ye were
younger ye did not so, and then your plans were better
"Let us do," said Helgi, "as our father wills; that will be best
"I am not so sure of that," says Skarphedinn, "for now he is
`fey'; but still I may well humour my father in this, by being
burnt indoors along with him, for I am not afraid of my death."
Then he said to Kari, "Let us stand by one another well, brother-
in-law, so that neither parts from the other."
"That I have made up my mind to do," says Kari; "but if it should
be otherwise doomed, -- well! then it must be as it must be, and
I shall not be able to fight against it."
"Avenge us, and we will avenge thee," says Skarphedinn, "if we
live after thee."
Kari said so it should be.
Then they all went in, and stood in array at the door.
"Now are they all `fey,'" said Flosi, "since they have gone
indoors, and we will go right up to them as quickly as we can,
and throng as close as we can before the door, and give heed that
none of them, neither Kari nor Njal's sons, get away; for that
were our bane."
So Flosi and his men came up to the house, and set men
to watch round the house, if there were any secret doors in it.
But Flosi went up to the front of the house with his men.
Then Hroald Auzur's son ran up to where Skarphedinn stood, and
thrust at him. Skarphedinn hewed the spearhead off the shaft as
he held it, and made another stroke at him, and the axe fell on
the top of the shield, and dashed back the whole shield on
Hroald's body, but the upper horn of the axe caught him on the
brow, and he fell at full length on his back, and was dead at
"Little chance had that one with thee, Skarphedinn," said Kari,
"and thou art our boldest."
"I'm not so sure of that," says Skarphedinn, and he drew up his
lips and smiled.
Kari, and Grim, and Helgi, threw out many spears, and wounded
many men; but Flosi and his men could do nothing.
At last Flosi said, "We have already gotten great manscathe in
our men; many are wounded, and he slain whom we would choose last
of all. It is now clear that we shall never master them with
weapons; many now there be who are not so forward in fight as
they boasted, and yet they were those who goaded us on most. I
say this most to Grani Gunnar's son, and Gunnar Lambi's son, who
were the least willing to spare their foes. But still we shall
have to take to some other plan for ourselves, and now there are
but two choices left, and neither of them good. One is to turn
away, and that is our death; the other, to set fire to the house,
and burn them inside it; and that is a deed which we shall have
to answer for heavily before God, since we are Christian men
ourselves; but still we must take to that counsel."
(1) The Icelandic word is "heimsokn," a term which still lingers
in the grave offence known in Scottish law as "hamesucken."
128. NJAL'S BURNING
Now they took fire, and made a great pile before the doors. Then
Skarphedinn said, "What, lads! are ye lighting a fire, or are ye
taking to cooking?"
"So it shall be," answered Grani Gunnar's son; "and thou shalt
not need to be better done."
"Thou repayest me," said Skarphedinn, "as one may look for from
the man that thou art. I avenged thy father, and thou settest
most store by that duty which is farthest from thee."
Then the women threw whey on the fire, and quenched it as fast as
they lit it. Some, too, brought water, or slops.
Then Kol Thorstein's son said to Flosi, "A plan comes into my
mind; I have seen a loft over the hall among the crosstrees, and
we will put the fire in there, and light it with the vetch-stack
that stands just above the house."
Then they took the vetch-stack and set fire to it, and they who
were inside were not aware of it till the whole hall was a-blaze
over their heads.
Then Flosi and his men made a great pile before each of the
doors, and then the women folk who were inside began to weep and
Njal spoke to them and said, "Keep up your hearts, nor utter
shrieks, for this is but a passing storm, and it will be long
before ye have another such; and put your faith in God, and
believe that he is so merciful that he will not let us burn both
in this world and the next."
Such words of comfort had he for them all, and others still more
Now the whole house began to blaze. Then Njal went to the door
and said, "Is Flosi so near that he can hear my voice."
Flosi said that he could hear it.
"Wilt thou," said Njal, "take an atonement from my sons, or allow
any men to go out."
"I will not," answers Flosi, "take any atonement from thy sons,
and now our dealings shall come to an end once for all, and I
will not stir from this spot till they are all dead; but I will
allow the women and children and house-carles to go out."
Then Njal went into the house, and said to the fold, "Now all
those must go out to whom leave is given, and so go thou out
Thorhalla Asgrim's daughter, and all the people also with thee
Then Thorhalla said, "This is another parting between me and
Helgi than I thought of a while ago; but still I will egg on my
father and brothers to avenge this manscathe which is wrought
"Go, and good go with thee," said Njal, "for thou art a brave
After that she went out and much folk with her.
Then Astrid of Deepback said to Helgi Njal's son, "Come thou out
with me, and I will throw a woman's cloak over thee, and tie thy
head with a kerchief."
He spoke against it at first, but at last he did so at the prayer
So Astrid wrapped the kerchief round Helgi's head, but Thorhilda,
Skarphedinn's wife, threw the cloak over him, and he went out
between them, and then Thorgerda Njal's daughter, and Helga her
sister, and many other folk went out too.
But when Helgi came out Flosi said, "That is a tall woman and
broad across the shoulders that went yonder, take her and hold
But when Helgi heard that, he cast away the cloak. He had got
his sword under his arm, and hewed at a man, and the blow fell on
his shield and cut off the point of it, and the man's leg as
well. Then Flosi came up and hewed at Helgi's neck, and took off
his head at a stroke.
Then Flosi went to the door and called out to Njal, and said he
would speak with him and Bergthora.
Now Njal does so, and Flosi said, "I will offer thee, master
Njal, leave to go out, for it is unworthy that thou shouldst burn
"I will not go out," said Njal, "for I am an old man, and little
fitted to avenge my sons, but I will not live in shame."
Then Flosi said to Bergthora, "Come thou out, housewife, for I
will for no sake burn thee indoors."
"I was given away to Njal young," said Bergthora, "and I have
promised him this, that we would both share the same fate."
After that they both went back into the house.
"What counsel shall we now take," said Bergthora.
"We will go to our bed," says Njal, "and lay us down; I have long
been eager for rest."
Then she said to the boy Thord, Kari's son, "Thee will I take
out, and thou shalt not burn in here."
"Thou hast promised me this, grandmother," says the boy, "that we
should never part so long as I wished to be with thee; but
methinks it is much better to die with thee and Njal than to live
Then she bore the boy to her bed, and Njal spoke to his steward
and said, "Now thou shalt see where we lay us down, and how I
lay us out, for I mean not to stir an inch hence, whether reek or
burning smart me, and so thou wilt be able to guess where to look
for our bones,"
He said he would do so.
There had been an ox slaughtered and the hide lay there. Njal
told the steward to spread the hide over them, and he did so.
So there they lay down both of them in their bed, and put the boy
between them. Then they signed themselves and the boy with the
cross, and gave over their souls into God's hand, and that was
the last word that men heard them utter.
Then the steward took the hide and spread it over them, and went
out afterwards. Kettle of the Mark caught hold of him, and
dragged him out, he asked carefully after his father-in-law Njal,
but the steward told him the whole truth. Then Kettle said,
"Great grief hath been sent on us, when we have had to share such
Skarphedinn saw how his father laid him down, and how he laid
himself out, and then he said, "Our father goes early to bed, and
that is what was to be looked for, for he is an old man."
Then Skarphedinn, and Kari, and Grim, caught the brands as fast
as they dropped down, and hurled them out at them, and so it went
on awhile. Then they hurled spears in at them, but they caught
them all as they flew, and sent them back again.
Then Flosi bade them cease shooting, "for all feats of arms will
go hard with us when we deal with them; ye may well wait till the
fire overcomes them."
So they do that, and shoot no more.
Then the great beams out of the roof began to fall, and
Skarphedinn said, "Now must my father be dead, and I have neither
heard groan nor cough from him."
Then they went to the end of the hall, and there had fallen down
a cross-beam inside which was much burnt in the middle.