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Eiríkr Magnússon / The Story of Grettir the Strong
Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Bill Hershey, and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team.





A life scarce worth the living, a poor fame
Scarce worth the winning, in a wretched land,
Where fear and pain go upon either hand,
As toward the end men fare without an aim
Unto the dull grey dark from whence they came:
Let them alone, the unshadowed sheer rocks stand
Over the twilight graves of that poor band,
Who count so little in the great world's game!

Nay, with the dead I deal not; this man lives,
And that which carried him through good and ill,
Stern against fate while his voice echoed still
From rock to rock, now he lies silent, strives
With wasting time, and through its long lapse gives
Another friend to me, life's void to fill.



We do not feel able to take in hand the wide subject of the Sagas of
Iceland within the limits of a Preface; therefore we have only to say
that we put forward this volume as the translation of an old story
founded on facts, full of dramatic interest, and setting before
people's eyes pictures of the life and manners of an interesting race
of men near akin to ourselves.

Those to whom the subject is new, we must refer to the translations
already made of some other of these works,[1] and to the notes which
accompany them: a few notes at the end of this volume may be of use to
students of Saga literature.

[Footnote 1: Such as 'Burnt Njal,' Edinburgh, 1861, 8vo, and 'Gisli
the Outlaw,' Edinburgh, 1866, 4to, by Dasent; the 'Saga of Viga-Glum,'
London, 1866, 8vo, by Sir E. Head; the 'Heimskringla,' London, 1844,
8vo, by S. Laing; the 'Eddas,' Prose by Dasent, Stockholm, 1842;
Poetic by A.S. Cottle, Bristol, 1797, and Thorpe, London and Halle,
1866; the 'Three Northern Love Stories,' translated by Magnsson and
Morris, London, 1875, and 'The Volsunga Saga,' translated by the same,
London, 1870.]

For the original tale we think little apology is due; that it holds
a very high place among the Sagas of Iceland no student of that
literature will deny; of these we think it yields only to the story
of Njal and his sons, a work in our estimation to be placed beside
the few great works of the world. Our Saga is fuller and more complete
than the tale of the other great outlaw Gisli; less frightful than
the wonderfully characteristic and strange history of Egil, the son
of Skallagrim; as personal and dramatic as that of Gunnlaug the
Worm-tongue, if it lack the rare sentiment of that beautiful story;
with more detail and consistency, if with less variety, than the
history of Gudrun and her lovers in the Laxdaela; and more a work of
art than that, or than the unstrung gems of Eyrbyggja, and the great
compilation of Snorri Sturluson, the History of the Kings of Norway.

At any rate, we repeat, whatever place among the best Sagas may be
given to Grettla[2] by readers of such things, it must of necessity
be held to be one of the best in all ways; nor will those, we hope,
of our readers who have not yet turned their attention to the works
written in the Icelandic tongue, fail to be moved more or less by the
dramatic power and eager interest in human character, shown by our
story-teller; we say, we hope, but we are sure that no one of insight
will disappoint us in this, when he has once accustomed himself to
the unusual, and, if he pleases, barbarous atmosphere of these ancient

[Footnote 2: Such is the conversational title of this Saga; many of
the other Sagas have their longer title abbreviated in a like manner:
Egil's saga becomes Egla, Njal's saga Njla; Eyrbyggja saga, Laxdaela
saga, Vatnsdaeela saga, Reykdaela saga, Svarfdaela saga, become
Eyrbyggja, Laxdaela, Vatnsdaela, Reykdaela, Svarfdaela (gen. plur.
masc. of daelir, dale-dwellers, is forced into a fem. sing. regularly
declined, saga being understood); furthermore, Landnma bk (landnma,
gen. pl. neut.) the book of land settlings, becomes Landnma (fem.
sing. regularly declined, bk being understood); lastly, Sturlunga
saga, the Saga of the mighty family of the Sturlungs, becomes
Sturlunga in the same manner.]

As some may like to know what they are going to read about before
venturing on beginning the book, we will now give a short outline of
our Saga.

The first thirteen chapters (which sometimes are met with separately
in the Icelandic as the Saga of Onund Treefoot), we have considered as
an introduction to the story, and have accordingly distinguished them
from the main body of the book. They relate the doings of Grettir's
ancestors in Norway, in the lands West over the Sea and in Iceland,
and are interesting and in many points necessary for the understanding
of the subsequent story; one of these we note here for the reader's
convenience, viz. the consanguinity of Grettir and King Olaf the
Saint;[3] for it adds strongly to the significance of the King's
refusal to entertain Grettir at his court, or to go further into the
case of the murder he was falsely accused of.

[Footnote 3:

Onund Treefoot brother to Gudbiorg
| |
Thorgrim Greypate Gudbrand
| |
Asmund the Greyhaired Asta (mother of)
| |
Grettir the Strong. Olaf the Saint.]

The genealogies of this part of the work agree closely with those of
the Landnma-bk, and of the other most reliable Sagas.

After this comes the birth of Grettir, and anecdotes (one at least
sufficiently monstrous) of his unruly childhood; then our hero kills
his first man by misadventure, and must leave Iceland; wrecked on
an isle off Norway, he is taken in there by a lord of that land, and
there works the deed that makes him a famous man; the slaying of the
villainous bearserks, namely, who would else have made wreck of the
honour and goods of Grettir's host in his absence; this great deed,
we should say, is prefaced by Grettir's first dealings with the
supernatural, which characterise this Saga, and throw a strange light
on the more ordinary matters throughout. The slaying of the bearserks
is followed by a feud which Grettir has on his hands for the slaying
of a braggart who insulted him past bearing, and so great the feud
grows that Grettir at last finds himself at enmity with Earl Svein,
the ruler of Norway, and, delivered from death by his friends, yet
has to leave the land and betake himself to Iceland again. Coming back
there, and finding himself a man of great fame, and hungry, for more
still, he tries to measure himself against the greatest men in the
land, but nothing comes of these trials, for he is being reserved for
a greater deed than the dealing with mere men; his enemy is Glam
the thrall; the revenant of a strange, unearthly man who was himself
killed by an evil spirit; Grettir contends with, and slays, this
monster, whose dying curse on him is the turning-point of the story.

All seems fair for our hero, his last deed has made him the foremost
man in Iceland, and news now coming out of Olaf the Saint, his
relative, being King of Norway, he goes thither to get honour at
his hands; but Glam's curse works; Grettir gains a powerful enemy by
slaying an insulting braggart just as he was going on ship-board; and
on the voyage it falls out that in striving to save the life of his
shipmates by a desperate action, he gets the reputation of having
destroyed the sons of a powerful Icelander, Thorir of Garth, with
their fellows. This evil report clings to him when he lands in Norway;
and all people, including the King from whom he hoped so much, look
coldly on him. Now he offers to free himself from the false charge by
the ordeal of bearing hot iron; the King assents, and all is ready;
but Glam is busy, and some strange appearance in the church, where
the ordeal is to be, brings all to nothing; and the foreseeing Olaf
refuses to take Grettir into his court, because of his ill-luck. So
he goes to his brother, Thorstein Dromund, for a while, and then goes
back to Iceland. But there, too, his ill-luck had been at work, and
when he lands he hears three pieces of bad news at once; his father is
dead; his eldest brother, Atli, is slain and unatoned; and he himself
has been made an outlaw, by Thorir of Garth, for a deed he has never

He avenges his brother, and seeks here and there harbour from his
friends, but his foes are too strong for him, or some unlucky turn of
fate always pushes him off the help of men, and he has to take to the
wilderness with a price upon his head; and now the other part of the
curse falls on him heavier, for ever after the struggle with the ghost
he sees horrible things in the dark, and cannot bear to be alone, and
runs all kinds of risks to avoid it; and so the years of his outlawry
pass on. From time to time, driven by need, and rage at his unmerited
ill-fortune, he takes to plundering those who cannot hold their own;
at other times he lives alone, and supports himself by fishing, and
is twice nearly brought to his end by hired assassins the while.
Sometimes he dwells with the friendly spirits of the land, and chiefly
with Hallmund, his friend, who saves his life in one of the desperate
fights he is forced into. But little by little all fall off from him;
his friends durst harbour him no more, or are slain. Hallmund comes
to a tragic end; Grettir is driven from his lairs one after the other,
and makes up his mind to try, as a last resource, to set himself
down on the island of Drangey, which rises up sheer from the midst
of Skagafirth like a castle; he goes to his father's house, and bids
farewell to his mother, and sets off for Drangey in the company of his
youngest brother, Illugi, who will not leave him in this pinch, and
a losel called "Noise," a good joker (we are told), but a slothful,
untrustworthy poltroon. The three get out to Drangey, and possess
themselves of the live-stock on it, and for a while all goes well;
the land-owners who held the island in shares, despairing of ridding
themselves of the outlaw, give their shares or sell them to one
Thorbiorn Angle, a man of good house, but violent, unpopular, and
unscrupulous. This man, after trying the obvious ways of persuasion,
cajolery, and assassination, for getting the island into his hands, at
last, with the help of a certain hag, his foster-mother, has recourse
to sorcery. By means of her spells (as the story goes) Grettir wounds
himself in the leg in the third year of his sojourn at Drangey,
and though the wound speedily closes, in a week or two gangrene
supervenes, and Grettir, at last, lies nearly helpless, watched
continually by his brother Illugi. The losel, "Noise," now that the
brothers can no more stir abroad, will not take the trouble to pull
up the ladders that lead from the top of the island down to the
beach; and, amidst all this, helped by a magic storm the sorceress
has raised, Thorbiorn Angle, with a band of men, surprises the island,
unroofs the hut of the brothers, and gains ingress there, and after
a short struggle (for Grettir is already a dying man) slays the great
outlaw and captures Illugi in spite of a gallant defence; he, too,
disdaining to make any terms with the murderers of his brother, is
slain, and Angle goes away exulting, after he had mutilated the body
of Grettir, with the head on which so great a price had been put, and
the sword which the dead man had borne.

But now that the mighty man was dead, and people were relieved
of their fear of him, the minds of men turned against him who had
overcome him in a way, according to their notions, so base and
unworthy, and Angle has no easy time of it; he fails to get the
head-money, and is himself brought to trial for sorcery and practising
heathen rites, and the 'nithings-deed' of slaying a man already dying,
and is banished from the land.

Now comes the part so necessary to the Icelandic tale of a hero, the
revenging of his death; Angle goes to Norway, and is thought highly of
for his deed by people who did not know the whole tale; but Thorstein
Dromund, an elder half-brother of Grettir, is a lord in that land, and
Angle, knowing of this, feels uneasy in Norway, and at last goes away
to Micklegarth (Constantinople), to take service with the Varangians:
Thorstein hears of this and follows him, and both are together at last
in Micklegarth, but neither knows the other: at last Angle betrays
himself by showing Grettir's sword, at a 'weapon-show' of the
Varangians, and Thorstein slays him then and there with the same
weapon. Thorstein alone in a strange land, with none to speak for him,
is obliged to submit to the laws of the country, and is thrown into a
dungeon to perish of hunger and wretchedness there. From this fate he
is delivered by a great lady of the city, called Spes, who afterwards
falls in love with him; and the two meet often in spite of the
watchful jealousy of the lady's husband, who is at last so completely
conquered by a plot of hers (the sagaman here has taken an incident
with little or no change from the Romance of Tristram and Iseult),
that he is obliged to submit to a divorce and the loss of his wife's
dower, and thereafter the lovers go away together to Norway, and live
there happily till old age reminds them of their misdeeds, and they
then set off together for Rome and pass the rest of their lives in
penitence and apart from one another. And so the story ends, summing
up the worth of Grettir the Strong by reminding people of his huge
strength, his long endurance in outlawry, his gift for dealing
with ghosts and evil spirits, the famous vengeance taken for him in
Micklegarth; and, lastly, the fortunate life and good end of Thorstein
Dromund, his brother and avenger.

Such is the outline of this tale of a man far above his fellows in all
matters valued among his times and people, but also far above them
all in ill-luck, for that is the conception that the story-teller has
formed of the great outlaw. To us moderns the real interest in these
records of a past state of life lies principally in seeing events true
in the main treated vividly and dramatically by people who completely
understood the manners, life, and, above all, the turn of mind of the
actors in them. Amidst many drawbacks, perhaps, to the modern reader,
this interest is seldom or ever wanting in the historical sagas, and
least of all in our present story; the sagaman never relaxes his grasp
of Grettir's character, and he is the same man from beginning to end;
thrust this way and that by circumstances, but little altered by them;
unlucky in all things, yet made strong to bear all ill-luck; scornful
of the world, yet capable of enjoyment, and determined to make the
most of it; not deceived by men's specious ways, but disdaining to cry
out because he must needs bear with them; scorning men, yet helping
them when called on, and desirous of fame: prudent in theory, and wise
in foreseeing the inevitable sequence of events, but reckless beyond
the recklessness even of that time and people, and finally capable of
inspiring in others strong affection and devotion to him in spite of
his rugged self-sufficing temper--all these traits which we find in
our sagaman's Grettir seem always the most suited to the story of
the deeds that surround him, and to our mind most skilfully and
dramatically are they suggested to the reader.

As is fitting, the other characters are very much subordinate to the
principal figure, but in their way they are no less life-like; the
braggart--that inevitable foil to the hero in a saga--was never better
represented than in the Gisli of our tale; the thrall Noise, with his
carelessness, and thriftless, untrustworthy mirth, is the very pattern
of a slave; Snorri the Godi, little though there is of him, fully
sustains the prudent and crafty character which follows him in all the
Sagas; Thorbiorn Oxmain is a good specimen of the overbearing and sour
chief, as is Atli, on the other hand, of the kindly and high-minded,
if prudent, rich man; and no one, in short, plays his part like
a puppet, but acts as one expects him to act, always allowing the
peculiar atmosphere of these tales; and to crown all, as the story
comes to its end, the high-souled and poetically conceived Illugi
throws a tenderness on the dreadful story of the end of the hero,
contrasted as it is with that of the gloomy, superstitious Angle.

Something of a blot, from some points of view, the story of Spes and
Thorstein Dromund (of which more anon) must be considered; yet
whoever added it to the tale did so with some skill considering its
incongruous and superfluous nature, for he takes care that Grettir
shall not be forgotten amidst all the plots and success of the lovers;
and, whether it be accidental or not, there is to our minds something
touching in the contrast between the rude life and tragic end of the
hero, and the long, drawn out, worldly good hap and quiet hopes for
another life which fall to the lot of his happier brother.

As to the authorship of our story, it has no doubt gone through the
stages which mark the growth of the Sagas in general, that is, it was
for long handed about from mouth to mouth until it took a definite
shape in men's minds; and after it had held that position for a
certain time, and had received all the necessary polish for an
enjoyable saga, was committed to writing as it flowed ready made from
the tongue of the people. Its style, in common with that of all the
sagas, shows evidences enough of this: for the rest, the only name
connected with it is that of Sturla Thordson the Lawman, a man of good
position and family, and a prolific author, who was born in 1214 and
died 1284; there is, however, no proof that he wrote the present work,
though we think the passages in it that mention his name show clearly
enough that he had something to do with the story of Grettir: on the
whole, we are inclined to think that a story of Grettir was either
written by him or under his auspices, but that the present tale is the
work of a later hand, nor do we think so complete a saga-teller,
as his other undoubted works show him to have been, would ever have
finished his story with the epilogue of Spes and Thorstein Dromund,
steeped as that latter part is with the spirit of the mediaeval
romances, even to the distinct appropriation of a marked and
well-known episode of the Tristram; though it must be admitted that he
had probably plenty of opportunity for being versed in that romance,
as Tristram was first translated into the tongue of Norway in the year
1226, by Brother Robert, at the instance of King Hakon Hakonson, whose
great favourite Sturla Thordson was, and whose history was written by

For our translation of this work we have no more to say than to
apologise for its shortcomings, and to hope, that in spite of them, it
will give some portion of the pleasure to our readers which we felt in
accomplishing it ourselves.


LONDON, April 1869.


872. The battle of Hafrsfirth.
874. Begins the settlement of Iceland.
cca. 897. Thrand and Ufeigh Grettir settle Gnup-Wardsrape.
cca. 900. Onund Treefoot comes to Iceland.
cca. 920. Death of Onund Treefoot.
929. The Althing established.
997 (?). Grettir born.
1000. Christianity sanctioned by law.
1004. Skapti Thorodson made lawman.
1011. Grettir slays Skeggi; goes abroad, banished for three years.
1012. Slaying of Thorir Paunch and his fellows in Haramsey.
Earl Eric goes to Denmark.
1013. Slaying of Biorn at the Island of Gartar.
Slaying of Thorgils Makson. Illugi Asmundson
born. Death of Thorkel Krafla.
1014. Slaying of Gunnar in Tunsberg. Grettir goes
back to Iceland; fights with the men of Meal
on Ramfirth-neck. Heath-slayings. Thorgeir
Havarson outlawed. Fight with Glam
the ghost.
1015. Fight of Nesjar in Norway. Slaying of Thorbiorn
Tardy. Grettir fares abroad. Burning
of the sons of Thorir of Garth. Death of
Asmund the Greyhaired.
1016. Grettir meets King Olaf; fails to bear iron; goes
east to Tunsberg to Thorstein Dromund.
Slaying of Atli of Biarg. Grettir outlawed
at the Thing for the burning of the sons of
Thorir; his return to Iceland. Slaying of
Thorbiorn Oxmain and his son Arnor.
1017. Grettir at Reek-knolls. Lawsuit for the slaying
of Thorbiorn Oxmain. Grettir taken by
the Icefirth churls.
1018. Grettir at Liarskogar with Thorstein Kuggson;
his travels to the East to Skapti the lawman
and Thorhall of Tongue, and thence to the
Keel-mountain, where he met Hallmund
(Air) for the first time.
1019-1021. Grettir on Ernewaterheath.
1021. Grettir goes to the Marshes.
1022-1024. Grettir in Fairwoodfell.
1024. Grettir visits Hallmund again.
1025. Grettir discovers Thorirs-dale.
1025-1026. Grettir travels round by the East; haunts
Madderdale-heath and Reek-heath.
1026. Thorstein Kuggson slain.
1027. Grettir at Sand-heaps in Bard-dale.
1028. Grettir haunts the west by Broadfirth-dales,
meets Thorod Snorrison.
1028-1031. Grettir in Drangey.
1029. Grettir visits Heron-ness-thing.
1030. Grettir fetches fire from Reeks. Skapti the law
man dies.
1031. Death of Snorri Godi and Grettir Asmundson.
1033. Thorbiorn Angle slain.



Chronology of the Story


I. XIII. The Forefathers of Grettir

XIV. Of Grettir as a Child, and his froward ways
with his father

XV. Of the Ball-play on Midfirth Water

XVI. Of the Slaying of Skeggi

XVII. Of Grettir's Voyage out

XVIII. Of Grettir at Haramsey and his dealings with
Karr the Old

XIX. Of Yule at Haramsey, and how Grettir dealt
with the Bearserks

XX. How Thorfinn met Grettir at Haramsey again

XXI. Of Grettir and Biorn and the Bear

XXII. Of the Slaying of Biorn

XXIII. The Slaying of Hiarandi

XXIV. Of the Slaying of Gunnar, and Grettir's strife
with Earl Svein

XXV. The Slaying of Thorgils Makson

XXVI. Of Thorstein Kuggson, and the gathering for
the Bloodsuit for the Slaying of Thorgils

XXVII. The Suit for the Slaying of Thorgils Makson

XXVIII. Grettir comes out to Iceland again

XXIX. Of the Horse-fight at Longfit

XXX. Of Thorbiorn Oxmain and Thorbiorn Tardy,
and of Grettir's meeting with Kormak on

XXXI. How Grettir met Bardi, the Son of Gudmund,
as he came back from the Heath-slayings

XXXII. Of the Haunting at Thorhall-stead; and how
Thorhall took a Shepherd by the rede of
Skapti the Lawman, and what befell thereafter

XXXIII. Of the doings of Glam at Thorhall-stead

XXXIV. Grettir hears of the Hauntings

XXXV. Grettir goes to Thorhall-stead, and has to do
with Glam

XXXVI. Of Thorbiorn Oxmain's Autumn-feast, and the
mocks of Thorbiorn Tardy

XXXVII. Olaf the Saint, King in Norway; the slaying
of Thorbiorn Tardy; Grettir goes to

XXXVIII. Of Thorir of Garth and his sons; and how
Grettir fetched fire for his shipmates

XXXIX. How Grettir would fain bear Iron before the

XL. Of Grettir and Snoekoll

XLI. Of Thorstein Dromund's Arms, and what he
deemed they might do

XLII. Of the Death of Asmund the Greyhaired

XLIII. The Onset on Atli at the Pass and the Slaying
of Gunnar and Thorgeir

XLIV. The Suit for the Slaying of the Sons of Thorir
of the Pass

XLV. Of the Slaying of Atli Asmundson

XLVI. Grettir outlawed at the Thing at the Suit of
Thorir of Garth

XLVII. Grettir comes out to Iceland again

XLVIII. The Slaying of Thorbiorn Oxmain

XLIX. The Gathering to avenge Thorbiorn Oxmain

L. Grettir and the Foster-brothers at Reek-knolls

LI. Of the Suit for the Slaying of Thorbiorn
Oxmain, and how Thorir of Garth would
not that Grettir should be made sackless

LII. How Grettir was taken by the Icefirth Carles

LIII. Grettir with Thorstein Kuggson

LIV. Grettir meets Hallmund on the Keel

LV. Of Grettir on Ernewaterheath, and his dealings
with Grim there

LVI. Of Grettir and Thorir Redbeard

LVII. How Thorir of Garth set on Grettir on Ernewaterheath

LVIII. Grettir in Fairwoodfell

LIX. Gisli's meeting with Grettir

LX. Of the Fight at Hitriver

LXI. How Grettir left Fairwoodfell, and of his abiding
in Thorir's-dale

LXII. Of the Death of Hallmund, Grettir's Friend

LXIII. How Grettir beguiled Thorir of Garth when he
was nigh taking him

LXIV. Of the ill haps at Sand-heaps, and how Guest
came to the Goodwife there

LXV. Of Guest and the Troll-wife

LXVI. Of the Dweller in the Cave under the Force

LXVII. Grettir driven from Sand-heaps to the West

LXVIII. How Thorod, the Son of Snorri Godi, went
against Grettir

LXIX. How Grettir took leave of his Mother at Biarg,
and fared with Illugi his Brother to Drangey

LXX. Of the Bonders who owned Drangey between them

LXXI. How those of Skagafirth found Grettir on Drangey

LXXII. Of the Sports at Heron-ness Thing

LXXIII. The Handselling of Peace

LXXIV. Of Grettir's Wrestling; and how Thorbiorn
Angle now bought the more part of Drangey

LXXV. Thorbiorn Angle goes to Drangey to speak with Grettir

LXXVI. How Noise let the Fire out on Drangey,
and how Grettir must needs go aland for more

LXXVII. Grettir at the Home-stead of Reeks

LXXVIII. Of Haering at Drangey, and the end of him

LXXIX. Of the Talk at the Thing about Grettir's Outlawry

LXXX. Thorbiorn Angle goes with his Foster-mother
out to Drangey

LXXXI. Of the Carline's evil Gift to Grettir

LXXXII. Grettir sings of his Great Deeds

LXXXIII. How Thorbiorn Angle gathered Force and
set Sail for Drangey

LXXXIV. The Slaying of Grettir Asmundson

LXXXV. How Thorbiorn Angle claimed Grettir's Head-money

LXXXVI. How Thorbiorn Angle brought Grettir's
Head to Biarg

LXXXVII. Affairs at the Althing

LXXXVIII. Thorbiorn Angle goes to Norway, and thence
to Micklegarth

LXXXIX. How the Short-Sword was the easier known
when sought for by reason of the notch in
the blade

XC. How the Lady Spes redeemed Thorstein from
the Dungeon

XCI. Of the Doings of Thorstein and the Lady Spes

XCII. Of the Oath that Spes made before the Bishop

XCIII. Thorstein and Spes come out to Norway

XCIV. Thorstein Dromund and Spes leave Norway

XCV. How Thorstein Dromund and Spes fared to
Rome and died there

Notes and Corrections

Index of Persons

Index of Places

Index of Things

Periphrastic Expressions in the Songs

Proverbial Sayings


This First Part tells of the forefathers of Grettir in Norway, and
how they fled away before Harald Fairhair, and settled in Iceland; and
of their deeds in Iceland before Grettir was born


There was a man named Onund, who was the son of Ufeigh Clubfoot, the
son of Ivar the Smiter; Onund was brother of Gudbiorg, the mother of
Gudbrand Ball, the father of Asta, the mother of King Olaf the Saint.
Onund was an Uplander by the kin of his mother; but the kin of his
father dwelt chiefly about Rogaland and Hordaland. He was a great
viking, and went harrying west over the Sea.[4] Balk of Sotanes, the
son of Blaeng, was with him herein, and Orm the Wealthy withal, and
Hallvard was the name of the third of them. They had five ships, all
well manned, and therewith they harried in the South-isles;[5] and
when they came to Barra, they found there a king, called Kiarval, and
he, too, had five ships. They gave him battle, and a hard fray there
was. The men of Onund were of the eagerest, and on either side many
fell; but the end of it was that the king fled with only one ship.
So there the men of Onund took both ships and much wealth, and abode
there through the winter. For three summers they harried throughout
Ireland and Scotland, and thereafter went to Norway.

[Footnote 4: "West over the Sea," means in the Sagas the British
isles, and the islands about them--the Hebrides, Orkneys, &c.]

[Footnote 5: South-isles are the Hebrides, and the other islands down
to Man.]


In those days were there great troubles in Norway. Harald the
Unshorn,[6] son of Halfdan the Black, was pushing forth for the
kingdom. Before that he was King of the Uplands; then he went north
through the land, and had many battles there, and ever won the day.
Thereafter he harried south in the land, and wheresoever he came,
laid all under him; but when he came to Hordaland, swarms of folk came
thronging against him; and their captains were Kiotvi the Wealthy, and
Thorir Longchin, and those of South Rogaland, and King Sulki. Geirmund
Helskin was then in the west over the Sea; nor was he in that battle,
though he had a kingdom in Hordaland.

[Footnote 6: "Harald the Unshorn:" he was so called at first because
he made a vow not to cut his hair till he was sole king of Norway.
When he had attained to this, and Earl Rognvald had taken him to the
bath and trimmed his hair, he was called "Fair-hair," from its length
and beauty.]

Now that autumn Onund and his fellows came from the west over the Sea;
and when Thorir Longchin and King Kiotvi heard thereof, they sent men
to meet them, and prayed them for help, and promised them honours.
Then they entered into fellowship with Thorir and his men; for they
were exceeding fain to try their strength, and said that there would
they be whereas the fight was hottest.

Now was the meeting with Harald the King in Rogaland, in that firth
which is called Hafrsfirth; and both sides had many men. This was the
greatest battle that has ever been fought in Norway, and hereof most
Sagas tell; for of those is ever most told, of whom the Sagas are
made; and thereto came folk from all the land, and many from other
lands and swarms of vikings.

Now Onund laid his ship alongside one board of the ship of Thorir
Longchin, about the midst of the fleet, but King Harald laid his on
the other board, because Thorir was the greatest bearserk, and the
stoutest of men; so the fight was of the fiercest on either side. Then
the king cried on his bearserks for an onslaught, and they were called
the Wolf-coats, for on them would no steel bite, and when they set
on nought might withstand them. Thorir defended him very stoutly, and
fell in all hardihood on board his ship; then was it cleared from stem
to stern, and cut from the grapplings, and let drift astern betwixt
the other ships. Thereafter the king's men laid their ship alongside
Onund's, and he was in the forepart thereof and fought manly; then the
king's folk said, "Lo, a forward man in the forecastle there, let him
have somewhat to mind him how that he was in this battle." Now Onund
put one foot out over the bulwark and dealt a blow at a man, and even
therewith a spear was aimed at him, and as he put the blow from him
he bent backward withal, and one of the king's forecastle men smote
at him, and the stroke took his leg below the knee and sheared it off,
and forthwith made him unmeet for fight. Then fell the more part of
the folk on board his ship; but Onund was brought to the ship of him
who is called Thrand; he was the son of Biorn, and brother of Eyvind
the Eastman; he was in the fight against King Harald and lay on the
other board of Onund's ship.

But now, after these things, the more part of the fleet scattered in
flight; Thrand and his men, with the other vikings, got them away each
as he might, and sailed west over the Sea; Onund went with him, and
Balk and Hallvard Sweeping; Onund was healed, but went with a wooden
leg all his life after; therefore as long as he lived was he called
Onund Treefoot.


At that time were many great men west over the Sea, such as had fled
from their lands in Norway before King Harald, because he had made
all those outlaws, who had met him in battle, and taken to him their
possessions. So, when Onund was healed of his wounds, he and Thrand
went to meet Geirmund Helskin, because he was the most famed of
vikings west there over the Sea, and they asked him whether he had any
mind to seek after that kingdom which he had in Hordaland, and offered
him their fellowship herein; for they deemed they had a sore loss of
their lands there, since Onund was both mighty and of great kin.

Geirmund said that so great had grown the strength of King Harald,
that he deemed there was little hope that they would win honour in
their war with him when men had been worsted, even when all the folk
of the land had been drawn together; and yet withal that he was loth
to become a king's thrall and pray for that which was his own; that
he would find somewhat better to do than that; and now, too, he was no
longer young. So Onund and his fellows went back to the South-isles,
and there met many of their friends.

There was a man, Ufeigh by name, who was bynamed Grettir; he was the
son of Einar, the son of Olvir Bairn-Carle; he was brother to Oleif
the Broad, the father of Thormod Shaft; Steinulf was the name of
Olvir Bairn-Carle's son, he was the father of Una whom Thorbiorn
Salmon-Carle had to wife. Another son of Olvir Bairn-Carle was
Steinmod, the father of Konal, who was the father of Aldis of Barra.
The son of Konal was Steinmod, the father of Haldora, the wife of
Eilif, the son of Ketil the Onehanded. Ufeigh Grettir had to wife
Asny, the daughter of Vestar Haengson; and Asmund the Beardless and
Asbiorn were the sons of Ufeigh Grettir, but his daughters were these,
Aldis, and Asa, and Asvor. Ufeigh had fled away west over the Sea
before Harald the king, and so had Thormod Shaft his kinsman, and had
with them their kith and kin; and they harried in Scotland, and far
and wide west beyond the sea.

Now Thrand and Onund Treefoot made west for Ireland to find Eyvind
the Eastman, Thrand's brother, who was Land-ward along the coasts of
Ireland; the mother of Eyvind was Hlif, the daughter of Rolf, son of
Ingiald, the son of King Frodi; but Thrand's mother was Helga, the
daughter of Ondott the Crow; Biorn was the name of the father of
Eyvind and Thrand, he was the son of Rolf from Am; he had had to
flee from Gothland, for that he had burned in his house Sigfast, the
son-in-law of King Solver; and thereafter had he gone to Norway, and
was the next winter with Grim the hersir, the son of Kolbiorn the
Abasher. Now Grim had a mind to murder Biorn for his money, so he
fled thence to Ondott the Crow, who dwelt in Hvinisfirth in Agdir; he
received Biorn well, and Biorn was with him in the winter, but was
in warfare in summer-tide, until Hlif his wife died; and after that
Ondott gave Biorn Helga his daughter, and then Biorn left off warring.

Now thereon Eyvind took to him the war-ships of his father, and
was become a great chief west over the Sea; he wedded Rafarta, the
daughter of Kiarval, King of Ireland; their sons were Helgi the Lean
and Snaebiorn.

So when Thrand and Onund came to the South-isles, there they met
Ufeigh Grettir and Thormod Shaft, and great friendship grew up betwixt
them, for each thought he had gained from hell the last who had been
left behind in Norway while the troubles there were at the highest.
But Onund was exceeding moody, and when Thrand marked it, he asked
what he was brooding over in his mind. Onund answered, and sang this

"What joy since that day can I get
When shield-fire's thunder last I met;
Ah, too soon clutch the claws of ill;
For that axe-edge shall grieve me still.
In eyes of fighting man and thane,
My strength and manhood are but vain,
This is the thing that makes me grow
A joyless man; is it enow?"

Thrand answered that whereso he was, he would still be deemed a brave
man, "And now it is meet for thee to settle down and get married,
and I would put forth my word and help, if I but knew whereto thou

Onund said he did in manly wise, but that his good hope for matches of
any gain was gone by now.

Thrand answered, "Ufeigh has a daughter who is called Asa, thitherward
will we turn if it seem good to thee." Onund showed that he was
willing enough hereto; so afterwards they talked the matter over with
Ufeigh; he answered well, and said that he knew how that Onund was a
man of great kin and rich of chattels; "but his lands," said he, "I
put at low worth, nor do I deem him to be a hale man, and withal my
daughter is but a child."

Thrand said, that Onund was a brisker man yet than many who were hale
of both legs, and so by Thrand's help was this bargain struck; Ufeigh
was to give his daughter but chattels for dowry, because those lands
that were in Norway neither would lay down any money for.

A little after Thrand wooed the daughter of Thormod Shaft, and both
were to sit in troth for three winters.

So thereafter they went a harrying in the summer, but were in Barra in
the winter-tide.


There were two vikings called Vigbiod and Vestmar; they were
South-islanders, and lay out both winter and summer; they had thirteen
ships, and harried mostly in Ireland, and did many an ill deed there
till Eyvind the Eastman took the land-wardship; thereafter they got
them gone to the South-isles, and harried there and all about the
firths of Scotland: against these went Thrand and Onund, and heard
that they had sailed to that island, which is called Bute. Now Onund
and his folk came there with five ships; and when the vikings see
their ships and know how many they are, they deem they have enough
strength gathered there, and take their weapons and lay their ships in
the midst betwixt two cliffs, where was a great and deep sound; only
on one side could they be set on, and that with but five ships at
once. Now Onund was the wisest of men, and bade lay five ships up into
the sound, so that he and his might have back way when they would, for
there was plenty of sea-room astern. On one board of them too was a
certain island, and under the lee thereof he let one ship lie, and his
men brought many great stones forth on to the sheer cliffs above, yet
might not be seen withal from the ships.

Now the vikings laid their ships boldly enough for the attack, and
thought that the others quailed; and Vigbiod asked who they were that
were in such jeopardy. Thrand said that he was the brother of Eyvind
the Eastman, "and here beside me is Onund Treefoot my fellow."

Then laughed the vikings, and shouted--

"Treefoot, Treefoot, foot of tree,
Trolls take thee and thy company."

"Yea, a sight it is seldom seen of us, that such men should go into
battle as have no might over themselves."

Onund said that they could know nought thereof ere it were tried; and
withal they laid their ships alongside one of the other, and there
began a great fight, and either side did boldly. But when they came
to handy blows, Onund gave back toward the cliff, and when the vikings
saw this, they deemed he was minded to flee, and made towards his
ship, and came as nigh to the cliff as they might.

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