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Icelandic Saga-Grettir the Strong

Icelandic Saga-Grettir the Strong

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Published by: mos_tautu on Mar 08, 2008
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THERE WAS A MAN NAMED THORIR dwelling in Gard in

Adaldal. He was a son of Skeggi Bodolfsson, who had

settled in Kelduhverfi, on lands extending right up to

Keldunes, and had married Helga the daughter of Thorgeir

at Fiskilaek. Thorir was a great chief, and a mariner. He had

two sons whose names were Thorgeir and Skeggi, both

men of promise, and pretty well grown up at that time.

Thorir had been in Norway in the summer in which Olaf

came East from England, and had won great favour with

the king as well as with Bishop Sigurd. In token of this it is

related that Thorir asked the bishop to consecrate a large

sea-going ship he had built in the forest, and the bishop did

so. Later he came out to Iceland and had his ship broken up

because he was tired of seafaring. He set up the figures from

her head and stem over his doors, where they long remained

foretelling the weather, one howling for a south, the other

for a north wind.

When Thorir heard that Olaf had become sole ruler of

Norway he thought he might expect favour from him, so he

dispatched his sons to Norway to wait upon the king,

hoping that they would be received into his service. They

reached the south coast late in the autumn and engaged a

rowing vessel to take them up the coast to the North,

intending to go to the king. They reached a port to the

south of Stad, where they put in for a few days. They were

well provided with food and drink, and did not go out

much because of the bad weather.

Grettir also sailed to the North along the coast, and as the

winter was just beginning he often fell in with dirty

weather. When they reached the neighbourhood of Stad

The Saga of Grettir the Strong


the weather became worse, and at last one evening they

were so exhausted with the snow and frost that they were

compelled to put in and lie under a bank where they found

shelter for their goods and belongings. The men were very

much distressed at not being able to procure any fire; their

safety and their lives seemed almost to depend upon their

getting some. They lay there in a pitiful condition all the

evening, and as night came on they saw a large fire on the

other side of the channel which they were in. When

Grettir’s companions saw the fire they began talking and

saying that he who could get some of it would be a happy

man. They hesitated for some time whether they should

put out, but all agreed that it would be too dangerous.

Then they had a good deal of talk about whether there was

any man living doughty enough to get the fire. Grettir kept

very quiet, but said that there probably had been men who

would not have let themselves be baulked. The men said

that they were none the better for what had been if there

were none now.

“But won’t you venture, Grettir. ? The people of Iceland

all talk so much about your prowess, and you know very

well what we want.”

Grettir said: “It does not seem to me such a great thing to

get the fire, but I do not know whether you will reward it

any better than he requires who does it.”

“Why,” they said, “should you take us to be men of so

little honour that we shall not reward you well?”

“Well,” said Grettir, “if you really think it so necessary I

will try it; but my heart tells me that no good will come to

me therefrom.”

They said it would not be so, and told him that he should

have their thanks.

Then Grettir threw off his clothes and got ready to go

into the water. He went in a cloak and breeches of coarse

stuff. He tucked up the cloak, tied a cord of bast round his

waist, and took a barrel with him. Then he jumped

overboard, swam across the channel and reached the land

on the other side. There he saw a house standing and heard

sounds of talking and merriment issuing from it. So he

went towards the house.

We have now to tell of the people who were in the house.

They were the sons of Thorir who have been mentioned.

The Saga of Grettir the Strong


They had been there some days waiting for a change of

weather and for a wind to carry them to the North. There

were twelve of them and they were all sitting and drinking.

They had made fast in the inner harbour where there was a

place of shelter set up for men who were travelling about

the country, and they had carried in a quantity of straw.

There was a huge fire on the ground. Grettir rushed into

the house, not knowing who was there. His cloak had all

frozen directly he landed, and he was a portentous sight to

behold; he looked like a troll. The people inside were much

startled, thinking it was a fiend. They struck at him with

anything they could get, and a tremendous uproar there

was. Grettir pushed them back with his arms. Some of

them struck at him with firebrands, and the fire spread all

through the house. He got away with his fire and returned

to his companions, who were loud in praise of his skill and

daring, and said there was no one like him. The night

passed and they were happy now that they had fire.

On the next morning the weather was fine. They all woke

early and made ready to continue their journey. It was

proposed that they should go and find out who the people

were who had had the fire, so they cast off and sailed across

the channel. They found no house there, nothing but a

heap of ashes and a good many bones of men amongst

them. Evidently the house with all who were in it had been

burned. They asked whether Grettir had done it, and

declared it was an abominable deed. Grettir said that what

he expected had come to pass, and that he was ill rewarded

for getting the fire for them. He said it was thankless work

to help such miserable beings as they were. He suffered

much annoyance in consequence, for wherever the traders

went they told that Grettir had burned the men in the

house. Soon it became known that it was the sons of Thorir

of Gard and their followers who had been burned. The

traders refused to have Grettir on board their ship any

longer and drove him away. He was so abhorred that

scarcely any one would do him a service. His case seemed

hopeless, and his only desire was at any cost to appear

before the king. So he went North to Thrandheim where

the king was, and had heard the whole story before Grettir

came, for many had been busy in slandering him. Grettir

waited several days in the town before he was able to appear

The Saga of Grettir the Strong


before the king.

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