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The Story Of Gunnlaug The Worm-Tongue And Raven The Skald
1875 Author: Anonymous Translator:
Eirikr Magnusson And William Morris
Release Date: January 25, 2008 [EBook #24421] Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK STORY OF GUNNLAUG ***
Produced by David Widger
THE STORY OF GUNNLAUG THE WORM-TONGUE AND RAVEN THE SKALD.
Translated From The Icelandic By
Eirikr Magnusson And William Morris 1875
[Transcriber's Note: Thought to be written in the 13th Century]
_EVEN AS ARI THORGILSON THE LEARNED, THE PRIEST, HATH TOLD IT,
WHO WAS THE MAN OF ALL ICELAND MOST LEARNED IN TALES OF THE
LAND'S INHABITING AND IN LORE OF TIME AGONE_.
Of Thorstein Egilson and his Kin.
There was a man called Thorstein, the son of Egil, the son
of Skallagrim, the son of Kveldulf the Hersir of Norway.
Asgerd was the mother of Thorstein; she was the daughter of
Biorn Hold. Thorstein dwelt at Burg in Burg-firth; he was rich
of fee, and a great chief, a wise man, meek and of measure in
all wise. He was nought of such wondrous growth and strength
as his father Egil had been; yet was he a right mighty man, and
much beloved of all folk. Thorstein was goodly to look on,
flaxen-haired, and the best-eyed of men; and so say men of
lore that many of the kin of the Mere-men, who are come of Egil,
have been the goodliest folk; yet, for all that, this kindred
have differed much herein, for it is said that some of them
have been accounted the most ill-favoured of men: but in
that kin have been also many men of great prowess in many
wise, such as Kiartan, the son of Olaf Peacock, and
Slaying-Bardi, and Skuli, the son of Thorstein.
Some have been great bards, too, in that kin, as Biorn,
the champion of Hit-dale, priest Einar Skulison,
Snorri Sturluson, and many others.
Now, Thorstein had to wife Jofrid, the daughter of
Gunnar, the son of Hlifar. This Gunnar was the best
skilled in weapons, and the lithest of limb of all
bonderfolk who have been in Iceland; the second was
Gunnar of Lithend; but Steinthor of Ere was the third.
Jofrid was eighteen winters old when Thorstein wedded
her; she was a widow, for Thorodd, son of Odd of Tongue,
had had her to wife aforetime. Their daughter was Hungerd,
who was brought up at Thorstein's at Burg. Jofrid was a
very stirring woman; she and Thorstein had many children
betwixt them, but few of them come into this tale. Skuli
was the eldest of their sons, Kollsvein the second,
Egil the third.
Of Thorsteins Dream.
One summer, it is said, a ship came from over the
main into Gufaros. Bergfinn was he hight who was the
master thereof, a Northman of kin, rich in goods,
and somewhat stricken in years, and a wise man he was
withal. Now, goodman Thorstein rode to the ship, as it
was his wont mostly to rule the market, and this he
did now. The Eastmen got housed, but Thorstein took the
master to himself, for thither he prayed to go. Bergfinn
was of few words throughout the winter, but Thorstein
treated him well The Eastman had great joy of dreams.
One day in spring-tide Thorstein asked Bergfinn if
he would ride with him up to Hawkfell, where at that
time was the Thing-stead of the Burg-firthers; for
Thorstein had been told that the walls of his booth
had fallen in. The Eastman said he had good will to go,
so that day they rode, some three together, from home,
and the house-carles of Thorstein withal, till they
came up under Hawkfell to a farmstead called Foxholes.
There dwelt a man of small wealth called Atli, who was
Thorstein's tenant Thorstein bade him come and work
with them, and bring with him hoe and spade. This he
did, and when they came to the tofts of the booth,
they set to work all of them, and did out the walls.
The weather was hot with sunshine that day, and
Thorstein and the Eastman grew heavy; and when they
had moved out the walls, those two sat down within
the tofts, and Thorstein slept, and fared ill in his
sleep. The Eastman sat beside him, and let him have
his dream fully out, and when he awoke he was much
wearied. Then the Eastman asked him what he had dreamt,
as he had had such an ill time of it in his sleep.
Thorstein said, "Nay, dreams betoken nought." But
as they rode homeward in the evening, the Eastman asked
him again what he had dreamt. Thorstein said, "If I
tell thee the dream, then shalt thou unriddle it to me,
as it verily is." The Eastman said he would risk it.
Then Thorstein said: "This was my dream; for methought
I was at home at Burg, standing outside the men's-door,
and I looked up at the house-roof, and on the ridge I
saw a swan, goodly and fair, and I thought it was mine
own, and deemed it good beyond all things. Then I saw a
great eagle sweep down from the mountains, and fly
thitherward and alight beside the swan, and chuckle
over her lovingly; and methouht the swan seemed well
content thereat; but I noted that the eagle was
black-eyed, and that on him were iron claws: valiant he
seemed to me. "After this I thought I saw another fowl
come flying from the south quarter, and he, too, came
hither to Burg, and sat down on the house beside the
swan, and would fain be fond with her. This also was a
mighty eagle. "But soon I thought that the eagle
first-come ruffled up at the coming of the other. Then
they fought fiercely and long, and this I saw that both
bled, and such was the end of their play, that each
tumbled either way down from the house-roof, and there
they lay both dead. "But the swan sat left alone,
drooping much, and sad of semblance. "Then I saw a
fowl fly from the west; that was a falcon, and he sat
beside the swan and made fondly towards her, and they
flew away both together into one and the same quarter,
and therewith I awoke. "But a dream of no mark this is,"
he says, "and will in all likelihood betoken gales, that
they shall meet in the air from those quarters whence I
deemed the fowl flew." The Eastman spake: "I deem it
nowise such," saith he. Thorstein said, "Make of the
dream, then, what seemeth likest to thee, and let me
hear." Then said the Eastman: "These birds are like
to be fetches of men: but thy wife sickens now, and
she will give birth to a woman-child fair and lovely;
and dearly thou wilt love her; but high-born men shall
woo thy daughter, coming from such quarters as the
eagles seemed to fly from, and shall love her with
overweening love, and shall fight about her, and both
lose their lives thereby. And thereafter a third man,
from the quarter whence came the falcon, shall woo her,
and to that man shall she be wedded. Now, I have
unravelled thy dream, and I think things will befall
as I have said."
Thorstein answered: "In evil and unfriendly wise is the
dream interpreted, nor do I deem thee fit for the work
of unriddling dreams." Then Eastman said, "Thou shalt
find how it will come to pass." But Thorstein estranged
himself from the Eastman thenceforward, and he left that
summer, and now he is out of the tale.
Of the Birth and Fostering of Helga the Fair.
This summer Thorstein got ready to ride to the Thing, and
spake to Jofrid his wife before he went from home.
"So is it," he says, "that thou art with child now, but
thy child shall be cast forth if thou bear a woman; but
nourished if it be a man." Now, at this time when all
the land was heathen, it was somewhat the wont of such
men as had little wealth, and were like to have many
young children on their hands, to have them cast forth,
but an evil deed it was always deemed to be. And now,
when Thorstein had said this, Jofrid answers, "This is a
word all unlike thee, such a man as thou art, and surely
to a wealthy man like thee it will not seem good that
this should be done."
Thorstein answered: "Thou knowest my mind, and that no
good will hap if my will be thwarted." So he rode to
the Thing; but while he was gone Jofrid gave birth to a
woman-child wondrous fair. The women would fain show her
to the mother; she said there was little need thereof,
but had her shepherd Thorvard called to her, and spake
to him:-- "Thou shalt take my horse and saddle it, and
bring this child west to Herdholt, to Thorgerd, Egil's
daughter, and pray her to nourish it secretly, so that
Thorstein may not know thereof. For with such looks of
love do I behold this child, that surely I cannot bear
to have it cast forth. Here are three marks of silver,
have them in reward of thy work; but west there Thorgerd
will get thee fare and food over the sea." Then Thorvard
did her bidding; he rode with the child to Herdholt, and
gave it into Thorgerd's hands, and she had it nourished
at a tenant's of hers who dwelt at Freedmans-stead up
in Hvamfirth; but she got fare for Thorvard north in
Steingrims-firth, in Shell-creek, and gave him meet
outfit for his sea-faring: he went thence abroad, and
is now out of the story. Now when Thorstein came home
from the Thing, Jofrid told him that the child had been
cast forth according to his word, but that the herdsman
had fled away and stolen her horse. Thorstein said she
had done well, and got himself another herdsman.
So six winters passed, and this matter was nowise
wotted of. Now in those days Thorstein rode to
Herdholt, being bidden there as guest of his
brother-in-law, Olaf Peacock, the son of Hoskuld,
who was then deemed to be the chief highest of worth
among all men west there. Good cheer was made Thorstein,
as was like to be; and one day at the feast it is said
that Thorgerd sat in the high seat talking with her
brother Thorstein, while Olaf was talking to other men;
but on the bench right over against them sat three little
maidens. Then said Thorgerd,--
"How dost thou, brother, like the look of these three
little maidens sitting straight before us?" "Right well,"
he answers, "but one is by far the fairest; she has all
the goodliness of Olaf, but the whiteness and the
countenance of us, the Mere-men."
Thorgerd answered: "Surely this is true, brother,
wherein thou sayest that she has the fairness and
countenance of us Mere-folk, but the goodliness of
Olaf Peacock she has not got, for she is not his
daughter." "How can that be," says Thorstein,
"being thy daughter none the less?"
She answered: "To say sooth, kinsman," quoth she,
"this fair maiden is not my daughter, but thine."
And therewith she told him all as it had befallen, and
prayed him to forgive her and his own wife that trespass.
Thorstein said: "I cannot blame you two for having done
this; most things will fall as they are fated, and well
have ye covered over my folly: so look I on this maiden
that I deem it great good luck to have so fair a child.
But now, what is her name?" "Helga she is called,"
says Thorgerd. "Helga the Fair," says Thorstein.
"But now shalt thou make her ready to come home with
me." She did so, and Thorstein was led out with good
gifts, and Helga rode with him to his home, and was
brought up there with much honour and great love from
father and mother and all her kin.
Of Gunnlaug Worm-tongue and his Kin.
Now at this time there dwelt at Gilsbank, up in
White-water-side, Illugi the Black, son of Hallkel,
the son of Hrosskel. The mother of Illugi was
Thurid Dandle, daughter of Gunnlaug Worm-tongue.
Illugi was the next greatest chief in Burg-firth
after Thorstein Egilson. He was a man of broad lands and
hardy of mood, and wont to do well to his friends; he
had to wife Ingibiorg, the daughter of Asbiorn Hordson,
from Ornolfsdale; the mother of Ingibiorg was Thorgerd,
the daughter of Midfirth-Skeggi. The children of Illugi
and Ingibiorg were many, but few of them have to do with
this story. Hermund was one of their sons, and Gunnlaug
another; both were hopeful men, and at this time of ripe
growth. It is told of Gunnlaug that he was quick of
growth in his early youth, big, and strong; his hair
was light red, and very goodly of fashion; he was
dark-eyed, somewhat ugly-nosed, yet of lovesome
countenance; thin of flank he was, and broad of shoulder,
and the best-wrought of men; his whole mind was very
masterful; eager was he from his youth up, and in all
wise unsparing and hardy; he was a great skald, but
somewhat bitter in his rhyming, and therefore was he
called Gunnlaug Worm-tongue. Hermund was the best
beloved of the two brothers, and had the mien of a
When Gunnlaug was fifteen winters old he prayed his
father for goods to fare abroad withal, and said he had
will to travel and see the manners of other folk.
Master Illugi was slow to take the matter up, and said
he was unlike to be deemed good in the out-lands "when
I can scarcely shape thee to my own liking at home."
On a morning but a very little afterwards it happened
that Illugi came out early, and saw that his storehouse
was opened, and that some sacks of wares, six of them,
had been brought out into the road, and therewithal
too some pack-gear. Now, as he wondered at this, there
came up a man leading four horses, and who should it be
but his son Gunnlaug. Then said he:-- "I it was who
brought out the sacks." Illugi asked him why he had
done so. He said that they should make his faring goods.
Illugi said: "In nowise shalt thou thwart my will, nor
fare anywhere sooner than I like!" and in again he swung
the ware-sacks therewith. Then Gunnlaug rode thence and
came in the evening down to Burg, and goodman Thorstein
asked him to bide there, and Gunnlaug was fain of that
proffer. He told Thorstein how things had gone betwixt
him and his father, and Thorstein offered to let him bide
there as long as he liked, and for some seasons
Gunnlaug abode there, and learned law-craft of Thorstein,
and all men accounted well of him. Now Gunnlaug and Helga
would be always at the chess-playing together, and very
soon each found favour with the other, as came to be
proven well enough afterwards: they were very nigh of an
age. Helga was so fair, that men of lore say that she
was the fairest woman of Iceland, then or since; her
hair was so plenteous and long that it could cover her
all over, and it was as fair as a band of gold; nor was
there any so good to choose as Helga the Fair in all
Burgfirth, and far and wide elsewhere.
Now one day, as men sat in the hall at Burg,
Gunnlaug spake to Thorstein: "One thing in law there
is which thou hast not taught me, and that is how to woo
me a wife." Thorstein said, "That is but a small matter,"
and therewith taught him how to go about it. Then said
Gunnlaug, "Now shalt thou try if I have understood all:
I shall take thee by the hand and make as if I were
wooing thy daughter Helga." "I see no need of that,"
says Thorstein. Gunnlaug, however, groped then and t
here after his hand, and seizing it said, "Nay, grant
me this though." "Do as thou wilt, then," said
Thorstein; "but be it known to all who are hereby
that this shall be as if it had been unspoken, nor
shall any guile follow herein." Then Gunnlaug named
for himself witnesses, and betrothed Helga to him,
and asked thereafter if it would stand good thus.
Thorstein said that it was well; and those who were
present were mightily pleased at all this.
Of Raven and his Kin.
There was a man called Onund, who dwelt in the south
at Mossfell: he was the wealthiest of men, and had a
priesthood south there about the nesses. He was married,
and his wife was called Geirny. She was the daughter of
Gnup, son of Mold-Gnup, who settled at Grindwick, in the
south country. Their sons were Raven, and Thorarin, and
Eindridi; they were all hopeful men, but Raven was in
all wise the first of them. He was a big man and a
strong, the sightliest of men and a good skald; and when
he was fully grown he fared between sundry lands, and
was well accounted of wherever he came. Thorod the Sage,
the son of Eyvind, then dwelt at Hjalli, south in Olfus,
with Skapti his son, who was then the spokesman-at-law
in Iceland. The mother of Skapti was Ranveig, daughter
of Gnup, the son of Mold-Gnup; and Skapti and the sons
of Onund were sisters' sons. Between these kinsmen was
much friendship as well as kinship. At this time
Thorfin, the son of Selthorir, dwelt at Red-Mel, and had
seven sons, who were all the hopefullest of men; and of
them were these--Thorgils, Eyjolf, and Thorir; and they
were all the greatest men out there. But these men who
have now been named lived all at one and the same time.
Next to this befell those tidings, the best that ever
have befallen here in Iceland, that the whole land became
Christian, and that all folk cast off the old faith.
How Helga was vowed to Gunnlaug,
and of Gunnlaug's faring abroad.
Gunnlaug Worm-Tongue was, as is aforesaid, whiles at Burg
with Thorstein, whiles with his father Illugi at Gilsbank,
three winters together, and was by now eighteen winters
old; and father and son were now much more of a mind.
There was a man called Thorkel the Black; he was a
house-carle of Illugi, and near akin to him, and had
been brought up in his house. To him fell an heritage
north at As, in Water-dale, and he prayed Gunnlaug to
go with him thither. This he did, and so they rode, the
two together, to As. There they got the fee; it was given
up to them by those who had the keeping of it, mostly
because of Gunnlaug's furtherance. But as they rode from
the north they guested at Grimstongue, at a rich bonder's
who dwelt there; but in the morning a herdsman took
Gunnlaug's horse, and it had sweated much by then he got
it back. Then Gunnlaug smote the herdsman, and stunned
him; but the bonder would in nowise bear this, and
claimed boot therefor. Gunnlaug offered to pay him one
mark. The bonder thought it too little.
Then Gunnlaug sang,--
"Bade I the middling mighty
To have a mark of waves' flame;
Giver of grey seas? glitter,
This gift shalt thou make shift with.
If the elf sun of the waters
From out of purse thou lettest,
O waster of the worm's bedy
Awaits thee sorrow later."
So the peace was made as Gunnlaug bade, and in such wise
the two rode south. Now, a little while after, Gunnlaug
asked his father a second time for goods for going abroad.
Illugi says, "Now shalt thou have thy will, for thou hast
wrought thyself into something better than thou wert."
So Illugi rode hastily from home, and bought for Gunnlaug
half a ship which lay in Gufaros, from
--this Audun was he who would not flit
abroad the sons of Oswif the Wise, after the slaying
of Kiartan Olafson, as is told in the story of the
Laxdalemen, which thing though betid later than this.--
And when Illugi came home, Gunnlaug thanked him well.
Thorkel the Black betook himself to seafaring with
Gunnlaug, and their wares were brought to the ship; but
Gunnlaug was at Burg while they made her ready, and
found more cheer in talk with Helga than in toiling with
chapmen. Now one day Thorstein asked Gunnlaug if he
would ride to his horses with him up to Long-water-dale.
Gunnlaug said he would. So they ride both together till
they come to the mountain-dairies of Thorstein, called
Thorgils-stead. There were stud-horses of Thorstein,
four of them together, all red of hue. There was one
horse very goodly, but little tried: this horse
Thorstein offered to give to Gunnlaug. He said he was in
no need of horses, as he was going away from the
country; and so they ride to other stud-horses. There
was a grey horse with four mares, and he was the best of
horses in Burgfirth. This one, too, Thorstein offered to
give Gunnlaug, but he said, "I desire these in no wise
more than the others; but why dost thou not bid me what
I will take?"
"What is that?" said Thorstein.
"Helga the Fair, thy daughter," says Gunnlaug.
"That rede is not to be settled so hastily,"
said Thorstein; and therewithal got on other talk.
And now they ride homewards down along Long-water.
Then said Gunnlaug, "I must needs know what thou wilt
answer me about the wooing." Thorstein answers:
"I heed not thy vain talk," says he.
Gunnlaug says, "This is my whole mind, and no vain words."
Thorstein says, "Thou shouldst first know thine own
will. Art thou not bound to fare abroad? and yet thou
makest as if thou wouldst go marry. Neither art thou an
even match for Helga while thou art so unsettled, and
therefore this cannot so much as be looked at."
Gunnlaug says, "Where lookest thou for a match for thy
daughter, if thou wilt not give her to the son of
Illugi the Black; or who are they throughout Burg-firth
who are of more note than he?" Thorstein answered:
"I will not play at men-mating," says he, "but if thou
wert such a man as he is, thou wouldst not be
Gunnlaug said, "To whom wilt thou give thy daughter
rather than to me?" Said Thorstein, "Hereabout are
many good men to choose from. Thorfin of Red-Mel
hath seven sons, and all of them men of good
manners." Gunnlaug answers, "Neither Onund nor
Thorfin are men as good as my father. Nay, thou thyself
clearly fallest short of him--or what hast thou to set
against his strife with Thorgrim the Priest, the son of
Kiallak, and his sons, at Thorsness Thing, where he
carried all that was in debate?"
Thorstein answers, "I drave away Steinar, the son of
Onund Sioni, which was deemed somewhat of a deed."
Gunnlaug says, "Therein thou wast holpen by thy father
Egil; and, to end all, it is for few bonders to cast
away my alliance." Said Thorstein,
"Carry thy cowing away to the fellows up yonder at the
mountains; for down here, on the Meres, it shall
avail thee nought." Now in the evening they come
home; but next morning Gunnlaug rode up to Gilsbank,
and prayed his father to ride with him a-wooing out
to Burg. Illugi answered,
"Thou art an unsettled man, being bound for faring
abroad, but makest now as if thou wouldst busy thyself
with wife-wooing; and so much do I know, that this is
not to Thorstein's mind." Gunnlaug answers, "I shall
go abroad all the same, nor shall I be well pleased but
if thou further this." So after this Illugi rode with
eleven men from home down to Burg, and Thorstein
greeted him well. Early in the morning Illugi said to
Thorstein, "I would speak to thee." "Let us go, then,
to the top of the Burg, and talk together there," says
Thorstein; and so they did, and Gunnlaug went with them.
Then said Illugi, "My kinsman Gunnlaug tells me that he
has begun a talk with thee on his own behalf, praying
that he might woo thy daughter Helga; but now I would
fain know what is like to come of this matter. His kin
is known to thee, and our possessions; from my hand
shall be spared neither land nor rule over men, if
such things might perchance further matters." Thorstein
said, "Herein alone Gunnlaug pleases me not, that I
find him an unsettled man; but if he were of a mind
like thine, little would I hang back." Illugi said,
"It will cut our friendship across if thou
gainsayest me and my son an equal match."
Thorstein answers, "For thy words and our friendship
then, Helga shall be vowed, but not betrothed, to
Gunnlaug, and shall bide for him three winters: but
Gunnlaug shall go abroad and shape himself to the ways
of good men; but I shall be free from all these matters
if he does not then come back, or if his ways are not
to my liking." Thereat they parted; Illugi rode home,
but Gunnlaug rode to his ship. But when they had wind
at will they sailed for the main, and made the northern
part of Norway, and sailed landward along Thrandheim
to Nidaros; there they rode in the harbour, and
unshipped their goods.
Of Gunnlaug in the East and the West.
In those days Earl Eric, the son of Hakon, and his
brother Svein, ruled in Norway. Earl Eric abode as
then at Hladir, which was left to him by his father,
and a mighty lord he was. Skuli, the son of
Thorstein, was with the earl at that time, and
was one of his court, and well esteemed. Now they
say that Gunnlaug and Audun Festargram, and seven
of them together, went up to Hladir to the earl.
Gunnlaug was so clad that he had on a grey kirtle
and white long-hose; he had a boil on his foot by
the instep, and from this oozed blood and matter as
he strode on. In this guise he went before the earl
with Audun and the rest of them, and greeted him
well. The earl knew Audun, and asked him tidings
from Iceland. Audun told him what there was toward.
Then the earl asked Gunnlaug who he was, and
Gunnlaug told him his name and kin. Then the earl
said: "Skuli Thorstein's son, what manner of man
is this in Iceland?" "Lord," says he, "give him
good welcome, for he is the son of the best man in
Iceland, Illugi the Black of Gilsbank, and my
foster-brother withal." The earl asked, "What ails
thy foot, Icelander?" "A boil, lord," said he.
"And yet thou wentest not halt?" Gunnlaug answers,
"Why go halt while both legs are long alike?" Then
said one of the earl's men, called Thorir:
"He swaggereth hugely, this Icelander! It would not
be amiss to try him a little." Gunnlaug looked at
him and sang:--
"A courtman there is
Full evil I wis,
A bad man and black,
Belief let him lack."
Then would Thorir seize an axe. The earl spake:
"Let it be," says he; "to such things men should pay no
heed. But now, Icelander, how old a man art thou?"
Gunnlaug answers: "I am eighteen winters old as now,"
Then says Earl Eric, "My spell is that thou shalt not
live eighteen winters more." Gunnlaug said,
somewhat under his breath: "Pray not against me, but
for thyself rather." The earl asked thereat, "What
didst thou say, Icelander?" Gunnlaug answers,
"What I thought well befitting, that thou shouldst bid
no prayers against me, but pray well for thyself rather."
"What prayers, then?" says the earl.
"That thou mightest not meet thy death after the manner
of Earl Hakon, thy father."
The earl turned red as blood, and bade them take the
rascal in haste; but Skuli stepped up to the earl, and
said: "Do this for my words, lord, and give this man
peace, so that he depart at his swiftest." The earl
answered, "At his swiftest let him be off then, if he
will have peace, and never let him come again within
mv realm." Then Skuli went out with Gunnlaug down to
the bridges, where there was an England-bound ship
ready to put out; therein Skuli got for Gunnlaug a
berth, as well as for Thorkel, his kinsman; but
Gunnlaug gave his ship into Audun's ward, and so
much of his goods as he did not take with him.
Now sail Gunnlaug and his fellows into the English
main, and come at autumntide south to London Bridge,
where they hauled ashore their ship. Now at that
time King Ethelred, the son of Edgar, ruled over
England, and was a good lord; this winter he sat in
London. But in those days there was the same tongue
in England as in Norway and Denmark; but the tongues
changed when William the Bastard won England, for
thenceforward French went current there, for he was
of French kin. Gunnlaug went presently to the king,
and greeted him well and worthily, The king asked him
from what land he came, and Gunnlaug told him all as
it was. "But," said he, "I have come to meet thee,
lord, for that I have made a song on thee, and I
would that it might please thee to hearken to that
song." The king said it should be so, and Gunnlaug
gave forth the song well and proudly; and this is
the burden thereof:--
"As God are all folk fearing
The free lord King of England,
Kin of all kings and all folk,
To Ethelred the head tow."
The king thanked him for the song, and gave him as
song-reward a scarlet cloak lined with the costliest
of furs, and golden-broidered down to the hem; and
made him his man; and Gunnlaug was with him all the
winter, and was well accounted of. One day, in the
morning early, Gunnlaug met three men in a certain
street, and Thororm was the name of their leader;
he was big and strong, and right evil to deal with.
He said, "Northman, lend me some money." Gunnlaug
answered, "That were ill counselled to lend one's
money to unknown men." He said, "I will pay it
thee back on a named day."
"Then shall it be risked," says Gunnlaug; and he lent
him the fee withal. But some time afterwards Gunnlaug
met the king, and told him of the money-lending.
The king answered, "Now hast thou thriven little,
for this is the greatest robber and reiver; deal with
him in no wise, but I will give thee money as much as
thine was." Gunnlaug said, "Then do we, your men, do
after a sorry sort, if, treading sackless folk under
foot, we let such fellows as this deal us out our lot.
Nay, that shall never be." Soon after he met Thororm
and claimed the fee of him. He said he was not going
to pay it. Then sang Gunnlaug:--
"Evil counselled art thou,
Gold from us withholding;
The reddener of the edges,
Pricking on with tricking.
Wot ye what? they called me,
Worm-tongue, yet a youngling;
Nor for nought so hight I;
Now is time to show it!"
"Now I will make an offer good in law,"
says Gunnlaug; "that thou either pay me my money, or
else that thou go on holm with me in three nights'
space." Then laughed the viking, and said, "Before
thee none have come to that, to call me to holm,
despite of all the ruin that many a man has had to
take at my hands. Well, I am ready to go." Thereon
they parted for that time. Gunnlaug told the king
what had befallen; and he said, "Now, indeed, have
things taken a right hopeless turn; for this man's eyes
can dull any weapon. But thou shalt follow my rede;
here is a sword I will give thee--
with that thou shalt fight, but before the battle
show him another."
Gunnlaug thanked the king well therefor. Now when
they were ready for the holm, Thororm asked what sort
of a sword it was that he had. Gunnlaug unsheathed it
and showed him, but had a loop round the handle of the
king's sword, and slipped it over his hand; the bearserk
looked on the sword, and said, "I fear not that sword."
But now he dealt a blow on Gunnlaug with his sword, and
cut off from him nigh all his shield; Gunnlaug smote in
turn with the king's gift; the bearserk stood shieldless
before him, thinking he had the same weapon he had shown
him, but Gunnlaug smote him his deathblow then and
there. The king thanked him for this work, and he got
much fame therefor, both in England and far and wide
elsewhere. In the spring, when ships sailed from land
to land, Gunnlaug prayed King Ethelred for leave to
sail somewhither; the king asks what he was about then.
Gunnlaug said, "I would fulfil what I have given my
word to do," and sang this stave withal:--
"My ways must I be wending
Three kings' walls to see yet,
And earls twain, as I promised
Erewhile to land-sharers.
Neither will I wend me
Back, the worms'-bed lacking,
By war-lord's son, the wealth-free,
For work done gift well given."
"So be it, then, skald," said the king, and withal he
gave him a ring that weighed six ounces;
"but," said he, "thou shalt give me thy word to come
back next autumn, for I will not let thee go
altogether, because of thy great prowess."
Of Gunnlaug in Ireland.
Thereafter Gunnlaug sailed from England with chapmen
north to Dublin. In those days King
Sigtrygg Silky-beard, son of King Olaf Kvaran and
Queen Kormlada, ruled over Ireland; and he had then
borne sway but a little while. Gunnlaug went before
the king, and greeted him well and worthily. The
king received him as was meet. Then Gunnlaug said,
"I have made a song on thee, and I would fain have
silence therefor." The king answered, "No men have
before now come forward with songs for me, and surely
will I hearken to thine." Then Gunnlaug brought the
song, whereof this is the burden,--
Doth Sigtrygg feed."
And this is therein also:--
"Praise-worth I can
Well measure in man,
And kings, one by one--
Lo here, Kvararis son!
Gruageth the king
Gift of gold ring?
I, singer, know
His wont to bestow.
Let the high king say,
Heard he or this day,
Dearer a treasure?"
The king thanked him for the song, and called his
treasurer to him, and said, "How shall the song be
rewarded?" "What hast thou will to give, lord?"
says he. "How will it be rewarded if I give him
two ships for it?" said the king.
Then said the treasurer, "This is too much, lord; o
ther kings give in regard of songs good keepsakes,
fair swords, or golden rings." So the king gave him
his own raiment of new scarlet, a gold-embroidered
kirtle, and a cloak lined with choice furs, and a
gold ring which weighed a mark. Gunnlaug thanked
him well. He dwelt a short time here, and then went
thence to the Orkneys.
Then was lord in Orkney, Earl Sigurd, the son of
Hlodver; he was friendly to Icelanders. Now Gunnlaug
greeted the earl well, and said he had a song to bring
him. The earl said he would listen thereto, since he
was of such great kin in Iceland. Then Gunnlaug
brought the song; it was a shorter lay, and well done.
The earl gave him for lay-reward a broad axe, all
inlaid with silver, and bade him abide with him. Gunnlaug
thanked him both for his gift and his offer, but said he
was bound east for Sweden; and thereafter he went on
board ship with chapmen who sailed to Norway. In the
autumn they came east to King's Cliff, Thorkel, his
kinsman, being with him all the time.
From King's Cliff they got a guide up to West Gothland,
and came upon a cheaping-stead, called Skarir: there
ruled an earl called Sigurd, a man stricken in years.
Gunnlaug went before him, and told him he had made a
song on him; the earl gave a willing ear hereto,
and Gunnlaug brought the song, which was a shorter lay.
The earl thanked him, and rewarded the song well, and
bade him abide there that winter. Earl Sigurd had a
great Yule-feast in the winter, and on Yule-eve came
thither men sent from Earl Eric of Norway, twelve of
them together, and brought gifts to Earl Sigurd. The
earl made them good cheer, and bade them sit by
Gunnlaug through the Yule-tide; and there was great
mirth at drinks. Now the Gothlanders said that no
earl was greater or of more fame than Earl Sigurd;
but the Norwegians thought that Earl Eric was by far
the foremost of the two. Hereon would they bandy words,
till they both took Gunnlaug to be umpire in the
matter. Then he sang this stave:--
"Tell ye, staves of spear-din,
How on sleek-side sea-horse
Oft this earl hath proven
But Eric, victory's ash-tree,
Oft hath seen in east-seas
More of high blue billows
Before the bows a-roaring."
Both sides were content with his finding, but the
Norwegians the best. But after Yule-tide those
messengers left with gifts of goodly things, which
Earl Sigurd sent to Earl Eric. Now they told
Earl Eric of Gunnlaug's finding: the earl thought that
he had shown upright dealing and friendship to him
herein, and let out some words, saying that Gunnlaug
should have good peace throughout his land. What the
earl had said came thereafter to the ears of Gunnlaug.
But now Earl Sigurd gave Gunnlaug a guide east to
Tenthland, in Sweden, as he had asked.
Of the Quarrel between Gunnlaug
and Raven before the Swedish King.
In those days King Olaf the Swede, son of King Eric
the Victorious, and Sigrid the High-counselled,
daughter of Skogul Tosti, ruled over Sweden.
He was a mighty king and renowned, and full fain
of fame. Gunnlaug came to Upsala towards the time
of the Thing of the Swedes in spring-tide; and when
he got to see the king, he greeted him. The king
took his greeting well, and asked who he was. He
said he was an Iceland-man. Then the king called out:
"Raven," says he, "what man is he in Iceland?"
Then one stood up from the lower bench, a big man
and a stalwart, and stepped up before the king,
and spake: "Lord," says he, "he is of good kin,
and himself the most stalwart of men."
"Let him go, then, and sit beside thee," said the king.
Then Gunnlaug said, "I have a song to set forth before
thee, king, and I would fain have peace while thou
hearkenest thereto." "Go ye first, and sit ye down,"
says the king, "for there is no leisure now to sit
listening to songs." So they did as he bade them.
Now Gunnlaug and Raven fell a-talking together, and
each told each of his travels. Raven said that he had
gone the summer before from Iceland to Norway, and had
come east to Sweden in the forepart of winter. They soon
got friendly together. But one day, when the Thing was
over, they were both before the king, Gunnlaug and Raven.
Then spake Gunnlaug, "Now, lord, I would that thou
shouldst hear the song." "That I may do now," said
the king. "My song too will I set forth now," says Raven.
"Thou mayst do so," said the king. Then Gunnlaug said,
"I will set forth mine first if thou wilt have
it so, king."
"Nay," said Raven, "it behoveth me to be first, lord,
for I myself came first to thee."
"Whereto came our fathers forth, so that my father was
the little boat towed behind? Whereto, but nowhere?"
says Gunnlaug. "And in likewise shall it be with us."
Raven answered, "Let us be courteous enough not to
make this a matter of bandying of words. Let the king
rule here." The king said, "Let Gunnlaug set forth
his song first, for he will not be at peace till he
has his will." Then Gunnlaug set forth the song which
he had made to King Olaf, and when it was at an end the
king spake. "Raven," says he, "how is the song done?"
"Right well," he answered; "it is a song full of big
words and little beauty; a somewhat rugged song, as is
Gunnlaug's own mood." "Well, Raven, thy song," said
the king. Raven gave it forth, and when it was done
the king said, "How is this song made, Gunnlaug?"
"Well it is, lord," he said; "this is a pretty song,
as is Raven himself to behold, and delicate of
countenance. But why didst thou make a short song
on the king, Raven? Didst thou perchance deem him
unworthy of a long one?" Raven answered, "Let us
not talk longer on this; matters will be taken up
again, though it be later."
And thereat, they parted.
Soon after Raven became a man of King Olaf's, and
asked him leave to go away. This the king granted him.
And when Raven was ready to go, he spake to Gunnlaug,
and said, "Now shall our friendship be ended, for that
thou must needs shame me here before great men; but in
time to come I shall cast on thee no less shame than
thou hadst will to cast on me here."
Gunnlaug answers: "Thy threats grieve me nought.
Nowhere are we likely to come where I shall be thought
less worthy than thou." King Olaf gave to Raven good
gifts at parting, and thereafter.
How Raven came home to Iceland, and asked for
Helga to Wife. Now this spring Raven came from the
east to Thrandheim, and fitted out his ship, and sailed
in the summer to Iceland. He brought his ship to
Leiruvag, below the Heath, and his friends and
kinsmen were right fain of him. That winter he
was at home with his father, but the summer after
he met at the Althing his kinsman, Skapti the
law-man. Then said Raven to him, "Thine aid would
I have to go a-wooing to Thorstein Egilson, to bid
Helga his daughter." Skapti answered, "But is she
not already vowed to Gunnlaug Worm-tongue?"
Said Raven, "Is not the appointed time of waiting
between them passed by? And far too wanton is he
withal, that he should hold or heed it aught."
"Let us then do as thou wouldst," said Skapti.
Thereafter they went with many men to the booth
of Thorstein Egilson, and he greeted them well.
Then Skapti spoke: "Raven, my kinsman, is minded to
woo thy daughter Helga. Thou knowest well his blood,
his wealth, and his good manners, his many mighty
kinsmen and friends." Thorstein said, "She is already
the vowed maiden of Gunnlaug, and with him shall I
hold all words spoken." Skapti said, "Are not the
three winters worn now that were named between you?"
"Yes," said Thorstein; "but the summer is not yet
worn, and he may still come out this summer."
Then Skapti said, "But if he cometh not this summer,
what hope may we have of the matter then?"
Thorstein answered, "We are like to come here next
summer, and then may we see what may wisely be done,
but it will not do to speak hereof longer as at this
time." Thereon they parted. And men rode home from
the Althing. But this talk of Raven's wooing of Helga
was nought hidden. That summer Gunnlaug came not out.
The next summer, at the Althing, Skapti and his folk
pushed the wooing eagerly, and said that Thorstein was
free as to all matters with Gunnlaug.
Thorstein answered, "I have few daughters to see to,
and fain am I that they should not be the cause of
strife to any man. Now I will first see Illugi the
Black." And so he did. . And when they met, he
said to Illugi, "Dost thou not think that I am free
from all troth with thy son Gunnlaug?" Illugi said,
"Surely, if thou wiliest it. Little can I say herein,
as I do not know clearly what Gunnlaug is about."
Then Thorstein went to Skapti, and a bargain was
struck that the wedding should be at Burg, about
winter-nights, if Gunnlaug did not come out that
summer; but that Thorstein should be free from all
troth with Raven if Gunnlaug should come and fetch
his bride. After this men ride home from the Thing,
and Gunnlaug's coming was long drawn out. But Helga
thought evilly of all these redes.
Of how Gunnlaug must needs abide away from Iceland.
Now it is to be told of Gunnlaug that he went from
Sweden the same summer that Raven went to Iceland,
and good gifts he had from King Olaf at parting.
King Ethelred welcomed Gunnlaug worthily, and that
winter he was with the king, and was held in great
honour. In those days Knut the Great, son of Svein,
ruled Denmark, and had new-taken his father's
heritage, and he vowed ever to wage war on England,
for that his father had won a great realm there before
he died west in that same land. And at that time
there was a great army of Danish men west there, whose
chief was Heming, the son of Earl Strut-Harald, and
brother to Earl Sigvaldi, and he held for King Knut
that land that Svein had won. Now in the spring Gunnlaug
asked the king for leave to go away, but he said,
"It ill beseems that thou, my man, shouldst go away
now, when all bodes such mighty war in the land."
Gunnlaug said, "Thou shalt rule, lord; but give me
leave next summer to depart, if the Danes come not."
The king answered, "Then we shall see." Now this
summer went by, and the next winter, but no Danes came;
and after midsummer Gunnlaug got his leave to depart from
the king, and went thence east to Norway, and found
Earl Eric in Thrandheim, at Hladir, and the earl greeted
him well, and bade him abide with him. Gunnlaug thanked
him for his offer, but said he would first go out to
Iceland, to look to his promised maiden. The earl said,
"Now all ships bound for Iceland have sailed." Then
said one of the court,
"Here lay, yesterday, Hallfred Troublous-Skald,
out tinder Agdaness." The earl answered,
"That may well be; he sailed hence five nights ago."
Then Earl Eric had Gunnlaug rowed put to Hallfred,
who greeted him with joy; and forthwith a fair wind
bore them from land, and they were right merry.
This was late in the summer: but now Hallfred said to
Gunnlaug, "Hast thou heard of how Raven, the son of
Onund, is wooing Helga the Fair?" Gunnlaug said he had
heard thereof but dimly. Hallfred tells him all he
knew of it, and therewith, too, that it was the talk of
many men that Raven was in nowise less brave a man than
Gunnlaug. Then Gunnlaug sang this stave:--
"Light the weather wafteth;
But if this east wind drifted
Week-long, wild upon us
Little were I recking;
More this word I mind of
Me with Raven mated,
Than gain for me the gold-foe
Of days to make me grey-haired."
Then Hallfred said, "Well, fellow, may'st thou fare
better in thy strife with Raven than I did in mine.
I brought my ship some winters ago into Leiruvag, and
had to pay a half-mark in silver to a house-carle of
Raven's, but I held it back from him. So Raven rode at
us with sixty men, and cut the moorings of the ship,
and she was driven up on the shallows, and we were
bound for a wreck. Then I had to give selfdoom to
Raven, and a whole mark I had to pay; and that is the
tale of my dealings with him." Then they two talked
together alone of Helga the Fair, and Gunnlaug praised
her much for her goodliness; and Gunnlaug sang:--
"He who brand of battle
Never love shall let him
Hold the linen-folded;
For we when we were younger
In many a way were playing
On the outward nesses
From golden land outstanding."
"Well sung!" said Hallfred.
Of Gunnlaug's landing, and how he
found Helga wedded to Raven.
They made land north by Fox-Plain, in Hraunhaven,
half a month before winter, and there unshipped their
goods. Now there was a man called Thord, a bonder's
son of the Plain, there. He fell to wrestling with the
chapmen, and they mostly got worsted at his hands.
Then a wrestling was settled between him and Gunnlaug.
The night before Thord made vows to Thor for the
victory; but the next day, when they met, they
fell-to wrestling. Then Gunnlaug tripped both feet from
under Thord, and gave him a. great fall; but the foot
that Gunnlaug stood on was put out of joint, and
Gunnlaug fell together with Thord.
Then said Thord, "Maybe that other things go
no better for thee."
"What then?" says Gunnlaug.
"Thy dealings with Raven, if he wed Helga the Fair
at winter-nights. I was anigh at the Thing when that was
settled last summer."
Gunnlaug answered naught thereto. Now the foot was swathed,
and put into joint again, and it swelled mightily;
but he and Hallfred ride twelve in company till they come
to Gilsbank, in Burg-firth, the very Saturday night when
folk sat at the wedding at Burg. Illugi was fain of his
son Gunnlaug and his fellows; but Gunnlaug said he
would ride then and there down to Burg. Illugi said
it was not wise to do so, and to all but Gunnlaug that
seemed good. But Gunnlaug was then unfit to walk,
because of his foot, though he would not let that
be seen. Therefore there was no faring to Burg.
On the morrow Hallfred rode to Hreda-water, in
North-water dale, where Galti, his brother and a
brisk man, managed their matters.
Of the Winter-Wedding at Skaney,
and how Gunnlaug gave the Kings Cloak to Helga.
Tells the tale of Raven, that he sat at his
weddings-feast at Burg, and it was the talk of most
men that the bride was but drooping; for true is the
saw that saith,
"Long we remember what youth gained us,"
and even so it was with her now. But this new
thing befell at the feast, that Hungerd, the daughter
of Thorod and Jofrid, was wooed by a man named
Sverting, the son of Hafr-Biorn, the son of
Mold-Gnup, and the wedding was to come off that
winter after Yule, at Skaney, where dwelt Thorkel,
a kinsman of Hungerd, and son of Torn Valbrandsson;
and the mother of Torn was Thorodda, the sister
of Odd of the Tongue.
Now Raven went home to Mossfell with Helga his wife.
When they had been there a little while, one morning
early before they rose up, Helga was awake, but
Raven slept, and fared ill in his sleep. And when he
woke Helga asked him what he had dreamt.
Then Raven sang:--
"In thine arms, so dreamed I,
Hewn was I, gold island!
Bride, in blood I bled there,
Bed of thine was reddened.
Never more then mightst thou,
Bind my gashes bloody--
Lind-leek-bough thou likst it."
Helga spake: "Never shall I weep therefor," quoth she;
"ye have evilly beguiled me, and Gunnlaug has surely
come out." And therewith she wept much. But, a little
after, Gunnlaug's coming was bruited about, and Helga
became so hard with Raven, that he could not keep her at
home at Mossfell; so that back they had to go to Burg,
and Raven got small share of her company. Now men
get ready for the winter-wedding. Thorkel of Skaney
bade Illugi the Black and his sons. But when master
Illugi got ready, Gunnlaug sat in the hall, and
stirred not to go. Illugi went up to him and said,
"Why dost thou not get ready, kinsman?"
Gunnlaug answered, "I have no mind to go."
Says Illugi, "Nay, but certes thou shalt go, kinsman,"
says he; "and cast thou not grief over thee by yearning
for one woman. Make as if thou knewest nought of it, for
women thou wilt never lack." Now Gunnlaug did as his
father bade him; so they came to the wedding, and
Illugi and his sons were set down in the high seat;
but Thorstein Egilson, and Raven his son-in-law, and
the bridegroom's following, were set in the other high
seat, over against Illugi. The women sat on the dais,
and Helga the Fair sat next to the bride. Oft she turned
her eyes on Gunnlaug, thereby proving the saw,
"Eyes will bewray if maid love man."
Gunnlaug was well arrayed, and had on him that goodly
raiment that King Sigtrygg had given him; and now he
was thought far above all other men, because of many
things, both strength, and goodliness, and growth.
There was little mirth among folk at this wedding.
But on the day when all men were making ready to go
away the women stood up and got ready to go home.
Then went Gunnlaug to talk to Helga, and long they
talked together: but Gunnlaug sang:--
"Light-heart lived the Worm-tongue
All day long no longer
In mountain-home, since Helga
Had name of wife of Raven;
Nought foresaw thy father,
Hardener white of fight-thaw,
What my words should come to.
--The maid to gold was wedded."
And again he sang:--
"Worst reward I owe them,
Father thine, O wine-may,
And mother, that they made thee
So fair beneath thy maid-gear;
For thou, sweet field of sea-flame,
All joy hast slain within me.--
Lo, here, take it, loveliest
E'er made of lord and lady!"
And therewith Gunnlaug gave Helga the cloak,
Ethelred's-gift, which was the fairest of things,
and she thanked him well for the gift.
Then Gunnlaug went out, and by that time riding-horses
had been brought home and saddled, and among them were
many very good ones; and they were all tied up in the
road. Gunnlaug leaps on to a horse, and rides a
hand-gallop along the homefield up to a place where
Raven happened to stand just before him; and Raven
had to draw out of his way. Then Gunnlaug said,--
"No need to slink aback, Raven, for I threaten thee
nought as at this time; but thou knowest forsooth,
what thou hast earned.".
Raven answered and sang,--
"God of wound-flamed glitter,
Glorier of fight-goddess,
Must we fall a-fighting
For fairest kirtle-bearer?
Death-staffs many such-like
Fair as she is are there
In south-lands o'er the sea floods.
Sooth saith he who knoweth."
"Maybe there are many such, but they do not seem
so to me," said Gunnlaug.
Therewith Illugi and Thorstein ran up to them, and
would not have them fight.
Then Gunnlaug sang,--
"The fair-hued golden goddess
For gold to Raven sold they,
(Raven my match as men say)
While the mighty isle-king,
Ethelred, in England
From eastward way delayed me,
Wherefore to gold-waster
Waneth tongue's speech-hunger."
Hereafter both rode home, and all was quiet and
tidingless that winter through; but Raven had
nought of Helga's fellowship after her meeting
Of the Holmgang at the Althing.
Now in summer men ride a very many to the Althing:
Illugi the Blacky and his sons with him, Gunnlaug and
Hermund; Thorstein Egilson and Kolsvein his son;
Onund, of Mossfell, and his sons all, and Sverting,
Hafr-Biorn's son. Skapti yet held the
One day at the Thing, as men went thronging to the
Hill of Laws, and when the matters of the law were
done there, then Gunnlaug craved silence, and said:
-- "Is Raven, the son of Onund, here?"
He said he was. Then spake Gunnlaug,
"Thou well knowest that thou hast got to wife my
avowed bride, and thus hast thou made thyself my foe.
Now for this I bid thee to holm here at the Thing,
in the holm of the Axe-water, when three nights
are gone by."
Raven answers, "This is well bidden, as was to be
looked for of thee, and for this I am ready,
whenever thou wiliest it."
Now the kin of each deemed this a very ill thing.
But, at that time it was lawful for him who thought
himself wronged by another to call
him to fight on the holm.
So when three nights had gone by they got ready for
the holmgang, and Illugi the Black followed his son
thither with a great following. But Skapti, the
lawman, followed Raven, and his father and other
kinsmen of his. Now before Gunnlaug went
upon the holm he sang,--
"Out to isle ofeel-field
Dight am I to hie me:
Give, O God, thy singer
With glaive to end the striving.
Here shall I the head cleave
Of Helga's love's devourer,
At last my bright sword bringeth
Sundering of head and body."
Then Raven answered and sang,--
"Thou, singer, knowest not surely
Which of us twain shall gain it;
With edge for leg-swathe eager,
Here are the wound-scythes bare now.
In whatso-wise we wound us,
The tidings from the Thing here,
And fame of thanes' fair doings,
The fair young maid shall hear it."
Hermund held shield for his brother, Gunnlaug; but
Sverting, Hafr-Biorn's son, was Raven's shield-bearer.
Whoso should be wounded was to ransom himself from
the holm with three marks of silver.
Now, Raven's part it was to deal the first blow, as he
was the challenged man. He hewed at the upper part of
Gunnlaug's shield, and the sword brake asunder just
beneath the hilt, with so great might he smote;
but the point of the sword flew up from the shield and
struck Gunnlaug's cheek, whereby he got just grazed;
with that their fathers ran in between them, and many
other men. "Now," said Gunnlaug,
"I call Raven overcome, as he is weaponless."
"But I say that thou art vanquished, since thou art
wounded," said Raven. Now, Gunnlaug was nigh mad,
and very wrathful, and said it was not tried out yet.
Illugi, his father, said they should try no more for
that time. Gunnlaug said,
"Beyond all things I desire that I might in such wise
meet Raven again, that thou, father, wert not anigh
to part us." And thereat they parted for that time,
and all men went back to their booths. But on the
second day after this it was made law in the law-court
that, henceforth, all holmgangs should be forbidden;
and this was done by the counsel of all the wisest
men that were at the Thing; and there, indeed, were
all the men of most counsel in all the land. And this
was the last holmgang fought in Iceland, this,
wherein Gunnlaug and Raven fought. But this Thing
was the third most thronged Thing that has been held
in Iceland; the first was after Njal's burning, the
second after the Heath-slaughters. Now, one morning,
as the brothers Hermund and Gunnlaug went to
Axe-water to wash, on the other side went many women
towards the river, and in that company
was Helga the Fair. Then said Hermund,
-- "Dost thou see thy friend Helga there on the
other side of the river?" "Surely, I see her,"
says Gunnlaug, and withal he sang:--
"Born was she for men's bickering:
Sore bale hath wrought the war-stemy
And I yearned ever madly
To hold that oak-tree golden.
To me then, me destroyer
Of swan-mead's flame, unneedful
This looking on the dark-eyed,
This golden land's beholding."
Therewith they crossed the river, and Helga and
Gunnlaug spake awhile together, and as the brothers
crossed the river eastward back again, Helga
stood and gazed long after Gunnlaug. Then Gunnlaug
looked back and sang:--
"Moon of linen-lapped one,
Hawk-keen out of heaven
Shone all bright upon me;
But that eyelid's moonbeam
Of gold-necklaced goddess
Her hath all undoing
Wrought, and me made nought of."
How Gunnlaug and Raven agreed
to go East to Norway, to try the matter again.
Now after these things were gone by men rode home
from the Thing, and Gunnlaug dwelt at home at
Gilsbank. On a morning when he awoke all men had
risen up, but he alone still lay abed; he lay in a
shut-bed behind the seats. Now into the hall came
twelve men, all full armed, and who should be
there but Raven, Onund's son; Gunnlaug sprang up
forthwith, and got to his weapons. But Raven
spake, "Thou art in risk of no hurt this time,"
quoth he, "but my errand hither is what thou
shalt now hear: Thou didst call me to a holmgang
last summer at the Althing, and thou didst not
deem matters to be fairly tried therein; now I
will offer thee this, that we both fare away
from Iceland, and go abroad next summer, and
go on holm in Norway, for there our kinsmen are not
like to stand in our way." Gunnlaug answered,
"Hail to thy words, stoutest of men! this thine offer
I take gladly; and here, Raven, mayest thou have
cheer as good as thou mayest desire."
"It is well offered," said Raven, "but this time we
shall first have to ride away." Thereon they parted
. Now the kinsmen of both sore misliked them of
this, but could in no wise undo it, because of the
wrath of Gunnlaug and Raven; and, after all, that
must betide that drew towards. Now it is to be
said of Raven that he fitted out his ship in
Leiruvag; two men are named that went with him,
sisters' sons of his father Onund, one hight Grim,
the other Olaf, doughty men both. All the kinsmen
of Raven thought it great scathe when he went away,
but he said he had challenged Gunnlaug to the
holmgang because he could have no joy soever of
Helga; and he said, withal, that one must fall before
the other. So Raven put to sea, when he had wind at
will, and brought his ship to Thrandheim, and was
there that winter and heard nought of Gunnlaug that
winter through; there lie abode him the summer
following: and still another winter was he in
Thrandheim, at a place called Lifangr.
Gunnlaug Worm-tongue took ship with
Hallfred Troublous-Skald, in the north at The Plain;
they were very late ready for sea. They sailed
into the main when they had a fair wind, and
made Orkney a little before the winter.
Earl Sigurd Lodverson was still lord over the
isles, and Gunnlaug went to him and abode there
that winter, and the earl held him of much account.
In the spring the earl would go on warfare, and
Gunnlaug made ready to go with him; and that summer
they harried wide about the South-isles and
Scotland's firths, and had many fights, and
Gunnlaug always showed himself the bravest and
doughtiest of fellows, and the hardiest of men
wherever they came. Earl Sigurd went back home
early in the summer, but Gurmlaug took ship with
chapmen, sailing for Norway, and he and Earl Sigurd
parted in great friendship. Gunnlaug fared north to
Thrandheim, to Hladir, to see Earl Eric, and dwelt
there through the early winter; the earl welcomed
him gladly, and made offer to Gunnlaug to stay
with him, and Gunnlaug agreed thereto. The earl
had heard already how all had befallen between
Gunnlaug and Raven, and he told Gunnlaug that he
laid ban on their fighting within his realm; Gunnlaug
said the earl should be free to have his will herein.
So Gunnlaug abode there the winter through, ever
heavy of mood.
How the two Foes met and fought at Dingness.
But on a day in spring Gunnlaug was walking abroad,
and his kinsman Thorkel with him; they walked away
from the town, till on the meads. before them they
saw a ring of men, and in that ring were two men
with weapons fencing; but one was named Raven, the
other Gunnlaug, while they who stood by said that
Icelanders smote light, and were slow to remember
their words. Gunnlaug saw the great mocking
hereunder, and much jeering was brought into the
play; and withal he went away silent. So a little
while after he said to the earl that he had no mind
to bear any longer the jeers and mocks of his
courtiers about his dealings with Raven, and
therewith he prayed the earl to give him a guide
to Lifangr: now before this the earl had been told
that Raven had left Lifangr and gone east to Sweden;
therefore, he granted Gunnlaug leave to go, and
gave him two guides for the journey.
went from Hladir with six men to Lifangr; and, on
the morning of the very day whereas Gunnlaug came
in in the evening, Raven had left Lifangr with
four men. Thence Gunnlaug went to Vera-dale,
and came always in the evening to where Raven had
been the night before. So Gunnlaug went on till
he came to the uppermost farm in the valley,
called Sula, wherefrom had Raven fared in the
morning; there he stayed not his journey, but
kept on his way through the night. Then in the
morning at sun-rise they saw one another. Raven
had got to a place where were two waters, and
between them flat meads, and they are called
Gleipni's meads: but into one water stretched a
little ness called Dingness. There on the ness Raven
and his fellows, five together, took their stand.
With Raven were his kinsmen, Grim and Olaf.
Now when they met, Gunnlaug said, "It is well that
we have found one another." Raven said that he had
nought to quarrel with therein; "But now," says he,
"thou mayest choose as thou wilt, either that we
fight alone together, or that we fight all of us
man to man." Gunnlaug said that either way seemed
good to him. Then spake Raven's kinsmen,
Grim and Olaf, and said that they would little like
to stand by and look on the fight, and in like
wise spake Thorkel the Black, the kinsman of
Gunnlaug. Then said Gunnlaug to the earl's guides,
"Ye shall sit by and aid neither side, and be here
to tell of our meeting;" and so they did.
So they set on, and fought dauntlessly, all of them.
Grim and Olaf went both against Gunnlaug alone,
and so closed their dealings with him that Gunnlaug
slew them both and got no wound. This proves
Thord Kolbeinson in a song that he made
on Gunnlaug the Wormtongue:--
"Grim and Olaf great-hearts
In Gondul's din, with thin sword
First did Gunnlaug fell there
Ere at Raven fared he;
Bold, with blood be-drifted
Bane of three the thane was;
War-lord of the wave-horse
Wrought for men folks' slaughter."
Meanwhile Raven and Thorkel the Black,
Gunnlaug's kinsman, fought until Thorkel fell before
Raven and lost his life; and so at last all their
fellowship fell. Then they two alone fought together
with fierce onsets and mighty strokes, which they
dealt each the other, falling on furiously without
stop or stay.
Gunnlaug had the sword Ethelred's-gift, and that
was the best of weapons. At last Gunnlaug dealt a
mighty blow at Raven, and cut his leg from under him;
but none the more did Raven fall, but swung round up
to a tree-stem, whereat he steadied the stump.
Then said Gunnlaug, "Now thou art no more meet for
battle, nor will I fight with thee any longer,
a maimed man." Raven answered: "So it is," said he,
"that my lot is now all the worser lot, but it were
well with me yet, might I but drink somewhat."
Gunnlaug said, "Bewray me not if I bring thee water
in my helm." "I will not bewray thee," said Raven.
Then went Gunnlaug to a brook and fetched water in
his helm, and brought it to Raven; but Raven
stretched forth his left hand to take it, but with his
right hand drave his sword into Gunnlaug's head, and
that was a mighty great wound. Then Gunnlaug said,
"Evilly hast thou beguiled me, and done traitorously
wherein I trusted thee." Raven answers,
"Thou sayest sooth, but this brought me to it,
that I begrudged thee to lie in the bosom of
Helga the Fair." Thereat they fought on, recking of
nought; but the end of it was that Gunnlaug overcame
Raven, and there Raven lost his life.. Then the
earl's guides came forward and bound the head-wound
of Gunnlaug, and in meanwhile, he sat and sang:--
"O thou sword-storm stirrer,
Raven, stem of battle
Famous, fared against me
Fiercely in the spear din.
Many a flight of metal
Was borne on me this morning,
By the spear-walls' builder,
Ring-bearer, on hard Dingness."
After that they buried the dead, and got Gunnlaug
on to his horse thereafter, and brought him right
down to Lifangr. There he lay three nights, and
got all his rights of a priest, and died thereafter,
and was buried at the church there. All men thought
it great scathe of both of these men,
Gunnlaug and Raven, amid such deeds as they died.
The News of the Fight brought to Iceland.
Now this summer, before these tidings were brought
out hither to Iceland, Illugi the Black, being at
home at Gilsbank, dreamed a dream: he thought that
Gunnlaug came to him in his sleep, all bloody, and
he sang in the dream this stave before him; and
Illugi remembered the song when he woke,
and sang it before others:--
"Knew I of the hewing
Of Raven's hilt-finned steel-fish
Sharp clave leg of Raven.--
Of warm wounds drank the eagle,
When the war-rod slender,
Cleaver of the corpses,
Clave the head of Gunnlaug."
This portent befel south at Mossfell, the self-same
night, that Onund dreamed how Raven came to him,
covered all over with blood, and sang:--
"Red is the sword, but I now
Am undone by Sword-Odin.
'Gainst shields beyond the sea-flood
The ruin of shields was wielded.
Methinks the blood-fowl blood-stained
In blood der men's heads stood there,
The wound-erne yet wound-eager
Trod over wounded bodies?"
Now the second summer after this, Illugi the Black
spoke at the Althing from the Hill of Laws, and said:--
"Wherewith wilt thou make atonement to me for my
son, whom Raven, thy son, beguiled in his troth?"
Onund answers, "Be it far from me to atone for
him, so sorely as their meeting hath wounded me.
Yet will I not ask atonement of thee for my son."
"Then shall my wrath come home to some of thy kin,"
says Illugi. And withal after the Thing was Illugi
at most times very sad.
Tells the tale how this autumn Illugi rode from
Gilsbank with thirty men,
and came to Mossfell early in the morning. Then Onund
got into the church with his sons, and took sanctuary;
but Illugi caught two of his kin, one called Biorn and
the other Thorgrim, and had Biorn slain, but the feet
smitten from Thorgrim. And thereafter Illugi rode home,
and there was no righting of this for Onund. Hermund,
Illugi's son, had little joy after the death of
Gunnlaug his brother, and deemed he was none the more
avenged even though this had been wrought. Now
there was a man called Raven, brother's son to Onund
of Mossfell; he was a great sea-farer, and had a ship
that lay up in Ramfirth: and in the spring
Hermund Illugison rode from home alone north over
Holt-beacon Heath, even to Ramfirth, and out as far as
Board-ere to the ship of the chapmen. The chapmen were
then nearly ready for sea; Raven, the ship-master, was
on shore, and many men with him; Hermund rode up to
him, and thrust him through with his spear, and rode
away forthwith: but all Raven's men were bewildered at
seeing Hermund. No atonement came for this slaying,
and therewith ended the dealings of Illugi the Black
and Onund of Mossfell.
The Death of Helga the Fair.
AS time went on, Thorstein Egilson married his
daughter Helga to a man called Thorkel, son of
Hallkel, who lived west in Hraundale. Helga went
to his house with him, but loved him little, for she
cannot cease to think of Gunnlaug, though he be dead.
Yet was Thorkel a doughty man, and wealthy of goods,
and a good skald. They had children together not a
few, one of them was called Thorarin, another
Thorstein, and yet more they had. But Helga's chief
joy was to pluck at the threads of that cloak,
Gunnlaug's gift, and she would be ever gazing at it.
But on a time there came a great sickness to the
house of Thorkel and Helga, and many were bed-ridden
for a long time. Helga also fell sick, and yet she
could not keep abed. So one Saturday evening Helga
sat in the fire-hall, and leaned her head upon her
husband's knees, and had the cloak Gunnlaug's gift
sent for; and when the cloak came to her she sat up
and plucked at it, and gazed thereon awhile, and then
sank back upon her husband's bosom, and was dead.
Then Thorkel sang this:--
"Dead in mine arms she droopeth,
My dear one, gold-rings bearer,
For God hath changed the life-days
Of this Lady of the linen.
Weary pain hath pined her,
But unto me, the seeker
Of hoard of fishes highway,
Abiding here is wearier."
Helga was buried in the church there, but Thorke dwelt
yet at Hraundale: but a great matter seemed the death
of Helga to all, as was to be looked for.
AND HERE ENDETH THE STORY.
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