THE STORY OF THE ERE-DWELLERS
Of Thorleif Kimbi And
His Dealings With Arnbiorn.
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #33
Thorleif Kimbi took ship that same summer with chapmen who got ready in Streamfirth, and was a messmate of the masters. In those days was it the wont of chapmen to have no cooks, but the messmates chose by lot from amongst themselves who should have the ward of the mess day by day. (1) Then too was it the wont of all the shipmen to have their drink in common, and a cask should stand by the mast with the drink therein, and a locked lid was over it. But some of the drink was in tuns, and was added to the cask thence as soon as it was drunk out.
Now when they were nigh ready there came one forth upon the ledge of rock by the booths. This man was great of growth, and had a bundle on his back, and seemed to men somewhat uncouth. He asked for the ship-master, and he was shown to his booth. So he laid down his bag at the booth-door and went into the booth, and asked if the skipper would give him a passage over the sea.
They asked him of his name, and he called himself Arnbiorn, the son of Asbrand of Combe, and said he fain would fare out and seek Biorn his brother, who had gone out some winters before, and had not been heard of since he went to Denmark.
The Eastmen said that the bulk was bound down, and they deemed it might not be undone. He said he had not more faring goods than might lie on the top of the bulk. But whereas they deemed him to have great need of faring, they took him to them, but he found himself in victual, and abode on the forecastle.
In his bag were three hundreds in wadmal, (2) and twelve skins for sale, (3) and his victual.
Now Arnbiorn was of good help and a brisk man, and the chapmen held him of good account.
They had a fair passage out and made Hordaland, and took land at an outskerry, and dight their victuals on land.
Thorleif Kimbi was the allotted mess-ward, and had to make porridge. Arnbiorn was aland and made porridge for himself, and had the mess-kettle which Thorleif was to have afterwards. Then went Thorleif aland and bade Arnbiorn give him his kettle, but he had not yet made his own porridge, but stirred the kettle while Thorleif stood over him. Now the Eastmen called aland from the ship and bade Thorleif get ready the meat, and said that he was just an Icelander because of his laziness. Then Thorleif lost his temper, and caught up the kettle and cast out Arnbiorn's porridge, and then turned away.
Arnbiorn had the stirring-stick in his hand, and therewith he smote at Thorleif and caught him on the neck, and the blow was not great, but whereas the porridge was hot, Thorleif was scalded on his neck. Then Thorleif said:
"These Northmen shall not mock us, since we be here two fellow- countrymen together, that they must needs drag us apart like dogs; but I shall mind me of this when we are together in Iceland."
Arnbiorn answered nought. So they lay there three nights before they had a wind for land; then they brought their goods ashore.
Thorleif guested there, but Arnbiorn took ship with certain traders east to Wick, and thence to Denmark to seek for his brother Biorn.
(1) Ward of the mess, mess-ward, "butharvorthr". We have advisedly translated this compound thus, both here and in Chapter XLIII, in spite of the interpretation of the Dictionary, for this is obviously the meaning imparted to the term by the author of our saga: "halda butharvorth" (Eb. 69, 13-14), "hljota butharvorth" (ib. 78, 10), can only mean literally to hold, to get by lot, the ward of the "buth". "Vorthr", therefore, does not mean "cibus", meat, here, but the word meaning "cibus". victual, is "buth", as in "buthar-beini" = meat-treatment, consisting of greens, which the record states in the immediately preceding line were duly "mat-buin" = prepared for meat (Heilagramannasogur, ii. 424, and note 4). "Buth" would then really seem to be = mat-buth, meat preparation, hence the prepared meat itself, mess. When "buthar-vorthr" is made to mean meat, mess, that use of the compound seems to depend on the feeling that "vorthr", ward = "verthr", meal, meat, and is but a translation of "buth" in its obsolete sense of meat, mess. "Buth", though mostly occurring as a term neutral of state, condition, has preserved its active force in "umbuth", the doing round, wrapping, bandaging. (2) "In his bag were three hundreds in wadmal," meaning wadmal, homespun, or russet of the length of 360 standard ells, consequently of the current value of so many ells. Alin, oln = ell, was: <1> a standard of measure = 18 5/7 inches, or the length that an average human arm was supposed to measure from the elbow-joint to the tip of the longest finger; <2> a standard of value:
6 ells making 1 eyrir = ounce (8 ounces = mark), 48 ells making 1 mork = mark (*) (2 ´ marks = hundred), 120 ells making 1 hundred.
(*) Mark and ounce were also measures of weight: 8 ounces = 1 mark, 20 marks making 1 farthing, "fjorthungr", 8 farthings making 1 weight, "vaett". (3) For "twelve skins for sale", read twelve cloaks of marketable russet or wadmal.