The story of Burnt Njal - From the Icelandic of the Njals Saga
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- Transcriber's Note: This is a translation from Icelandic and there are inconsistencies in punctuation which have been left as they were in the original. -


"Fair is Lithe: so fair that it has never seemed to me so fair; the corn fields are white to harvest, and the home mead is mown: and now I will ride back home, and not fare abroad at all."

The Story of Burnt Njal

From the Icelandic of the Njals Saga

By the late Sir George Webbe Dasent, D.C.L.

With a Prefatory Note, and the Introduction, Abridged, from the Original Edition of 1861

New York E. P. Dutton & Co. London Grant Richards 1900


The design of the cover made by the late James Drummond, R.S.A., combines the chief weapons mentioned in The Story of Burnt Njal: Gunnar's bill, Skarphedinn's axe, and Kari's sword, bound together by one of the great silver rings found in a Viking's hoard in Orkney.


SIR GEORGE DASENT'S translation of the Njals Saga, under the title The Story of Burnt Njal, which is reprinted in this volume, was published by Messrs. Edmonston & Douglas in 1861. That edition was in two volumes, and was furnished by the author with maps and plans; with a lengthy introduction dealing with Iceland's history, religion and social life; with an appendix and an exhaustive index. Copies of this edition can still be obtained from Mr. David Douglas of Edinburgh.

The present reprint has been prepared in order that this incomparable Saga may become accessible to those readers with whom a good story is the first consideration and its bearing upon a nation's history a secondary one—or is not considered at all. For Burnt Njal may be approached either as a historical document, or as a pure narrative of elemental natures, of strong passions; and of heroic feats of strength. Some of the best fighting in literature is to be found between its covers. Sir George Dasent's version in its capacity as a learned work for the study has had nearly forty years of life; it is now offered afresh simply as a brave story for men who have been boys and for boys who are going to be men.

We lay down the book at the end having added to our store of good memories the record of great deeds and great hearts, and to our gallery of heroes strong and admirable men worthy to stand beside the strong and admirable men of the Iliad—Gunnar of Lithend and Skarphedinn, Njal and Kari, Helgi and Kolskegg, beside Telamonian Aias and Patroclus, Achilles and Hector, Ulysses and Idomeneus. In two respects these Icelanders win more of our sympathy than the Greeks and Trojans; for they, like ourselves, are of Northern blood, and in their mighty strivings are unassisted by the gods.

In the present volume Sir George Dasent's preface has been shortened, and his introduction, which everyone who is interested in old Icelandic life and history should make a point of reading in the original edition, has been considerably abridged. The three appendices, treating of the Vikings, Queen Gunnhillda, and money and currency in the tenth century, have been also exised, and with them the index. There remains the Saga itself (not a word of Sir George Dasent's simple, forcible, clean prose having been touched), with sufficient introductory matter to assist the reader to its fuller appreciation.

Sir George Webbe Dasent, D.C.L., the translator of the Njals Saga, was born in 1817 at St. Vincent in the West Indies, of which island his father was Attorney-General. He was educated at Westminster School, and at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, where he was distinguished both as a fine athlete and a good classic, He took his degree in 1840, and on coming to London showed an early tendency towards literature and literary society. The Sterlings were connected with the island of' St. Vincent, and as Dasent and John Sterling became close friends, he was a constant guest at Captain Sterlings house in Knightsbridge, which was frequented by many who afterwards rose to eminence in the world of letters, including Carlyle, to whom Dasent dedicated his first book, Dasent's appointment in 1842 as private secretary to Sir James Cartwright, the British Envoy to the court of Sweden, took him to Stockholm, where under the advice of Jacob Grimm, whom he had met in Denmark, he began that study of Scandinavian literature which has enriched English literature bu the present work, and by the Norse Tales, Gisli the Outlaw, and other valuable translations and memoirs. On settling in London again in 1845 he joined the Times staff as assistant editor to the great Delane, who had been his friend at Oxford, and whose sister he married in the following year. Dasent retained the post during the paper's most brilliant period. In 1870 Mr. Gladstone offered him a Civil Service Commissionership, which he accepted and held until his retirement in 1892, at which time he was the Commission's official head. He was knighted "for public services" in 1876, having been created a knight of the Danish order of the Dannebroeg many years earlier.

In addition, to his Scandinavian work, Sir George Dasent wrote several novels, of which The Annals of an Eventful Life was at once the most popular and the best. He died greatly respected in 1896.




What is a Saga? A Saga is a story, or telling in prose, sometimes mixed with verse. There are many kinds of Sagas, of all degrees of truth. There are the mythical Sagas, in which the wondrous deeds of heroes of old time, half gods and half men, as Sigurd and Ragnar, are told as they were handed down from father to son in the traditions of the Northern race. Then there are Sagas recounting the history of the kings of Norway and other countries, of the great line of Orkney Jarls, and of the chiefs who ruled in Faroe. These are all more or less trustworthy, and, in general, far worthier of belief than much that passes for the early history of other races. Again, there are Sagas relating to Iceland, narrating the lives, and feuds, and ends of mighty chiefs, the heads of the great families which dwelt in this or that district of the island. These were told by men who lived on the very spot, and told with a minuteness and exactness, as to time and place, that will bear the strictest examination. Such a Saga is that of Njal, which we now lay before our readers in an English garb. Of all the Sagas relating to Iceland, this tragic story bears away the palm for truthfulness and beauty. To use the words of one well qualified to judge, it is, as compared with all similar compositions, as gold to brass.[1] Like all the Sagas which relate to the same period of Icelandic story, Njala[2] was not written down till about 100 years after the events which are described in it had happened. In the meantime, it was handed down by word of mouth, told from Althing to Althing, at Spring Thing, and Autumn Leet, at all great gatherings of the people, and over many a fireside, on sea strand or river bank, or up among the dales and hills, by men who had learnt the sad story of Njal's fate, and who could tell of Gunnar's peerlessness and Hallgerda's infamy, of Bergthora's helpfulness, of Skarphedinn's hastiness, of Flosi's foul deed, and Kurt's stern revenge. We may be sure that as soon as each event recorded in the Saga occurred, it was told and talked about as matter of history, and when at last the whole story was unfolded and took shape, and centred round Njal, that it was handed down from father to son, as truthfully and faithfully as could ever be the case with any public or notorious matter in local history. But it is not on Njala alone that we have to rely for our evidence of its genuineness. There are many other Sagas relating to the same period, and handed down in like manner, in which the actors in our Saga are incidentally mentioned by name, and in which the deeds recorded of them are corroborated. They are mentioned also in songs and Annals, the latter being the earliest written records which belong to the history of the island, while the former were more easily remembered, from the construction of the verse. Much passes for history in other lands on far slighter grounds, and many a story in Thucydides or Tacitus, or even in Clarendon or Hume, is believed on evidence not one-tenth part so trustworthy as that which supports the narratives of these Icelandic story-tellers of the eleventh century. That with occurrences of undoubted truth, and minute particularity as to time and place, as to dates and distance, are intermingled wild superstitions on several occasions, will startle no reader of the smallest judgment. All ages, our own not excepted, have their superstitions, and to suppose that a story told in the eleventh century,—when phantoms, and ghosts, and wraiths, were implicitly believed in, and when dreams, and warnings, and tokens, were part of every man's creed—should be wanting in these marks of genuineness, is simply to require that one great proof of its truthfulness should be wanting, and that, in order to suit the spirit of our age, it should lack something which was part and parcel of popular belief in the age to which it belonged. To a thoughtful mind, therefore, such stories as that of Swan's witchcraft, Gunnar's song in his cairn, the Wolf's ride before the Burning, Flosi's dream, the signs and tokens before Brian's battle, and even Njal's weird foresight, on which the whole story hangs, will be regarded as proofs rather for than against its genuineness.[3]

But it is an old saying, that a story never loses in telling, and so we may expect it must have been with this story. For the facts which the Saga-teller related he was bound to follow the narrations of those who had gone before him, and if he swerved to or fro in this respect, public opinion and notorious fame was there to check and contradict him.[4] But the way in which he told the facts was his own, and thus it comes that some Sagas are better told than others, as the feeling and power of the narrator were above those of others. To tell a story truthfully was what was looked for from all men in those days; but to tell it properly and gracefully, and so to clothe the facts in fitting diction, was given to few, and of those few the Saga teller who first threw Njala into its present shape, was one of the first and foremost.

With the change of faith and conversion of the Icelanders to Christianity, writing, and the materials for writing, first came into the land, about the year 1000. There is no proof that the earlier or Runic alphabet, which existed in heathen times, was ever used for any other purposes than those of simple monumental inscriptions, or of short legends on weapons or sacrificial vessels, or horns and drinking cups. But with the Roman alphabet came not only a readier means of expressing thought, but also a class of men who were wont thus to express themselves.... Saga after Saga was reduced to writing, and before the year 1200 it is reckoned that all the pieces of that kind of composition which relate to the history of Icelanders previous to the introduction of Christianity had passed from the oral into the written shape. Of all those Sagas, none were so interesting as Njal, whether as regarded the length of the story, the number and rank of the chiefs who appeared in it as actors, and the graphic way in which the tragic tale was told. As a rounded whole, in which each part is finely and beautifully polished, in which the two great divisions of the story are kept in perfect balance and counterpoise, in which each person who appears is left free to speak in a way which stamps him with a character of his own, while all unite in working towards a common end, no Saga had such claims on public attention as Njala, and it is certain none would sooner have been committed to writing. The latest period, therefore, that we can assign as the date at which our Saga was moulded into its present shape is the year 1200....

It was a foster-father's duty, in old times, to rear and cherish the child which he had taken from the arms of its natural parents, his superiors in rank. And so may this work, which the translator has taken from the house of Icelandic scholars, his masters in knowledge, and which he has reared and fostered so many years under an English roof, go forth and fight the battle of life for itself, and win fresh fame for those who gave it birth. It will be reward enough for him who has first clothed it in an English dress if his foster-child adds another leaf to that evergreen wreath of glory which crowns the brows of Iceland's ancient worthies.


Christmas Eve, 1860.

It will be seen that in most cases the names of places throughout the Saga have been turned into English, either in whole or in part, as "Lithend" for "Lfaethrendi," and "Bergthorsknoll" for "Bergthorshvol". The translator adopted this course to soften the ruggedness of the original names for the English reader, but in every case the Icelandic name, with its English rendering, will be found in the maps. The surnames and nicknames have also been turned into English—an attempt which has not a little increased the toil of translation. Great allowance must be made for these renderings, as those nicknames often arose out of circumstances of which we know little or nothing. Of some, such as "Thorgeir Craggeir," and "Thorkel foulmouth," the Saga itself explains the origin. In a state of society where so many men bore the same name, any circumstance or event in a man's life, as well as any peculiarity in form or feature, or in temper and turn of mind, gave rise to a surname or nickname, which clung to him through life as a distinguishing mark. The Post Office in the United States is said to give persons in the same district, with similar names, an initial of identification, which answers the same purpose, as the Icelandic nickname, thus: "John P Smith."—"John Q Smith". As a general rule the translator has withstood the temptation to use old English words. "Busk" and "boun" he pleads guilty to, because both still linger in the language understood by few. "Busk" is a reflective formed from 'eat bua sik,' "to get oneself ready," and "boun" is the past participle of the active form "bua, buinn," to get ready. When the leader in Old Ballads says—

"Busk ye, busk ye, My bonny, bonny me,"

he calls on his followers to equip themselves; when they are thus equipped they are "boun". A bride "busks" herself for the bridal; when she is dressed she is "boun". In old times a ship was "busked" for a voyage; when she was filled and ready for sea she was "boun"—whence come our outward "bound" and homeward "bound". These with "redes" for counsels or plans are almost the only words in the translation which are not still in everyday use.




The men who colonized Iceland towards the end of the ninth century of the Christian aera, were of no savage or servile race. They fled from the overbearing power of the king, from that new and strange doctrine of government put forth by Harold Fairhair, 860-933, which made them the king's men at all times, instead of his only at certain times for special service, which laid scatts and taxes on their lands, which interfered with vested rights and world-old laws, and allowed the monarch to meddle and make with the freemen's allodial holdings. As we look at it now, and from another point of view, we see that what to them was unbearable tyranny was really a step in the great march of civilization and progress, and that the centralization and consolidation of the royal authority, according to Charlemagne's system, was in time to be a blessing to the kingdoms of the north. But to the freeman it was a curse. He fought against it as long as he could; worsted over and over again, he renewed the struggle, and at last, when the isolated efforts, which were the key-stone of his edifice of liberty, were fruitless, he sullenly withdrew from the field, and left the land of his fathers, where, as he thought, no free-born man could now care to live. Now it is that we hear of him in Iceland, where Ingolf was the first settler in the year 874, and was soon followed by many of his countrymen. Now, too, we hear of him in all lands. Now France—now Italy—now Spain, feel the fury of his wrath, and the weight of his arm. After a time, but not until nearly a century has passed, he spreads his wings for a wider flight, and takes service under the great emperor at Byzantium, or Micklegarth—the great city, the town of towns—and fights his foes from whatever quarter they come. The Moslem in Sicily and Asia, the Bulgarians and Slavonians on the shores of the Black Sea and in Greece, well know the temper of the Northern steel, which has forced many of their chosen champions to bite the dust. Wherever he goes the Northman leaves his mark, and to this day the lion at the entrance to the arsenal at Venice is scored with runes which tell of his triumph.

But of all countries, what were called the Western Lands were his favourite haunt. England, where the Saxons were losing their old dash and daring, and settling down into a sluggish sensual race; Ireland, the flower of Celtic lands, in which a system of great age and undoubted civilization was then fast falling to pieces, afforded a tempting battlefield in the everlasting feuds between chief and chief; Scotland, where the power of the Picts was waning, while that of the Scots had not taken firm hold on the country, and most of all the islands in the Scottish Main, Orkney, Shetland, and the outlying Faroe Isles;—all these were his chosen abode. In those islands he took deep root, established himself on the old system, shaved in the quarrels of the chiefs and princes of the Mainland, now helped Pict and now Scot, roved the seas and made all ships prizes, and kept alive his old grudge against Harold Fairhair and the new system by a long series of piratical incursions on the Norway coast. So worrying did these Viking cruises at last become, that Harold, who meantime had steadily pursued his policy at home, and forced all men to bow to his sway or leave the land, resolved to crush the wasps that stung him summer after summer in their own nest. First of all he sent Kettle flatnose, a mighty chief, to subdue the foe; but though Kettle waged successful war, he kept what he won for himself. It was the old story of setting a thief to catch a thief; and Harold found that if he was to have his work done to his mind he must do it himself. He called on his chiefs to follow him, levied a mighty force, and, sailing suddenly with a fleet which must have seemed an armada in those days, he fell upon the Vikings in Orkney and Shetland, in the Hebrides and Western Isles, in Man and Anglesey, in the Lewes and Faroe—wherever he could find them he followed them up with fire and sword. Not once, but twice he crossed the sea after them, and tore them out so thoroughly, root and branch, that we hear no more of these lands as a lair of Vikings, but as the abode of Norse Jarls and their udallers (freeholders) who look upon the new state of things at home as right and just, and acknowledge the authority of Harold and his successors by an allegiance more or less dutiful at different times, but which was never afterwards entirely thrown off.

It was just then, just when the unflinching will of Harold had taught this stern lesson to his old foes, and arising in most part out of that lesson, that the great rush of settlers to Iceland took place. We have already seen that Ingolf and others had settled in Iceland from 874 downwards, but it was not until nearly twenty years afterwards that the island began to be thickly peopled. More than half of the names of the first colonists contained in the venerable Landnama Book—the Book of Lots, the Doomsday of Iceland, and far livelier reading than that of the Conqueror—are those of Northmen who had been before settled in the British Isles. Our own country then was the great stepping-stone between Norway and Iceland; and this one fact is enough to account for the close connection which the Icelanders ever afterwards kept up with their kinsmen who had remained behind in the islands of the west....


The Northman had many superstitions. He believed in good giants and bad giants, in dark elves and bright elves, in superhuman beings who tilled the wide gulf which existed between himself and the gods. He believed, too, in wraiths and fetches and guardian spirits, who followed particular persons, and belonged to certain families—a belief which seems to have sprung from the habit of regarding body and soul as two distinct beings, which at certain times took each a separate bodily shape. Sometimes the guardian spirit or fylgja took a human shape; at others its form took that of some animal fancied to foreshadow the character of the man to whom it belonged. Thus it becomes a bear, a wolf, an ox, and even a fox, in men. The fylgjur of women were fond of taking the shape of swans. To see one's own fylgja was unlucky, and often a sign that a man was "fey," or death-doomed. So, when Thord Freedmanson tells Njal that he sees the goat wallowing in its gore in the "town" of Bergthorsknoll, the foresighted man tells him that he has seen his own fylgja, and that he must be doomed to die. Finer and nobler natures often saw the guardian spirits of others. Thus Njal saw the fylgjur of Gunnar's enemies, which gave him no rest the livelong night, and his weird feeling is soon confirmed by the news brought by his shepherd. From the fylgja of the individual it was easy to rise to the still more abstract notion of the guardian spirits of a family, who sometimes, if a great change in the house is about to begin, even show themselves as hurtful to some member of the house. He believed also that some men had more than one shape; that they could either take the shapes of animals, as bears or wolves, and so work mischief; or that, without undergoing bodily change, an access of rage and strength came over them, and move especially towards night, which made them more than a match for ordinary men. Such men were called hamrammir, "shape-strong," and it was remarked that when the fit left them they were weaker than they had been before.

This gift was looked upon as something "uncanny," and it leads us at once to another class of men, whose supernatural strength was regarded as a curse to the community. These were the Baresarks. What the hamrammir men were when they were in their fits the Baresarks almost always were. They are described as being always of exceeding, and when their fury rose high, of superhuman strength. They too, like the hamrammir men, were very tired when the fits passed off. What led to their fits is hard to say. In the case of the only class of men like them nowadays, that of the Malays running a-muck, the intoxicating fumes of bangh or arrack are said to be the cause of their fury. One thing, however, is certain, that the Baresark, like his Malay brother, was looked upon as a public pest, and the mischief which they caused, relying partly no doubt on their natural strength, and partly on the hold which the belief in their supernatural nature had on the mind of the people, was such as to render their killing a good work.

Again, the Northman believed that certain men were "fast" or "hard"; that no weapons would touch them or wound their skin; that the mere glance of some men's eyes would turn the edge of the best sword; and that some persons had the power of withstanding poison. He believed in omens and dreams and warnings, in signs and wonders and tokens; he believed in good luck and bad luck, and that the man on whom fortune smiled or frowned bore the marks of her favour or displeasure on his face; he believed also in magic and sorcery, though he loathed them as unholy rites. With one of his beliefs our story has much to do, though this was a belief in good rather than in evil. He believed firmly that some men had the inborn gift, not won by any black arts, of seeing things and events beforehand. He believed, in short, in what is called in Scotland "second sight". This was what was called being "forspar" or "framsynn," "foretelling" and "foresighted ". Of such men it was said that their "words could not be broken". Njal was one of these men; one of the wisest and at the same time most just and honourable of men. This gift ran in families, for Helgi Njal's son had it, and it was beyond a doubt one of the deepest-rooted of all their superstitions.


Besides his creed and these beliefs the new settler brought with him certain fixed social principles, which we shall do well to consider carefully in the outset.... First and foremost came the father's right of property in his children. This right is common to the infancy of all communities, and exists before all law. We seek it in vain in codes which belong to a later period, but it has left traces of itself in all codes, and, abrogated in theory, still often exists in practice. We find it in the Roman law, and we find it among the Northmen. Thus it was the father's right to rear his children or not at his will. As soon as it was born, the child was laid upon the bare ground; and until the father came and looked at it, heard and saw that it was strong in lung and limb, lifted it in his arms, and handed it over to the women to be reared, its fate hung in the balance, and life or death depended on the sentence of its sire. After it had passed safely through that ordeal, it was duly washed, signed with Thorns holy hammer, and solemnly received into the family. If it were a weakly boy, and still more often, if it were a girl, no matter whether she were strong or weak, the infant was exposed to die by ravening beasts, or the inclemency of the climate. Many instances occur of children so exposed, who, saved by some kindly neighbour, and fostered beneath a stranger's roof, thus contracted ties reckoned still more binding than blood itself. So long as his children remained under his roof, they were their father's own. When the sons left the paternal roof, they were emancipated, and when the daughters were married they were also free, but the marriage itself remained till the latest times a matter of sale and barter in deed as well as name. The wife came into the house, in the patriarchal state, either stolen or bought from her nearest male relations; and though in later times when the sale took place it was softened by settling part of the dower and portion on the wife, we shall do well to bear in mind, that originally dower was only the price paid by the suitor to the father for his good will; while portion, on the other hand, was the sum paid by the father to persuade a suitor to take a daughter off his hands. Let us remember, therefore, that in those times, as Odin was supreme in Asgard as the Great Father of Gods and men, so in his own house every father of the race that revered Odin was also sovereign and supreme.

In the second place, as the creed of the race was one that adored the Great Father as the God of Battles; as it was his will that turned the fight; nay, as that was the very way in which he chose to call his own to himself,—it followed, that any appeal to arms was looked upon as an appeal to God. Victory was indeed the sign of a rightful cause, and he that won the day remained behind to enjoy the rights which he had won in fair fight, but he that lost it, if he fell bravely and like a man, if he truly believed his quarrel just, and brought it without guile to the issue of the sword, went by the very manner of his death to a better place. The Father of the Slain wanted him, and he was welcomed by the Valkyries, by Odin's corse-choosers, to the festive board in Valhalla. In every point of view, therefore, war and battle was a holy thing, and the Northman went to the battlefield in the firm conviction that right would prevail. In modern times, while we appeal in declarations of war to the God of Battles, we do it with the feeling that war is often an unholy thing, and that Providence is not always on the side of strong battalions. The Northman saw Providence on both sides. It was good to live, if one fought bravely, but it was also good to die, if one fell bravely. To live bravely and to die bravely, trusting in the God of Battles, was the warrior's comfortable creed.

But this feeling was also shown in private life. When two tribes or peoples rushed to war, there Odin, the warrior's god, was sure to be busy in the fight, turning the day this way or that at his will; but he was no less present in private war, where in any quarrel man met man to claim or to defend a right. There, too, he turned the scale and swayed the day, and there too an appeal to arms was regarded as an appeal to heaven. Hence arose another right older than all law, the right of duel—of wager of battle, as the old English law called it. Among the Northmen it underlaid all their early legislation, which, as we shall see, aimed rather at regulating and guiding it, by making it a part and parcel of the law, than at attempting to check at once a custom which had grown up with the whole faith of the people, and which was regarded as a right at once so time-honoured and so holy.

Thirdly, we must never forget that, as it is the Christian's duty to forgive his foes, and to be patient and long-suffering under the most grievous wrongs so it was the heathen's bounden duty to avenge all wrongs, and most of all those offered to blood relations, to his kith and kin, to the utmost limit of his power. Hence arose the constant blood-feuds between families, of which we shall hear so much in our story, but which we shall fail fully to understand, unless we keep in view, along with this duty of revenge, the right or property which all heads of houses had in their relations. Out of these twofold rights, of the right of revenge and the right of property, arose that strange medley of forbearance and blood-thirstiness which stamps the age. Revenue was a duty and a right, but property was no less a right; and so it rested with the father of a family either to take revenge, life for life, or to forego his vengeance, and take a compensation in goods or money for the loss he had sustained in his property. Out of this latter view arose those arbitrary tariffs for wounds or loss of life, which were gradually developed more or less completely in all the Teutonic and Scandinavian races, until every injury to life or limb had its proportionate price, according to the rank which the injured person bore in the social scale. These tariffs, settled by the heads of houses, are, in fact, the first elements of the law of nations; but it must be clearly understood that it always rested with the injured family either to follow up the quarrel by private war, or to call on the man who had inflicted the injury to pay a fitting fine. If he refused, the feud might be followed up on the battlefield, in the earliest times, or in later days, either by battle or by law. Of the latter mode of proceeding, we shall have to speak at greater length farther on; for the present, we content ourselves with indicating these different modes of settling a quarrel in what we have called the patriarchal state.

A fourth great principle of his nature was the conviction of the worthlessness and fleeting nature of all worldly goods. One thing alone was firm and unshaken, the stability of well-earned fame. "Goods perish, friends perish, a man himself perishes, but fame never dies to him that hath won it worthily." "One thing I know that never dies, the judgment passed on every mortal man." Over all man's life hung a blind, inexorable fate, a lower fold of the same gloomy cloud that brooded over Odin and the AEsir. Nothing could avert this doom. When his hour came, a man must meet his death, and until his hour came he was safe. It might strike in the midst of the highest happiness, and then nothing could avert the evil, but until it struck he would come safe through the direst peril. This fatalism showed itself among this vigorous pushing race in no idle resignation. On the contrary, the Northman went boldly to meet the doom which he felt sure no effort of his could turn aside, but which he knew, if he met it like a man, would secure him the only lasting thing on earth—a name famous in sons and story. Fate must be met then, but the way in which it was met, that rested with a man himself, that, at least, was in his own power; there he might show his free will; and thus this principle, which might seem at first to be calculated to blunt his energies and weaken his strength of mind, really sharpened and hardened them in a wonderful way, for it left it still worth everything to a man to fight this stern battle of life well and bravely, while its blind inexorable nature allowed no room for any careful weighing of chances or probabilities, or for any anxious prying into the nature of things doomed once for all to come to pass. To do things like a man, without looking to the right or left, as Kari acted when he smote off Gunnar's head in Earl Sigurd's hall, was the Northman's pride. He must do them openly too, and show no shame for what he had done. To kill a man and say that you had killed him, was manslaughter; to kill him and not to take it on your hand was murder. To kill men at dead of night was also looked on as murder. To kill a foe and not bestow the rights of burial on his body by throwing sand or gravel over him, was also looked on as murder. Even the wicked Thiostolf throws gravel over Glum in our Saga, and Thord Freedmanson's complaint against Brynjolf the unruly was that he had buried Atli's body badly. Even in killing a foe there was an open gentlemanlike way of doing it, to fail in which was shocking to the free and outspoken spirit of the age. Thorgeir Craggeir and the gallant Kari wake their foes and give them time to arm themselves before they fall upon them; and Hrapp, too, the thorough Icelander of the common stamp, "the friend of his friends and the foe of his foes," stalks before Gudbrand and tells him to his face the crimes which he has committed. Robbery and piracy in a good straightforward wholesale way were honoured and respected; but to steal, to creep to a man's abode secretly at dead of night and spoil his goods, was looked upon as infamy of the worst kind. To do what lay before him openly and like a man, without fear of either foes, fiends, or fate; to hold his own and speak his mind, and seek fame without respect of persons; to be free and daring in all his deeds; to be gentle and generous to his friends and kinsmen; to be stern and grim to his foes, but even towards them to feel bound to fulfil all bounden duties; to be as forgiving to some as he was unyielding and unforgiving to others. To be no truce-breaker, nor talebearer nor backbiter. To utter nothing against any man that he would not dare to tell him to his face. To turn no man from his door who sought food or shelter, even though he were a foe—these were other broad principles of the Northman's life, further features of that steadfast faithful spirit which he brought with him to his new home....


In the tenth century the homesteads of the Icelanders consisted of one main building, in which the family lived by day and slept at night, and of out-houses for offices and farm-buildings, all opening on a yard. Sometimes these out-buildings touched the main building, and had doors which opened into it, but in most cases they stood apart, and for purposes of defence, no small consideration in those days, each might be looked upon as a separate house.

The main building of the house was the stofa, or sitting and sleeping room. In the abodes of chiefs and great men, this building had great dimensions, and was then called a skali, or hall. It was also called eldhus, or eldaskali, from the great fires which burned in it.... It had two doors, the men's or main door, and the women's or lesser door. Each of these doors opened into a porch of its own, andyri, which was often wide enough, in the case of that into which the men's door opened, as we see in Thrain's house at Grit water, to allow many men to stand in it abreast. It was sometimes called forskali. Internally the hall consisted of three divisions, a nave and two low side aisles. The walls of these aisles were of stone, and low enough to allow of their being mounted with ease, as we see happened both with Gunner's skali, and with Njal's. The centre division or nave on the other hand, rose high above the others on two rows of pillars. It was of timber, and had an open work timber roof. The roofs of the side aisles were supported by posts as well as by rafters and cross-beams leaning against the pillars of the nave. It was on one of these cross-beams, after it had fallen down from the burning roof, that Kari got on to the side wall and leapt out, while Skarphedinn, when the burnt beam snapped asunder under his weight, was unable to follow him. There were fittings of wainscot along the walls of the side aisles, and all round between the pillars of the inner row, supporting the roof of the nave, ran a wainscot panel. In places the wainscot was pierced by doors opening into sleeping places shut off from the rest of the hall on all sides for the heads of the family. In other parts of the passages were sleeping places and beds not so shut off, for the rest of the household. The women servants slept in the passage behind the dais at one end of the hall. Over some halls there were upper chambers or lofts, in one of which Gunnar of Lithend slept, and from which he made his famous defence.

We have hitherto treated only of the passages and recesses of the side aisles. The whole of the nave within the wainscot, between the inner round pillars, was filled by the hall properly so called. It had long hearths for fires in the middle, with louvres above to let out the smoke. On either side nearest to the wainscot, and in some cases touching it, was a row of benches; in each of these was a high seat, if the hall was that of a great man, that on the south side being the owner's seat. Before these seats were tables, boards, which, however, do not seem, any more than our early Middle Age tables, to have been always kept standing, but were brought in with, and cleared away after, each meal. On ordinary occasions, one row of benches on each side sufficed; but when there was a great feast, or a sudden rush of unbidden guests, as when Flosi paid his visit to Tongue to take down Asgrim's pride, a lower kind of seats, or stools were brought in, on which the men of lowest rank sat, and which were on the outside of the tables, nearest to the fire. At the end of the hall, over against the door, was a raised platform or dais, on which also was sometimes a high seat and benches. It was where the women eat at weddings, as we see from the account of Hallgerda's wedding, in our Saga, and from many other passages.

In later times the seat of honour was shifted from the upper bench to the dais; and this seems to have been the case occasionally with kings and earls In Njal's time, if we may judge from the passage in the Saga, where Hildigunna fits up a high seat on the dais for Flosi, which he spurns from under him with the words, that he was "neither king nor earl," meaning that he was a simple man, and would have nothing to do with any of those new-fashions. It was to the dais that Asgrim betook himself when Flosi paid him his visit, and unless Asgrim's hall was much smaller than we have any reason to suppose would be the case in the dwelling of so great a chief, Flosi must have eaten his meal not far from the dais, in order to allow of Asgrim's getting near enough to aim a blow at him with a pole-axe from the rail at the edge of the platform. On high days and feast days, part of the hall was hung with tapestry, often of great worth and beauty, and over the hangings all along the wainscot, were carvings such as those which ... our Saga tells us Thorkel Foulmouth had carved on the stool before his high seat and over his shut bed, in memory of those deeds of "derring do" which he had performed in foreign lands.

Against the wainscot in various parts of the hall, shields and weapons were hung up. It was the sound of Skarphedinn's axe against the wainscot that woke up Njal and brought him out of his shut bed, when his sons set out on their hunt after Sigmund the white and Skiolld.

Now let us pass out of the skali by either door, and cast our eyes at the high gables with their carved projections, and we shall understand at a glance how it was that Mord's counsel to throw ropes round the ends of the timbers, and then to twist them tight with levers and rollers, could only end, if carried out, in tearing the whole roof off the house. It was then much easier work for Gunnar's foes to mount up on the side-roofs as the Easterling, who brought word that his bill was at home, had already done, and thence to attack him in his sleeping loft with safety to themselves, after his bowstring had been cut.

Some homesteads, like those of Gunnar at Lithend, and Gisli and his brother at Hol in Hawkdale, in the West Firths, had bowers, ladies' chambers, where the women eat and span, and where, in both the houses that we have named, gossip and scandal was talked with the worst results. These bowers stood away from the other buildings....

Every Icelandic homestead was approached by a straight road which led up to the yard round which the main building and its out-houses and farm-buildings stood. This was fenced in on each side by a wall of stones or turf. Near the house stood the "town" or home fields where meadow hay was grown, and in favoured positions where corn would grow, there were also enclosures of arable land near the house. On the uplands and marshes more hay was grown. Hay was the great crop in Iceland; for the large studs of horses and great herds of cattle that roamed upon the hills and fells in summer needed fodder in the stable and byre in winter, when they were brought home. As for the flocks of sheep, they seem to have been reckoned and marked every autumn, and milked and shorn in summer; but to have fought it out with nature on the hill-side all the year round as they best could. Hay, therefore, was the main staple, and haymaking the great end and aim of an Icelandic farmer.... Gunnar's death in our Saga may be set down to the fact that all his men were away in the Landisles finishing their haymaking. Again, Flosi, before the Burning, bids all his men go home and make an end of their haymaking, and when that is over, to meet and fall on Njal and his sons. Even the great duty of revenge gives way to the still more urgent duty of providing fodder for the winter store. Hayneed, to run short of hay, was the greatest misfortune that could befall a man, who with a fine herd and stud, might see both perish before his eyes in winter. Then it was that men of open heart and hand, like Gunnar, helped their tenants and neighbours, often, as we see in Gunnar's case, till they had neither hay nor food enough left for their own household, and had to buy or borrow from those that had. Then, too, it was that the churl's nature came out in Otkell and others, who having enough and to spare, would not part with their abundance for love or money.

These men were no idlers. They worked hard, and all, high and low, worked. In no land does the dignity of labour stand out so boldly. The greatest chiefs sow and reap, and drive their sheep, like Glum, the Speaker's brother, from the fells. The mightiest warriors were the handiest carpenters and smiths. Gisli Sur's son knew every corner of his foeman's house, because he had built it with his own hands while they were good friends. Njal's sons are busy at armourer's work, like the sons of the mythical Ragnar before them, when the news comes to them that Sigmund has made a mock of them in his songs. Gunnar sows his corn with his arms by his side, when Otkell rides over him; and Hauskuld the Whiteness priest is doing the same work when he is slain. To do something, and to do it well, was the Icelander's aim in life, and in no land does laziness like that of Thorkell meet with such well deserved reproach. They were early risers and went early to bed, though they could sit up late if need were. They thought nothing of long rides before they broke their fast. Their first meal was at about seven o'clock, and though they may have taken a morsel of food during the day, we hear of no other regular daily meal till evening, when between seven and eight again they had supper. While the men laboured on the farm or in the smithy, threw nets for fish in the teeming lakes and rivers, or were otherwise at work during the day, the women, and the housewife, or mistress of the house, at their head, made ready the food for the meals, carded wool, and sewed or wove or span. At meal-time the food seems to have been set on the board by the women, who waited on the men, and at great feasts, such as Gunnar's wedding, the wives of his nearest kinsmen, and of his dearest friend, Thorhillda Skaldtongue, Thrain's wife, and Bergthora, Njal's wife, went about from board to board waiting on the guests.

In everyday life they were a simple sober people, early to bed and early to rise—ever struggling with the rigour of the climate. On great occasions, as at the Yule feasts in honour of the gods, held at the temples, or at "arvel," "heir-ale," feasts, when heirs drank themselves into their father's land and goods, or at the autumn feasts, which friends and kinsmen gave to one another, there was no doubt great mirth and jollity, much eating and hard drinking of mead and fresh-brewed ale; but these drinks are not of a very heady kind, and one glass of spirits in our days would send a man farther on the road to drunkenness than many a horn of foaming mead. They were by no means that race of drunkards and hard livers which some have seen fit to call them.

Nor were these people such barbarians as some have fancied, to whom it is easier to rob a whole people of its character by a single word than to take the pains to inquire into its history. They were bold warriors and bolder sailors. The voyage between Iceland and Norway, or Iceland and Orkney, was reckoned as nothing; but from the west firths of Iceland, Eric the Red—no ruffian as he has been styled, though he had committed an act of manslaughter—discovered Greenland; and from Greenland the hardy seafarers pushed on across the main, till they made the dreary coast of Labrador. Down that they ran until they came at last to Vineland the good, which took its name from the grapes that grew there. From the accounts given of the length of the days in that land, it is now the opinion of those best fitted to judge on such matters, that this Vineland was no other than some part of the North American continent near Rhode Island or Massachusetts, in the United States. Their ships were half-decked, high out of the water at stem and stern, low in the waist, that the oars might reach the water, for they were made for rowing as well as for sailing. The after-part had a poop. The fore-part seems to have been without deck, but loose planks were laid there for men to stand on. A distinction was made between long-ships or ships of war, made long for speed, and ... ships of burden, which were built to carry cargo. The common complement was thirty rowers, which in warships made sometimes a third and sometimes a sixth of the crew. All round the warships, before the fight began, shield was laid on shield, on a rim or rail, which ran all round the bulwarks, presenting a mark like the hammocks of our navy, by which a long-ship could be at once detected. The bulwarks in warships could be heightened at pleasure, and this was called "to girdle the ship for war". The merchant ships often carried heavy loads of meal and timber from Norway, and many a one of these half-decked yawls no doubt foundered, like Flosi's unseaworthy ship, under the weight of her heavy burden of beams and planks, when overtaken by the autumnal gales on that wild sea. The passages were often very long, more than one hundred days is sometimes mentioned as the time spent on a voyage between Norway and Iceland.

As soon as the ship reached the land, she ran into some safe bay or creek, the great landing places on the south and south-east coasts being Eyrar, "The Eres," as such spots are still called in some parts of the British Isles, that is, the sandy beaches opening into lagoons which line the shore of the marsh district called Floi; and Hornfirth, whence Flosi and the Burners put to sea after their banishment. There the ship was laid up in a slip, made for her, she was stripped and made snug for the winter, a roof of planks being probably thrown over her, while the lighter portions of her cargo were carried on pack-saddles up the country. The timber seems to have been floated up the firths and rivers as near as it could be got to its destination, and then dragged by trains of horses to the spot where it was to be used.

Some of the cargo—the meal, and cloth and arms—was wanted at home; some of it was sold to neighbours either for ready money or on trust, it being usual to ask for the debt either in coin or in kind, the spring after. Sometimes the account remained outstanding for a much longer time. Among these men whose hands were so swift to shed blood, and in that state of things which looks so lawless, but which in truth was based upon fixed principles of justice and law, the rights of property were so safe, that men like Njal went lending their money to overbearing fellows like Starkad under Threecorner for years, on condition that he should pay a certain rate of interest. So also Gunnar had goods and money out at interest, out of which he wished to supply Unna's wants. In fact the law of debtor and creditor, and of borrowing money at usance, was well understood in Iceland, from the very first day that the Northmen set foot on its shores.

If we examine the condition of the sexes in this state of society, we shall find that men and women met very nearly on equal terms. If any woman is shocked to read how Thrain Sigfus' son treated his wife, in parting from her, and marrying a new one, at a moment's warning, she must be told that Gudruna, in Laxdaela, threatened one of her three husbands with much the same treatment, and would have put her threat into execution if he had not behaved as she commanded him. In our Saga, too, the gudewife of Bjorn the boaster threatens him with a separation if he does not stand faithfully by Kari; and in another Saga of equal age and truthfulness, we hear of one great lady who parted from her husband, because, in playfully throwing a pillow of down at her, he unwittingly struck her with his finger. In point of fact, the customary law allowed great latitude to separations, at the will of either party, if good reason could be shown for the desired change. It thought that the worst service it could render to those whom it was intended to protect would be to force two people to live together against their will, or even against the will of only one of them, if that person considered him or herself, as the case might be, ill-treated or neglected. Gunnar no doubt could have separated himself from Hallgerda for her thieving, just as Hallgerda could have parted from Gunnar for giving her that slap in the face; but they lived on, to Gunnar's cost and Hallgerda's infamy. In marriage contracts the rights of brides, like Unna the great heiress of the south-west, or Hallgerda the flower of the western dales, were amply provided for. In the latter case it was a curious fact that this wicked woman retained possession of Laugarness, near Reykjavik, which was part of her second husband Glum's property, to her dying day, and there, according to constant tradition, she was buried in a cairn which is still shown at the present time, and which is said to be always green, summer and winter alike. Where marriages were so much matter of barter and bargain, the father's will went for so much and that of the children for so little, love matches were comparatively rare; and if the songs of Gunnlaugr snaketongue and Kormak have described the charms of their fair ones, and the warmth of their passion in glowing terms, the ordinary Icelandic marriage of the tenth century was much more a matter of business, in the first place, than of love. Though strong affection may have sprung up afterwards between husband and wife, the love was rather a consequence of the marriage than the marriage a result of the love.

When death came it was the duty of the next of kin to close the eyes and nostrils of the departed, and our Saga, in that most touching story of Rodny's behaviour after the death of her son Hauskuld, affords an instance of the custom. When Njal asks why she, the mother, as next of kin, had not closed the eyes and nostrils of the corpse, the mother answers, "That duty I meant for Skarphedinn". Skarphedinn then performs the duty, and, at the same time, undertakes the duty of revenge. In heathen times the burial took place on a "how" or cairn, in some commanding position near the abode of the dead, and now came another duty. This was the binding on of the "hellshoes," which the deceased was believed to need in heathen times on his way either to Valhalla's bright hall of warmth and mirth, or to Hell's dark realm of cold and sorrow. That duty over, the body was laid in the cairn with goods and arms, sometimes as we see was the case with Gunnar in a sitting posture; sometimes even in a ship, but always in a chamber formed of baulks of timber or blocks of stone, over which earth and gravel were piled....


We are entitled to ask in what work of any age are the characters so boldly, and yet so delicately, drawn [as in this Saga]? Where shall we match the goodness and manliness of Gunnar, struggling with the storms of fate, and driven on by the wickedness of Hallgerda into quarrel after quarrel, which were none of his own seeking, but led no less surely to his own end? Where shall we match Hallgerda herself—that noble frame, so fair and tall, and yet with so foul a heart, the abode of all great crimes, and also the lurking place of tale-bearing and thieving? Where shall we find parallels to Skarphedinn's hastiness and readiness, as axe aloft he leapt twelve ells across Markfleet, and glided on to smite Thrain his death-blow on the slippery ice? where for Bergthora's love and tenderness for her husband, she who was given young to Njal, and could not find it in her heart to part from him when the house blazed over their heads? where for Kari's dash and gallantry, the man who dealt his blows straightforward, even in the Earl's hall, and never thought twice about them? where for Njal himself, the man who never dipped his hands in blood, who could unravel all the knotty points of the law; who foresaw all that was coming, whether for good or ill, for friend or for foe; who knew what his own end would be, though quite powerless to avert it; and when it came, laid him down to his rest, and never uttered sound or groan, though the flames roared loud around him? Nor are the minor characters less carefully drawn, the scolding tongue of Thrain's first wife, the mischief-making Thiostolf with his pole-axe, which divorced Hallgerda's first husband, Hrut's swordsmanship, Asgrim's dignity, Gizur's good counsel, Snorri's common sense and shrewdness, Gudmund's grandeur, Thorgeir's thirst for fame, Kettle's kindliness, Ingialld's heartiness, and, though last not least, Bjorn's boastfulness, which his gudewife is ever ready to cry down—are all sketched with a few sharp strokes which leave their mark for once and for ever on the reader's mind. Strange! were it not that human nature is herself in every age, that such forbearance and forgiveness as is shown by Njal and Hauskuld and Hall, should have shot up out of that social soil, so stained and steeped with the blood-shedding of revenge. Revenge was the great duty of Icelandic life, yet Njal is always ready to make up a quarrel, though he acknowledges the duty, when he refuses in his last moments to outlive his children, whom he feels himself unable to revenge. The last words of Hauskuld, when he was foully assassinated through the tale-bearing of Mord, were, "God help me and forgive you"; nor did the beauty of a Christian spirit ever shine out more brightly than in Hall, who, when his son Ljot, the flower of his flock, fell full of youth, and strength, and promise, in chance-medley at the battle on the Thingfield, at once for the sake of peace gave up the father's and the freeman's dearest rights, those of compensation and revenge, and allowed his son to fall unatoned in order that peace might be made. This struggle between the principle of an old system now turned to evil, and that of a new state of things which was still fresh and good, between heathendom as it sinks into superstition, and Christianity before it has had time to become superstitious, stands strongly forth in the latter part of the Saga; but as yet the new faith can only assert its forbearance and forgiveness in principle. It has not had time, except in some rare instances, to bring them into play in daily life. Even in heathen times such a deed as that by which Njal met his death, to hem a man in within his house and then to burn it and him together, to choke a freeman, as Skarphedinn says, like a fox in his earth, was quite against the free and open nature of the race; and though instances of such foul deeds occur besides those two great cases of Blundkettle and Njal, still they were always looked upon as atrocious crimes and punished accordingly. No wonder, therefore, then that Flosi, after the Change of Faith, when he makes up his mind to fire Njal's house, declares the deed to be one for which they would have to answer heavily before God, "seeing that we are Christian men ourselves"....

One word and we must bring this introduction to an end; it is merely to point out how calmly and peacefully the Saga ends, with the perfect reconciliation of Kari and Flosi, those generous foes, who throughout the bitter struggle in which they were engaged always treated each other with respect. It is a comfort to find, after the whole fitful story has been worked out, after passing from page to page, every one of which reeks with gore, to find that after all there were even in that bloodthirsty Iceland of the tenth century such things as peaceful old age and happy firesides, and that men like Flosi and Kari, who had both shed so much blood, one in a good and the other in a wicked cause, should after all die, Flosi on a trading voyage, an Icelandic Ulysses, in an unseaworthy ship, good enough, as he said, for an old and death-doomed man, Kari at home, well stricken in years, blessed with a famous and numerous offspring, and a proud but loving wife.


A.D. 850. Birth of Harold fairhair. 860. Harold fairhair comes to the throne. 870. Harold fairhair sole King in Norway. 871. Ingolf sets out for Iceland. 872. Battle of Hafrsfirth (Hafrsfjoeethr). 874. Ingolf and Leif go to settle in Iceland. 877. Kettle haeng goes to Iceland. 880-884. Harold fairhair roots out the Vikings in the west. 888. Fall of Thorstein the red in Scotland. 890-900. Rush of settlers from the British Isles to Iceland. 892. Aud the deeply wealthy comes to Iceland. 900-920. The third period of the Landnamstide. 920. Harold fairhair shares the kingdom with his sons. 923. Hrut Hauskuld's brother born. 929. Althing established. 930. Hrafn Kettle haeng's son Speaker of the Law. 930-935. Njal born. 930. The Fleetlithe feud begins. 933. Death of Harold fairhair. 940. End of the Fleetlithe feud; Fiddle Mord a man of rank; Hamond Gunnar's son marries Mord's sister Rannveiga. 941. Fall of King Eric Bloodaxe. c. 945. Gunnar of Lithend born. 955-960. Njal's sons born. 959. Glum marries Hallgerda. 960. Fall of King Hacon; Athelstane's foster-child, Harold Grayfell, King in Norway. 963. Hrut goes abroad. 965. Hrut returns to Iceland and marries Unna Mord's daughter. 968. Unna parts from Hrut. 969. Fiddle Mord and Hrut strive at the Althing; Fall of King Harold Grayfell; Earl Hacon rules in Norway. 970-971. Fiddle Mord's death; Gunnar and Hrut strive at the Althing. 972. Gunnar of Lithend goes abroad. 974. Gunnar returns to Iceland. 974. Gunnar's marriage with Hallgerda.

975. The slaying of Swart.

976. The slaying of Kol.

977. The slaying of Atli.

978. The slaying of Brynjolf the unruly and Thord Freedmanson.

979. The slaying of Sigmund the white.

983. Hallgerda steals from Otkell at Kirkby.

984. The suit for the theft settled at the Althing.

985. Otkell rides over Gunnar in the spring; fight at Rangriver just before the Althing; at the Althing Geir the priest and Gunnar strive; in the autumn Hauskuld Dale-Kolli's son, Gunnar's father-in-law, dies; birth of Hauskuld Thrain's son.

986. The fight at Knafahills, and death of Hjort Gunnar's brother.

987. The suit for those slain at Knafahills settled at the Althing.

988. Gunnar goes west to visit Olaf the peacock.

989. Slaying of Thorgeir Otkell's son before, and banishment of Gunnar at, the Althing; Njal's sons, Helgi and Grim, and Thrain Sigfus' son, go abroad.

990. Gunnar slain at Lithend.

992. Thrain returns to Iceland with Hrapp; Njal's sons ill-treated by Earl Hacon for his sake.

994. Njal's sons return to Iceland, bringing Kari with them.

995. Death of Earl Hacon; Olaf Tryggvi's son King of Norway.

996. Skarphedinn slays Thrain.

997. Thangbrand sent by King Olaf to preach Christianity in Iceland.

998. Slaying of Arnor of Forswaterwood by Flosi's brothers at Skaptarfells Thing; Thangbrand's missionary journey; Gizur and Hjallti go abroad.

999. Hjallti Skeggi's son found guilty of blasphemy against the Gods at the Althing; Thangbrand returns to Norway.

1000. Gizur and Hjallti return to Iceland; the Change of Faith and Christianity brought into the law at the Althing on St. John's day, 24th June; fall of King Olaf Tryggvi's son at Svoldr, 9th September.

1001. Thorgeir the priest of Lightwater gives up the Speakership of the Law.

1002. Grim of Mossfell Speaker of the Law.

1003. Grim lays down the Speakership.

1003 or 1004. Skapti Thorod's son Speaker of the Law; the Fifth Court established; Hauskuld Thrain's son marries Hildigunna Flosi's niece and has one of the new priesthoods at Whiteness.

1006. Duels abolished in legal matters; slaying of Hauskuld Njal's son by Lyting and his brothers.

1009. Amund the blind slays Lyting; Valgard the guileful comes back to Iceland; his evil counsel to Mord; Mord begins to backbite and slander Hauskuld and Njal's sons to one another.

1111. Hauskald the Whiteness priest slain early in the spring; suit for his manslaughter at the Althing; Njal's Burning the autumn after.

1112. The suit for the Burning and battle at the Althing; Flosi and the Burners banished; Kari and Thorgeir Craggeir carry on the feud.

1113. Flosi goes abroad with the Burners, and Kari follows them; Flosi and Kari in Orkney.

1114. Brian's battle on Good Friday; Flosi goes to Rome.

1115. Flosi returns from Rome to Norway, and stays with Earl Eric, Earl Hacon's son.

1116. Flosi returns to Iceland; Kari goes to Rome and returns to Caithness; his wife Helga dies out in Iceland.

1117. Kari returns to Iceland, id reconciled with Flosi, and marries Hildigunna Hauskuld's widow.



The Northmen in Iceland—Superstitions of the Race—Social Principles—Daily Life in Njal's Time—Conclusion.

Icelandic Chronology


I. Of Fiddle Mord 1

II. Hrut Woos Unna 2

III. Hrut and Gunnhillda, Kings' Mother 4

IV. Of Hrut's Cruise 7

V. Atli Arnvid Son's Slaying 8

VI. Hrut Sails out to Iceland 10

VII. Unna separates from Hrut 13

VIII. Mord claims his Goods from Hrut 15

IX. Thorwald gets Hallgerda to Wife 17

X. Hallgerda's Wedding 19

XI. Thorwald's Slaying 20

XII. Thiostolf's Flight 22

XIII. Glum's Wooing 25

XIV. Glum's Wedding 28

XV. Thiostolf goes to Glum's House 29

XVI. Glum's Sheep Hunt 30

XVII. Glum's Slaying 31

XVIII. Fiddle Mord's Death 34

XIX. Gunnar comes into the Story 34

XX. Of Njal and His Children 35

XXI. Unna goes to See Gunnar 35

XXII. Njal's Advice 37

XXIII. Huckster Hedinn 39

XXIV. Gunnar and Hrut Strive at the Thing 42

XXV. Unna's Second Wedding 44

XXVI. Of Asgrim and his Children 45

XXVII. Helgi Njal's Son's Wooing 45

XXVIII. Hallvard comes out to Iceland 46

XXIX. Gunnar goes Abroad 47

XXX. Gunnar goes a-sea-roving 48

XXXI. Gunnar goes to King Harold Gorm's Son and Earl Hacon 52

XXXII. Gunnar comes out to Iceland 53

XXXIII. Gunnar's Wooing 54

XXXIV. Of Thrain Sigfus' Son 57

XXXV. The Visit to Bergthorsknoll 59

XXXVI. Kol Slew Swart 60

XXXVII. The Slaying of Kol, whom Atli Slew 63

XXXVIII. The Killing of Atli the Thrall 65

XXXIX. The Slaying of Brynjolf the Unruly 69

XL. Gunnar and Njal make Peace about Brynjolf's Slaying 70

XLI. Sigmund comes out to Iceland 71

XLII. The Slaying of Thord Freedmanson 73

XLIII. Njal and Gunnar make Peace for the Slaying of Thord 74

XLIV. Sigmund Mocks Njal and his Sons 76

XLV. The Slaying of Sigmund and Skiolld 79

XLVI. Of Gizur The White and Geir the Priest 82

XLVII. Of Otkell in Kirkby 83

XLVIII. How Hallgerda makes Malcolm Steal from Kirkby 85

XLIX. Of Skamkell's Evil Counsel 86

L. Of Skamkell's Lying 90

LI. Of Gunnar 92

LII. Of Runolf, the Son of Wolf Aurpriest 94

LIII. How Otkell Rode over Gunnar 95

LIV. The Fight at Rangriver 97

LV. Njal's Advice to Gunnar 99

LVI. Gunnar and Geir the Priest Strive at the Thing 101

LVII. Of Starkad and his Sons 104

LVIII. How Gunnar's Horse Fought 106

LIX. Of Asgrim and Wolf Uggis' Son 108

LX. An Attack against Gunnar agreed on 109

LXI. Gunnar's Dream 111

LXII. The Slaying of Hjort and Fourteen Men 112

LXIII. Njals Counsel to Gunnar 115

LXIV. Of Valgard and Mord 116

LXV. Of Fines and Atonements 118

LXVI. Of Thorgeir Otkell's Son 120

LXVII. Of Thorgeir Starkad's Son 121

LXVIII. Of Njal and those Namesakes 122

LXIX. Olaf the Peacock's Gifts to Gunnar 124

LXX. Mord's Counsel 126

LXXI. The Slaying of Thorgeir Otkell's Son 127

LXXII. Of the Suits for Manslaughter at the Thing 129

LXXIII. Of the Atonement 130

LXXIV. Kolskegg goes Abroad 132

LXXV. The Riding to Lithend 135

LXXVI. Gunnar's Slaying 135

LXXVII. Gunnar Sings a Song Dead 139

LXXVIII. Gunnar of Lithend Avenged 141

LXXIX. Hogni takes an Atonement for Gunnar's Death 143

LXXX. Of Kolskegg: How he was Baptised 143

LXXXI. Of Thrain: How he Slew Kol 144

LXXXII. Njal's Sons Sail Abroad 147

LXXXIII. Of Kari Solmund's Son 148

LXXXIV. Of Earl Sigurd 150

LXXXV. The Battle with the Earls 151

LXXXVI. Hrapp's Voyage from Iceland 152

LXXXVII. Thrain took to Hrapp 156

LXXXVIII. Earl Hacon Fights with Njal's Sons 162

LXXXIX. Njal's Sons and Kari come out to Iceland 165

XC. The Quarrel of Njal's Sons with Thrain Sigfus' Son 166

XCI. Thrain Sigfus' Son's Slaying 170

XCII. Kettle takes Hauskuld as his Foster-Son 175

XCIII. Njal takes Hauskuld to Foster 176

XCIV. Of Flosi Thord's Son 177

XXCV. Of Hall of the Side 177

XCVI. Of the Change of Faith 178

XCVII. Of Thangbrand's Journeys 179

XCVIII. Of Thangbrand and Gudleif 180

XCIX. Of Gest Oddleif's Son 183

C. Of Gizur the White and Hjallti 185

CI. Of Thorgeir of Lightwater 186

CII. The Wedding of Hauskuld, the Priest of Whiteness 187

CIII. The Slaying of Hauskuld Njal's Son 191

CIV. The Slaying of Lyting's Brothers 195

CV. Of Amund the Blind 197

CVI. Of Valgard the Guileful 198

CVII. Of Mord and Njal's Sons 199

CVIII. Of The Slander of Mord Valgard's Son 200

CIX. Of Mord and Njal's Sons 203

CX. The Slaying of Hauskuld, the Priest Whiteness 203

CXI. Of Hildigunna and Mord Valgard's Son 205

CXII. The Pedigree of Gudmund the Powerful 206

CXIII. Of Snorri the Priest and his Stock 207

CXIV. Of Flosi Thord's Son 207

CXV. Of Flosi and Hildigunna 209

CXVI. Of Flosi and Mord and the Sons of Sigfus 211

CXVII. Njal and Skarphedinn Talk Together 213

CXVIII. Asgrim and Njal's Sons pray Men for Help 214

CXIX. Of Skarphedinn and Thorkel Foulmouth 219

CXX. Of the Pleading of the Suit 221

CXXI. Of the Award of Atonement between Flosi and Njal 223

CXXII. Of the Judges 225

CXXIII. An Attack planned on Njal and his Sons 228

CXXIV. Of Portents 232

CXXV. Flosi's Journey from Home 232

CXXVI. Of Portents at Bergthorsknoll 233

CXXVII. The Onslaught on Bergthorsknoll 235

CXXVIII. Njal's Burning 237

CXXIX. Skarphedinn's Death 241

CXXX. Of Kari Solmund's Son 245

CXXXI. Njal's and Bergthora's Bones Found 248

CXXXII. Flosi's Dream 251

CXXXIII. Of Flosi's Journey and his Asking for Help 252

CXXXIV. Of Thorhall and Kari 256

CXXXV. Of Flosi and the Burners 260

CXXXVI. Of Thorgeir Craggeir 262

CXXXVII. Of Eyjolf Bolverk's Son 262

CXXXVIII. Of Asgrim, and Gizur, and Kari 267

CXXXIX. Of Asgrim and Gudmund 270

CXL. Of the Declarations of the Suits 271

CXLI. Now Men go to the Courts 274

CXLII. Of Eyjolf Bolverk's Son 284

CXLIII. The Counsel of Thorhall Asgrim's Son 285

CXLIV. Battle at the Althing 290

CXLV. Of Kari and Thorgeir 299

CXLVI. The Award of Atonement with Thorgeir Craggeir 303

CXLVII. Kari comes to Bjorn's House in the Mark 305

CXLVIII. Of Flosi and the Burners 307

CXLIX. Of Kari and Bjorn 309

CL. More of Kari and Bjorn 312

CLI. Of Kari, and Bjorn, and Thorgeir 315

CLII. Flosi goes Abroad 317

CLIII. Kari goes Abroad 318

CLIV. Gunnar Lambi's Son's Slaying 320

CLV. Of Signs and Wonders 323

CLVI. Brian's Battle 324

CLVII. The Slaying of Kol Thorstein's Son 330

CLVIII. Of Flosi and Kari 332




There was a man named Mord whose surname was Fiddle; he was the son of Sigvat the Red, and he dwelt at the "Vale" in the Rangrivervales. He was a mighty chief, and a great taker up of suits, and so great a lawyer that no judgments were thought lawful unless he had a hand in them. He had an only daughter, named Unna. She was a fair, courteous and gifted woman, and that was thought the best match in all the Rangrivervales.

Now the story turns westward to the Broadfirth dales, where, at Hauskuldstede, in Laxriverdale, dwelt a man named Hauskuld, who was Dalakoll's son, and his mother's name was Thorgerda. He had a brother named Hrut, who dwelt at Hrutstede; he was of the same mother as Hauskuld, but his father's name was Heriolf. Hrut was handsome, tall and strong, well skilled in arms, and mild of temper; he was one of the wisest of men—stern towards his foes, but a good counsellor on great matters. It happened once that Hauskuld bade his friends to a feast, and his brother Hrut was there, and sat next him. Hauskuld had a daughter named Hallgerda, who was playing on the floor with some other girls. She was fair of face and tall of growth, and her hair was as soft as silk; it was so long, too, that it came down to her waist. Hauskuld called out to her, "Come hither to me, daughter". So she went up to him, and he took her by the chin, and kissed her; and after that she went away.

Then Hauskuld said to Hrut, "What dost thou think of this maiden? Is she not fair?" Hrut held his peace. Hauskuld said the same thing to him a second time, and then Hrut answered, "Fair enough is this maid, and many will smart for it, but this I know not, whence thief's eyes have come into our race". Then Hauskuld was wroth, and for a time the brothers saw little of each other.



It happened once that those brothers, Hauskuld and Hrut, rode to the Althing, and there was much people at it. Then Hauskuld said to Hrut, "One thing I wish, brother, and that is, that thou wouldst better thy lot and woo thyself a wife."

Hrut answered, "That has been long on my mind, though there always seemed to be two sides to the matter; but now I will do as thou wishest; whither shall we turn our eyes?"

Hauskuld answered, "Here now are many chiefs at the Thing, and there is plenty of choice, but I have already set my eyes on a spot where a match lies made to thy hand. The woman's name is Unna, and she is a daughter of Fiddle Mord one of the wisest of men. He is here at the Thing, and his daughter too, and thou mayest see her if it pleases thee."

Now the next day, when men were going to the High Court, they saw some well-dressed women standing outside the booths of the men from the Rangrivervales, Then Hauskuld said to Hrut—

"Yonder now is Unna, of whom I spoke; what thinkest thou of her?"

"Well," answered Hrut; "but yet I do not know whether we should get on well together."

After that they went to the High Court, where Fiddle Mord was laying down the law as was his wont, and alter he had done he went home to his booth.

Then Hauskuld and Hrut rose, and went to Mord's booth. They went in and found Mord sitting in the innermost part of the booth, and they bade him "good day". He rose to meet them, and took Hauskuld by the hand and made him sit down by his side, and Hrut sat next to Hauskuld, So after they had talked much of this and that, at last Hauskuld said, "I have a bargain to speak to thee about; Hrut wishes to become thy son-in-law, and buy thy daughter, and I, for my part, will not be sparing in the mattes".

Mord answered, "I know that thou art a great chief, but thy brother is unknown to me".

"He is a better man than I," answered Hauskuld.

"Thou wilt need to lay down a large sum with him, for she is heir to all I leave behind me," said Mord.

"There is no need," said Hauskuld, "to wait long before thou hearest what I give my word he shall have. He shall have Kamness and Hrutstede, up as far as Thrandargil, and a trading-ship beside, now on her voyage."

Then said Hrut to Mord, "Bear in mind, now, husband, that my brother has praised me much more than I deserve for love's sake; but if after what thou hast heard, thou wilt make the match, I am willing to let thee lay down the terms thyself".

Mord answered, "I have thought over the terms; she shall have sixty hundreds down, and this sum shall be increased by a third more in thine house, but if ye two have heirs, ye shall go halves in the goods".

Then said Hrut, "I agree to these terms, and now let us take witness". After that they stood up and shook hands, and Mord betrothed his daughter Unna to Hrut, and the bridal feast was to be at Mord's house, half a month after Midsummer.

Now both sides ride home from the Thing, and Hauskuld and Hrut ride westward by Hallbjorn's beacon. Then Thiostolf, the son of Biorn Gullbera of Reykiardale, rode to meet them, and told them how a ship had come out from Norway to the White River, and how aboard of her was Auzur, Hrut's father's brother, and he wished Hrut to come to him as soon as ever he could. When Hrut heard this, he asked Hauskuld to go with him to the ship, so Hauskuld went with his brother, and when they reached the ship, Hrut gave his kinsman Auzur a kind and hearty welcome. Auzur asked them into his booth to drink, so their horses were unsaddled, and they went in and drank, and while they were drinking, Hrut said to Auzur, "Now, kinsman, thou must ride west with me, and stay with me this winter."

"That cannot be, kinsman, for I have to tell thee the death of thy brother Eyvind, and he has left thee his heir at the Gula Thing, and now thy foes will seize thy heritage, unless thou comest to claim it."

"What's to be done now, brother?" said Hrut to Hauskuld, "for this seems a hard matter, coming just as I have fixed my bridal day."

"Thou must ride south," said Hauskuld, "and see Mord, and ask him to change the bargain which ye two have made, and to let his daughter sit for thee three winters as thy betrothed, but I will ride home and bring down thy wares to the ship."

Then said Hrut, "My wish is that thou shouldest take meal and timber, and whatever else thou needest out of the lading". So Hrut had his horses brought out, and he rode south, while Hauskuld rode home west. Hrut came east to the Rangrivervales to Mord, and had a good welcome, and he told Mord all his business, and asked his advice what he should do.

"How much money is this heritage?" asked Mord, and Hrut said it would come to a hundred marks, if he got it all.

"Well," said Mord, "that is much when set against what I shall leave behind me, and thou shalt go for it, if thou wilt."

After that they broke their bargain, and Unna was to sit waiting for Hrut three years as his betrothed. Now Hrut rides back to the ship, and stays by her during the summer, till she was ready to sail, and Hauskuld brought down all Hrut's wares and money to the ship, and Hrut placed all his other property in Hauskuld's hands to keep for him while he was away. Then Hauskuld rode home to his house, and a little while after they got a fair wind and sail away to sea. They were out three weeks, and the first land they made was Hern, near Bergen, and so sail eastward to the Bay.



At that time Harold Grayfell reigned in Norway; he was the son of Eric Bloodaxe, who was the son of Harold Fairhair; his mother's name was Gunnhillda, a daughter of Auzur Toti, and they had their abode east, at the King's Crag. Now the news was spread, how a ship had come thither east into the Bay, and as soon as Gunnhillda heard of it, she asked what men from Iceland were aboard, and they told her Hrut was the man's name, Auzur's brother's son. Then Gunnhillda said, "I see plainly that he means to claim his heritage, but there is a man named Soti, who has laid his hands on it".

After that she called her waiting-man, whose name was Augmund, and said—

"I am going to send thee to the Bay to find out Auzur and Hint, and tell them that I ask them both to spend this winter with me. Say, too, that I will be their friend, and if Hrut will carry out my counsel, I will see after his suit, and anything else he takes in hand, and I will speak a good word, too, for him to the king."

After that he set off and found them; and as soon as they knew that he was Gunnhillda's servant, they gave him good welcome. He took them aside and told them his errand, and after that they talked over their plans by themselves. Then Auzur said to Hrut—

"Methinks, kinsman, here is little need for long talk, our plans are ready made for us; for I know Gunnhillda's temper; as soon as ever we say we will not go to her she will drive us out of the land, and take all our goods by force; but if we go to her, then she will do us such honour as she has promised."

Augmund went home, and when he saw Gunnhillda, he told her how his errand had ended, and that they would come, and Gunnhillda said—

"It is only what was to be looked for; for Hrut is said to be a wise and well-bred man; and now do thou keep a sharp look out, and tell me as soon as ever they come to the town."

Hrut and Auzur went east to the King's Crag, and when they reached the town, their kinsmen and friends went out to meet and welcome them. They asked, whether the king were in the town, and they told them he was. After that they met Augmund, and he brought them a greeting from Gunnhillda, saying, that she could not ask them to her house before they had seen the king, lest men should say, "I make too much of them". Still she would do all she could for them, and she went on, "tell Hrut to be outspoken before the king, and to ask to be made one of his body-guard"; "and here," said Augmund, "is a dress of honour which she sends to thee, Hrut, and in it thou must go in before the king". After that he went away.

The next day Hrut said—

"Let us go before the king."

"That may well be," answered Auzur.

So they went, twelve of them together, and all of them friends or kinsmen, and came into the hall where the king sat over his drink. Hrut went first and bade the king "good day," and the king, looking steadfastly at the man who was well-dressed, asked him his name. So he told his name.

"Art thou an Icelander?" said the king.

He answered, "Yes".

"What drove thee hither to seek us?"

Then Hrut answered—

"To see your state, lord; and, besides, because I have a great matter of inheritance here in the land, and I shall have need of your help, if I am to get my rights."

The king said—

"I have given my word that every man shall have lawful justice here in Norway; but hast thou any other errand in seeking me?"

"Lord!" said Hrut, "I wish you to let me live in your court, and become one of your men."

At this the king holds his peace, but Gunnhillda said—

"It seems to me as if this man offered you the greatest honour, for me thinks if there were many such men in the body-guard, it would be well filled."

"Is he a wise man?" asked the king.

"He is both wise and willing," said she.

"Well," said the king, "methinks my mother wishes that thou shouldst have the rank for which thou askest, but for the sake of our honour and the custom of the land, come to me in half a month's time, and then thou shalt be made one of my body-guard. Meantime, my mother will take care of thee, but then come to me."

Then Gunnhillda said to Augmund—

"Follow them to my house, and treat them well."

So Augmund went out, and they went with him, and he brought them to a hall built of stone, which was hung with the most beautiful tapestry, and there too was Gunnhillda's high-seat.

Then Augmund said to Hrut—

"Now will be proved the truth of all that I said to thee from Gunnhillda. Here is her high-seat, and in it thou shalt sit, and this seat thou shalt hold, though she comes herself into the hall."

After that he made them good cheer, and they had sat down but a little while when Gunnhillda came in. Hrut wished to jump up and greet her.

"Keep thy seat!" she says, "and keep it too all the time thou art my guest."

Then she sat herself down by Hrut, and they fell to drink, and at even she said—

"Thou shalt be in the upper chamber with me to-night, and we two together."

"You shall have your way," he answers.

After that they went to sleep, and she locked the door inside. So they slept that night, and in the morning fell to drinking again. Thus they spent their life all that half-month, and Gunnhillda said to the men who were there—

"Ye shall lose nothing except your lives if you say to any one a word of how Hrut and I are going on."

[When the half-month was over] Hrut gave her a hundred ells of household woollen and twelve rough cloaks, and Gunnhillda thanked him for his gifts. Then Hrut thanked her and gave her a kiss and went away. She bade him "farewell". And next day he went before the king with thirty men after him and bade the king "good-day". The king said—

"Now, Hrut, thou wilt wish me to carry out towards thee what I promised."

So Hrut was made one of the king's body-guard, and he asked, "Where shall I sit?"

"My mother shall settle that," said the king.

Then she got him a seat in the highest room, and he spent the winter with the king in much honour.



When the spring came he asked about Soti, and found out he had gone south to Denmark with the inheritance. Then Hrut went to Gunnhillda and tells her what Soti had been about. Gunnhillda said—

"I will give thee two long-ships, full manned, and along with them the bravest men. Wolf the Unwashed, our overseer of guests; but still go and see the king before thou settest off."

Hrut did so; and when he came before the king, then he told the king of Soti's doings, and how he had a mind to hold on after him.

The king said, "What strength has my mother handed over to thee?"

"Two long-ships and Wolf the Unwashed to lead the men," says Hrut.

"Well given," says the king. "Now I will give thee other two ships, and even then thou'lt need all the strength thou'st got."

After that he went down with Hrut to the ship, and said "fare thee well". Then Hrut sailed away south with his crews.



There was a man named Atli, son of Arnvid, Earl of East Gothland. He had kept back the taxes from Hacon Athelstane's foster child, and both father and son had fled away from Jemtland to Gothland. After that, Atli held on with his followers out of the Maelar by Stock Sound, and so on towards Denmark, and now he lies out in Oeresound.[5] He is an outlaw both of the Dane-King and of the Swede-King. Hrut held on south to the Sound, and when he came into it he saw many ships in the Sound. Then Wolf said—

"What's best to be done now, Icelander?"

"Hold on our course," says Hrut, "'for nothing venture, nothing have'. My ship and Auzur's shall go first, but thou shalt lay thy ship where thou likest."

"Seldom have I had others as a shield before me," says Wolf, and lays his galley side by side with Hrut's ship; and so they hold on through the Sound. Now those who are in the Sound see that ships are coming up to them, and they tell Atli.

He answered, "Then maybe there'll be gain to be got".

After that men took their stand on board each ship; "but my ship," says Atli, "shall be in the midst of the fleet".

Meantime Hrut's ships ran on, and as soon as either side could hear the other's hail, Atli stood up and said—

"Ye fare unwarily. Saw ye not that war-ships were in the Sound? But what's the name of your chief?"

Hrut tells his name.

"Whose man art thou?" says Atli.

"One of king Harold Grayfell's body-guard."

Atli said, "'Tis long since any love was lost between us, father and son, and your Norway kings".

"Worse luck for thee," says Hrut.

"Well," says Atli, "the upshot of our meeting will be, that thou shalt not be left alive to tell the tale;" and with that he caught up a spear and hurled it at Hrut's ship, and the man who stood before it got his death. After that the battle began, and they were slow in boarding Hrut's ship. Wolf, he went well forward, and with him it was now cut, now thrust. Atli's bowman's name was Asolf; he sprung up on Hrut's ship, and was four men's death before Hrut was ware of him; then he turned against him, and when they met, Asolf thrust at and through Hrut's shield, but Hrut cut once at Asolf, and that was his death-blow. Wolf the Unwashed saw that stroke, and called out—

"Truth to say, Hrut, thou dealest big blows, but thou'st much to thank Gunnhillda for."

"Something tells me," says Hrut, "that thou speakest with a 'fey' mouth."

Now Atli sees a bare place for a weapon on Wolf, and shot a spear through him, and now the battle grows hot: Atli leaps up on Hrut's ship, and clears it fast round about, and now Auzur turns to meet him, and thrust at him, but fell down full length on his back, for another man thrust at him. Now Hrut turns to meet Atli: he cut at once at Hrut's shield, and clove it all in two, from top to point; just then Atli got a blow on his hand from a stone, and down fell his sword. Hrut caught up the sword, and cut his foot from under him. After that he dealt him his death-blow. There they took much goods, and brought away with them two ships which were best, and stayed there only a little while. But meantime Soti and his crew had sailed past them, and he held on his course back to Norway, and made the land at Limgard's side. There Soti went on shore, and there he met Augmund, Gunnhillda's page; he knew him at once, and asks—

"How long meanest thou to be here?"

"Three nights," says Soti.

"Whither away, then?" says Augmund.

"West, to England," says Soti, "and never to come back again to Norway while Gunnhillda's rule is in Norway."

Augmund went away, and goes and finds Gunnhillda, for she was a little way off at a feast, and Gudred, her son, with her. Augmund told Gunnhillda what Soti meant to do, and she begged Gudred to take his life. So Gudred set off at once, and came unawares on Soti, and made them lead up the country, and hang him there. But the goods he took, and brought them to his mother, and she got men to carry them all down to the King's Crag, and after that she went thither herself.

Hrut came back towards autumn, and had gotten great store of goods. He went at once to the king, and had a hearty welcome. He begged them to take whatever they pleased of his goods, and the king took a third. Gunnhillda told Hrut how she had got hold of the inheritance, and had Soti slain. He thanked her, and gave her half of all he had.



Hrut stayed with the king that winter in good cheer, but when spring came he grew very silent. Gunnhillda finds that out, and said to him when they two were alone together—

"Art thou sick at heart?"

"So it is," said Hrut, "as the saying runs—'Ill goes it with those who are born on a barren land'."

"Wilt thou to Iceland?" she asks.

"Yes," he answered.

"Hast thou a wife out there?" she asked; and he answers, "No".

"But I am sure that is true," she says; and so they ceased talking about the matter.

[Shortly after] Hrut went before the king and bade him "good day"; and the king said, "What dost thou want now, Hrut?"

"I am come to ask, lord, that you give me leave to go to Iceland."

"Will thine honour be greater there than here?" asks the king.

"No, it will not," said Hrut; "but every one must win the work that is set before him."

"It is pulling a rope against a strong man," said Gunnhillda, "so give him leave to go as best suits him."

There was a bad harvest that year in the land, yet Gunnhillda gave Hrut as much meal as he chose to have; and now he busks him to sail out to Iceland, and Auzur with him; and when they were all-boun, Hrut went to find the king and Gunnhillda. She led him aside to talk alone, and said to him—

"Here is a gold ring which I will give thee;" and with that she clasped it round his wrist.

"Many good gifts have I had from thee," said Hrut.

Then she put her hands round his neck and kissed him, and said—

"If I have as much power over thee as I think, I lay this spell on thee that thou mayest never have any pleasure in living with that woman on whom thy heart is set in Iceland, but with other women thou mayest get on well enough, and now it is like to go well with neither of us;—but thou hast not believed what I have been saying."

Hrut laughed when he heard that, and went away; after that he came before the king and thanked him; and the king spoke kindly to him, and bade him "farewell". Hrut went straight to his ship, and they had a fair wind all the way until they ran into Borgarfirth.

As soon as the ship was made fest to the land, Hrut rode west home, but Auzur stayed by the ship to unload her, and lay her up. Hrut rode straight to Hauskuldstede, and Hauskuld gave him a hearty welcome, and Hrut told him all about his travels. After that they sent men east across the rivers to tell Fiddle Mord to make ready for the bridal feast; but the two brothers rode to the ship, and on the way Hauskuld told Hrut how his money matters stood, and his goods had gained much since he was away. Then Hrut said—

"The reward is less worth than it ought to be, but I will give thee as much meal as thou needst for thy household next winter."

Then they drew the ship on land on rollers, and made her snug in her shed, but all the wares on board her they carried away into the Dales westward. Hrut stayed at home at Hrutstede till winter was six weeks off, and then the brothers made ready, and Auzur with them, to ride to Hrut's wedding. Sixty men ride with them, and they rode east till they came to Rangriver plains. There they found a crowd of guests, and the men took their seats on benches down the length of the hall, but the women were seated on the cross benches on the dais, and the bride was rather downcast. So they drank out the feast and it went off well. Mord pays down his daughter's portion, and she rides west with her husband and his train. So they ride till they reach home. Hrut gave over everything into her hands inside the house, and all were pleased at that; but for all that she and Hrut did not pull well together as man and wife, and so things went on till spring, and when spring came Hrut had a journey to make to the Westfirths, to get in the money for which he had sold his wares; but before he set off his wife says to him—

"Dost thou mean to be back before men ride to the Thing?"

"Why dost thou ask?" said Hrut.

"I will ride to the Thing," she said, "to meet my father."

"So it shall be," said he, "and I will ride to the Thing along with thee."

"Well and good," she says.

After that Hrut rode from home west to the Firths, got in all his money, and laid it out anew, and rode home again. When he came home he busked him to ride to the Thing, and made all his neighbours ride with him. His brother Hauskuld rode among the rest. Then Hrut said to his wife—

"If thou hast as much mind now to go to the Thing as thou saidst a while ago, busk thyself and ride along with me."

She was not slow in getting herself ready, and then they all rode to the Thing. Unna went to her father's booth, and he gave her a hearty welcome, but she seemed somewhat heavy-hearted, and when he saw that he said to her—

"I have seen thee with a merrier face. Hast thou anything on thy mind?"

She began to weep, and answered nothing. Then he said to her again, "Why dost thou ride to the Thing, if thou wilt not tell me thy secret? Dost thou dislike living away there in the west?"

Then she answered him—

"I would give all I own in the world that I had never gone thither."

"Well!" said Mord, "I'll soon get to the bottom of this." Then he sends men to fetch Hauskuld and Hrut, and they came straightway; and when they came in to see Mord, he rose up to meet them and gave them a hearty welcome, and asked them to sit down. Then they talked a long time in a friendly way, and at last Mord said to Hauskuld—

"Why does my daughter think so ill of life in the west yonder?"

"Let her speak out," said Hrut, "if she has anything to lay to my charge."

But she brought no charge against him. Then Hrut made them ask his neighbours and household how he treated her, and all bore him good witness, saying that she did just as she pleased in the house.

Then Mord said, "Home thou shalt go, and be content with thy lot; for all the witness goes better for him than for thee".

After that Hrut rode home from the Thing, and his wife with him, and all went smoothly between them that summer; but when spring came it was the old story over again, and things grew worse and worse as the spring went on. Hrut had again a journey to make west to the Firths, and gave out that he would not ride to the Althing, but Unna his wife said little about it. So Hrut went away west to the Firths.



Now the time for the Thing was coming on, Unna spoke to Sigmund Auzur's son, and asked if he would ride to the Thing with her; he said he could not ride if his kinsman Hrut set his face against it.

"Well!" says she, "I spoke to thee because I have better right to ask this from thee than from any one else."

He answered, "I will make a bargain with thee: thou must promise to ride back west with me, and to have no underhand dealings against Hrut or myself".

So she promised that, and then they rode to the Thing. Her father Mord was at the Thing, and was very glad to see her, and asked her to stay in his booth white the Thing lasted, and she did so.

"Now," said Mord, "what hast thou to tell me of thy mate, Hrut?"

Then she sung him a song, in which she praised Hrut's liberality, but said he was not master of himself. She herself was ashamed to speak out.

Mord was silent a short time, and then said—

"Thou hast now that on thy mind I see, daughter, which thou dost not wish that any one should know save myself, and thou wilt trust to me rather than any one else to help thee out of thy trouble."

Then they went aside to talk, to a place where none could overhear what they said; and then Mord said to his daughter—

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