THE STORY OF THE ERE-DWELLERS
Snorri Sends For Thrand The Strider.
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #33
Alf the Little ran till he came to Tongue to Snorri the Priest, and told him of his troubles, and egged him on hard to go north against Uspak and his folk. But Snorri the Priest would first hear from the north what more they had done than driving Alf from the north, or whether they meant to have a settled abode there in Bitter. A little after came tidings from Bitter in the north of the slaying of Thorir and the array which Uspak had there, and it was heard tell of men that they would not be easily won.
Then Snorri the Priest let fetch Alf's household and such goods as were left behind, and all those matters came to Tongue and were there the winter long. Snorri's unfriends laid blame on him, in that he was held by folk slow to set Alf's matters right. Snorri let them say what they would about it, and still was nought done.
Now Sturla Thiodrekson sent word from the west (1) that he would straightway get ready to set on Uspak and his company as soon as Snorri would, and said that it was no less due of him than of Snorri to go that journey. The winter wore on till past Yule, and ever were ill deeds of Uspak and his company heard of from the north. The winter was hard, and all the firths were under ice.
But a little before Lent, Snorri the Priest sent out to Ness to Ingiald's-knolI, where dwelt a man called Thrand the Strider, and was the son of that Ingiald by whom the homestead is named at Ingiald's-knoll. Thrand was the biggest and strongest of men, and the swiftest of foot. He had been before with Snorri the Priest, and was said to be not of one shape whiles he was heathen; (2) but the devilhood fell off from most men when they were christened.
Now Snorri sent word to Thrand, bidding him come thither to Tongue to meet him, and to get ready his journey in such guise as though he was to have certain trials of manhood on his hands. So when Thrand got Snorri's word he said to the messenger: "Thou shalt rest thyself here such time as thou wilt, but I will go at Snorri's message, so we may not journey together."
The messenger said that would be known when it was tried. But in the morning when the man awoke, lo, Thrand was clean gone. He had taken his weapons and gone east under Enni, and so as the road lay to Bulands-head, and then east across the firths (3) to the stead called Eidi. There he took to the ice and went over Coalpit-firth and Seliafirth, and thence into Swordfirth, and so in over the ice right to the firth-end, and to Tongue in the evening, whenas Snorri was set down and at table.
Snorri welcomed him lovingly, and Thrand took his greeting and asked what he would of him, and said he was ready to go whither he would, if Snorri had will to set him about somewhat. Snorri bade him abide in peace through the night, and Thrand's wet clothes were pulled off him.
(1) "Now Sturla Thiodrekson sent word from the west", namely, to Snorri the Priest, now living at Saelingsdale-tongue. The two localities are due north and south by the compass. In the local speech, however, to this day, the direction from Saurby, Sturla's countryside, to Saelingsdale, is said to be from the west. The real reason of such liberty being taken with the actual cardinal point of the compass is that, the choice of terms lying between west and north, the latter could not be used, since the listener to the story would involuntarily connect it at once with the North-country, where, too, in Eyjafjord, there is even a Saurby, while the former term indicates Saurby as that of the West-country, and also points to the fact, that the valley so called opens upon the district known as the West-Firths proper, which cut into the peninsula across the bay right in front of the view opened out from the mouth of the Saurby valley. (2) (Thrand) "was said to be not of one shape while he was heathen", & etc. -- ok var kallathr eigi einhamr. The meaning of this is, that Thrand had the power of changing his shape as occasion served, which power was believed to be the special gift of Odin, the first and greatest of shape or skin-changers: "Odin changed shapes; lay then the body, as if asleep or dead, while he himself was a fowl, or a four-footed beast, or fish, or snake, and went in a moment into far-away countries on his own or other folks: errands." -- "Ynglinga saga" (chapter vii). This same power he imparted to goddesses and Valkyrjur, and among men it was specially imparted to his immediate descendants, the Volsung family ("Volsunga saga", chapters vii and viii). Witches and people "ancient in mind", as well as those who were supposed to descend from trolls and giants, were chiefly credited with this peculiar power. The belief is not peculiar to the North, though few peoples' literature is so full of it as the Icelandic; it is common to all nations, its primitive source being probably the Dream. (3) "East across the firths". The "firths" the author has in his mind are small bights that cut into the land east of Bulands-head, together with the broad bay called Ground firth, the eastern littoral of which is formed by Ere (Onward Ere), on the narrow isthmus of which, near its eastern shore, is the homestead of Eidi, from which Thrand took his straight course over the icelaid firths unto Tongue. The distance Thrand made was, as the crow flies, forty-seven English miles -- with the necessary bends, some fifty miles odd; he walked this distance apparently in about twelve hours, at a steady pace consequently of about four miles an hour.