The Saga of Grettir the Strong
Sections XLIX - LXIII
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #9
XLIX. GRETTIR VISITS THORSTEINN KUGGASON AND SNORRI GODIThorodd Drapustuf now made inquiries who it was who had killed Thorbjorn and his son. They went to Reykir, where they were told that Grettir had proclaimed the slaying. Thorodd then saw how matters stood and went to Bjarg, where he found many people and asked whether Grettir was there. Asdis said that he was gone, and that he would not hide if he were at home.
"You can be well content to leave things as they are. The vengeance for Atli was not excessive, if it be reckoned up. No one asked what I had to suffer then, and now it were well for it to rest."
Then they rode home, and it seemed as if there were nothing to be done. The spear which Grettir had lost was never found until within the memory of men now living. It was found in the later days of Sturla the Lawman, the son of Thord, in the very marsh where Thorbjorn fell, now called Spearmarsh. This is the proof that he was killed there and not in Midfitjar, as has been elsewhere asserted.
Thorbjorn's kinsmen learned of Grettir's being in Ljarskogar and called together their men with the purpose of going there. Gamli heard of this at Melar and sent word to Thorsteinn and Grettir of their approach. Thorsteinn sent Grettir on to Tunga to Snorri the Godi, with whom he was then at peace, and advised Grettir to ask for his protection, and if it were refused to go West to Thorgils the son of Ari in Reykjaholar, "who will surely take you in for the winter. Stay there in the Western fjords until the affair is settled."
Grettir said he would follow his counsel. He rode to Tunga where he found Snorri and asked to be taken in. Snorri answered: "I am now an old man, and have no mind to harbour outlaws, unless in a case of necessity. But what has happened that the old man should have turned you out?"
Grettir said that Thorsteinn had often shown him kindness; "but we shall need more than him alone to do any good."
Snorri said: "I will put in my word on your behalf, if it will be of any use to you. But you must seek your quarters elsewhere than with me."
So they parted. Grettir then went West to Reykjanes. The men of Hrutafjord came with their followers to Samsstad, where they heard that Grettir had left Ljarskogar, and went back home.
L. GRETTIR WINTERS WITH THORGILS AT REYKJAHOLAR IN COMPANY WITH THE FOSTER-BROTHERSGrettir came to Reykjaholar towards the beginning of the winter and asked Thorgils to let him stay the winter with him. Thorgils said he was welcome to his entertainment, like other free men; "but," he said, "we do not pay much attention to the preparation of the food."
Grettir said that would not trouble him.
"There is another little difficulty," Thorgils continued. "Some men are expected here who are a little hot-headed, namely, the foster-brothers Thorgeir and Thormod. I do not know how it will suit you to be together with them. They shall always have entertainment here whenever they wish for it. You may stay here if you will, but I will not have any of you behaving ill to the others."
Grettir said that he would not be the first to raise a quarrel with any man, more especially since the bondi had expressed his wish to him.
Soon after the foster-brothers came up. Thorgeir and Grettir did not take very kindly to one another, but Thormod behaved with propriety. Thorgils said to them what he had said to Grettir, and so great was the deference paid to him that none of them spoke an improper word to the other, although they did not always think alike. In this way the first part of the winter was passed.
Men say that the islands called Olafseyjar, lying in the fjord about a mile and a half from Reykjanes, belonged to Thorgils. He had there a valuable ox, which he had not brought away in the autumn. He was always saying that he wanted him to be brought in before Yule. One day the foster-brothers prepared to go and fetch the ox, but wanted a third man to help them. Grettir offered to go with them and they were very glad to have him. So the three set out in a ten-oared boat. The weather was cold and the wind from the North; the boat was lying at Hvalshausholm. When they left the wind had freshened a little; they reached the island and caught the ox. Grettir asked whether they preferred to ship the ox or to hold the boat, for there was a high surf running on the shore. They told him to hold the boat. He stood by her middle on the side away from the land, the sea reaching right up to beneath his shoulders, but he held the boat firmly so that she could not drift. Thorgeir took the ox by the stern and Thormod by the head, and so they hove him into the boat. Then they started heading for the bay, Thormod taking the bow-oars with Thorgeir amidships and Grettir in the stern. By the time they reached Hafraklett the wind was very high. Thorgeir said: "The stern is slackening."
Grettir said: "The stem will not be left behind if the rowing amidships is all right."
Thorgeir then bent his back to the oars and pulled so violently that both the rowlocks carried away. He said:
"Pull on, Grettir, whilst I mend the rowlocks."
Grettir pulled vigorously whilst Thorgeir mended the rowlocks. But when Thorgeir was about to take over the oars again they were so damaged that on Grettir giving them a shake on the gunwale they broke. Thormod said it would be better to row less and not to break the ship. Then Grettir took two spars which were on board, bored two holes in the gunwale, and rowed so energetically that every timber creaked. As the boat was well found and the men in good condition they reached Hvalshausholm. Grettir asked whether they would go on home with the ox or whether they would beach the boat. They preferred to beach the boat, and they did so with all the water that was in her all frozen. Grettir got off the ox, which was very stiff in its limbs and very fat and tired; when they got to Titlingsstad it could go no more. The foster-brothers went home, for none of them would help the other at his job. Thorgils asked after Grettir; they told him how they had parted, and he sent men out to him. When they came below Hellisholar they saw a man coming towards them with an ox on his back; it was Grettir carrying the ox. They all admired his great feat, but Thorgeir became rather jealous of Grettir's strength.
One day soon after Yule Grettir went out alone to bathe. Thorgeir knew of it and said to Thormod: "Let us go out now and see what Grettir does if I attack him as he comes out of the water"
"I don't care to do that," Thormod said; "and I do not think you will get any good from him."
"I mean to go," Thorgeir said.
He went down to the bank, carrying his axe aloft. Grettir was just coming out of the water, and when they met Thorgeir said: "Is it true, Grettir, that you once said you would not run away from any single person."
"I don't know whether I did," Grettir said; "but I have scarcely run away from you."
Thorgeir raised his axe. In a moment Grettir ran at him and brought him over with a heavy fall. Thorgeir said to Thormod: "Are you going to stand there while this devil knocks me down?"
Thormod then got Grettir by the leg and tried to drag him off Thorgeir but could not. He was wearing a short sword, and was just about to draw it when Thorgils came up and told them to behave themselves and not to fight with Grettir. They did as he bade and made out that it was all play. They had no more strife, so far as has been told, and men thought Thorgils blessed by fortune in having been able to pacify men of such violent tempers.
When the spring set in they all departed. Grettir went on to Thorskafjord. When some one asked him how he liked his entertainment at Reykjaholar he answered: "Our fare was such that I enjoyed my food very much -- when I could get it." Then he went West over the heath.
LI. GRETTIR'S CASE OVERBORNE AT THE ALL-THINGThorgils, the son of Ari, rode to the Thing with a large following. All the magnates were there from all parts of the country, and he soon met with Skapti the Lawman and had some talk with him. Skapti said:
"Is it true, Thorgils, that you have been giving winter entertainment to three of the most unruly men in the country, all three of them outlaws, and that you kept order so well that none of them did any harm to the other?"
Thorgils said it was true.
Skapti said: "Well, I think it shows what authority you possess. But how did their characters appear to you? Who is the most valorous among them?"
"They are all entirely valiant," he answered, "but of two of them I will not say that they never fear; only there is a difference. Thormod fears God, and is a man of great piety; and Grettir fears the dark. He will not, if he may follow his own inclination, venture anywhere after nightfall. But Thorgeir, my kinsman, he I think cannot fear."
"They must be each of them as you say," said Skapti, and there their conversation ended.
At the Thing Thorodd Drapustuf laid his complaint in the matter of the slaying of Thorbjorn Oxmain, for he had failed in the Hunavatn Thing through the influence of Atli's kinsmen. Here he thought that there was less likelihood of his case being overborne. Atli's party sought counsel of Skapti the Lawman; he said that their defence appeared to him a good one, and that full blood-money would have to be paid for Atli. Then the case was brought before the judges, and the opinion of the majority was that the slaying of Atli was set off by that of Thorbjorn. Skapti when he heard of it went to the judges and asked them on what grounds their decision rested; they said that the two slain bondis were of equal rank.
Skapti asked: "Which happened first, the outlawing of Grettir or the death of Atli?"
"They reckoned up and found that a week had elapsed between the two events. Grettir was outlawed at the All-Tliing and Atli was killed just after it.
"That was what I expected," Skapti said. "You have overlooked the facts; you have treated as a party to the suit a man who was an outlaw, a man who was stopped from appearing either as plaintiff or defendant. I maintain that Grettir has no standing in the case, and that it must be brought by the kinsmen of the deceased who are nearest at law."
Thorodd Drapustuf said: "Who then is to answer for the slaying of my brother Thorbjorn?"
"See to that yourself," said Skapti. "Grettir's kinsmen are not liable to pay for his deeds unless his sentence be removed."
When Thorvald the son of Asgeir learned of Grettir's status in court having been disallowed, inquiry was made for Atli's nearest of kin, and these were found to be Skeggi the son of Gamli at Melar and Ospak the son of Glum of Eyr in Bitra. Both were valiant and strenuous men. Thorodd was then mulcted in blood- money for the slaying of Atli and had to pay two hundreds of silver.
Then Snorri the Godi spoke:
"Men of Hrutafjord! Are you willing now to agree to the remission of the fine in consideration of Grettir's sentence being commuted? I expect that as an outlaw he will bite you sorely."
Grettir's kinsmen welcomed this proposal, and said they did not care about the money if Grettir could have peace and freedom. Thorodd said he saw that his case was beset with difficulties, and that for his part he was willing to accept the proposal. Snorri said that inquiry must first be made whether Thorir of Gard would agree to Grettir being freed. When Thorir heard of it he was furious, and said that never should Grettir either go or come out of his outlawry. So far from consenting to his being amnestied, he would put a higher price upon his head than was put upon any other outlaw.
When they knew that he would take it so ill, nothing more was said about the amnesty. Ospak and Skeggi took the money that was paid and kept it, while Thorodd Drapustuf got no compensation for his brother Thorbjorn. He and Thorir each offered a reward of three marks of silver for Grettir's head; this seemed to men to be an innovation, for never before had more than three marks in all been offered. Snorri said it was very unwise to make such efforts to keep a man outlawed who could do so much mischief, and that many would suffer for it. Then they parted and men rode home from the Thing.
LII. GRETTIR IS CAPTURED BY FARMERS AND RELEASED BY THORBJORGGrettir went over the Thorskafjord Heath to Langadal, where he let his hands sweep over the property of the smaller cultivators, taking what he wanted from every one. From some he got weapons, from others clothes. They gave up their property very variously, but when he was gone all said that they had been compelled to do it.
There dwelt on the Vatnsfjord one Vermund the Slender, a brother of Viga-Styr, who had married Thorbjorg the daughter of Olaf Peacock, the son of Hoskuld, called Thorbjorg the Fat. At the time when Grettir was in Langadal Vermund was away at the Thing. He went across the ridge to Laugabol where a man named Helgi was living, one of the principal bondis. Thence Grettir took a good horse belonging to the bondi and rode on to Gervidal, where dwelt a man named Thorkell. He was well provided but in a small way of business. Grettir took from him what he wanted, Thorkell daring neither to withhold anything nor to protest. Thence Grettir went to Eyr and on to the coast of the fjord, obtaining food and clothes from every homestead and making himself generally disagreeable, so that men found it hard to live while he was about.
Grettir went boldly on, taking little care of himself. He went on until he came to Vatnsfjardardal and entered a dairy shelter, where he stayed several nights. There he lay sleeping in the forest, fearing for nothing. When the shepherds learned of it they reported in the homesteads that a fiend had come into the place who they thought would be hard to deal with. All the farmers came together and a band of thirty of them concealed themselves in the forest where Grettir could not know of them. They set one of the shepherds to watch for an opportunity of seizing him, without however knowing very clearly who the man was.
One day when Grettir was lying asleep the farmers came up to him. They considered how they should take him with least danger to themselves, and arranged that ten should fall upon him while others laid bonds round his feet. They threw themselves on to him, but Grettir struggled so violently that he threw them all off and came down on his hands and knees. Then they threw ropes round his feet. Grettir kicked two of them in the ears and they fell senseless. One came on after the other; long and hard he struggled, but at last they succeeded in getting him down and binding him. Then they began to ask themselves what they were going to do with him. They asked Helgi of Laugabol to take him over and look after him until Vermund returned from the Thing.
He said: "I have something better to do than to keep my men guarding him. I have labour enough with my lands, and he shall not come in my way."
Then they asked Thorkell of Gervidal to take him and said he had sufficient means. He objected strongly and said he had no accommodation for him, "I lie at home with my wife, far from other men. You shall not bring your basket to me."
"Then you, Thoralf of Eyr," they said; "you take Grettir and look after him well while the Thing lasts, or else hand him on to the next farm; only be answerable for his not escaping. Give him over bound, just as you receive him."
He said: "I am not going to take Grettir. I have neither means nor money to keep him, nor was he captured on my property. So far as I can see much more trouble than credit is to be got by taking him or having anything to do with him. He shall not enter my house."
Each of the bondis was asked, but all refused. Some witty person wrote a poem about these confabulations and called it "Grettir's Faring," adding many jests of his own for the dilectification of men. After parleying for a long time they all came to an agreement that they would not throw away their luck, and set to work to raise a gallows there and then in the forest upon which Grettir should hang. Their delight over this proposal was uproarious.
Then they saw three people riding along the valley from below, one of them in a dyed dress. They guessed that it must be Thorbjorg the mistress of Vatnsfjord on her way to the dairy, and so it was. Thorbjorg was a person of great magnificence, and tremendously wise. She was the leading personage of the district and managed everything when Vermund was away. She came up to where the crowd was gathered and was lifted from her horse; the bondis saluted her respectfully. She said:
"What is your meeting about? Who is this thick-necked man sitting there in bonds?"
Grettir told his name and saluted her.
"What has moved you, Grettir," she said, "to commit violence upon my Thing-men?"
"I cannot overlook everything," he said. "I must be somewhere."
"You are indeed unfortunate," she said, "that a pack of churls like these should have captured you and that none of them should have paid for it. What are you men going to do with him?"
The bondis said that they were going to hoist him on to a gallows for his misdeeds.
She said: "It may be that Grettir has deserved it, but it will bring trouble upon you men of Isafjord if you take the life of a man so renowned and so highly connected as Grettir, ill-starred though he be. Now what will you do for your life, Grettir, if I give it to you?"
"What do you wish me to do?"
"You shall swear never to commit any violence here in Isafjord; nor shall you take revenge upon those who have had a hand in capturing you."
Grettir said it should be as she desired, and he was released. He said it was the greatest effort of self-restraint that he ever made that he did not thrash the men who were there triumphing over him. Thorbjorg told him to come home with her and gave him a horse to ride on. So he went to Vatnsfjord and stayed there well cared for by the mistress until Vermund returned. She gained great renown from this deed through the district. Vermund was very much put out when he got home and asked why Grettir was there. Thorbjorg told him everything which had happened with the Isafjord men.
"To what does he owe it that you gave him his life?" he asked.
"Many reasons there were," she said. "The first is that you might be the more respected as a chief for having a wife who would dare to do such a thing. Next, his kinswoman Hrefna will surely say that I could not let him be slain; and thirdly, because he is in many respects a man of the highest worth."
"You are a wise woman," he said, "in most things. I thank you for what you have done."
Then he said to Grettir: "You have sold yourself very cheap, such a man of prowess as you are, to let yourself be taken by churls. This is what always happens to those who cannot control themselves."
Grettir then spoke a verse:
- "Full was my cup in Isafjord
- when the old swine held me at ransom."
"What were they going to do with you when they took you?" Vermund asked.
- "To Sigar's lot my neck was destined
- when noble Thorbjorg came upon them."
"Would they have hanged you then if they had been left to themselves?"
- "My neck would soon have been in the noose,
- had she not wisely saved the bard."
"Did she invite you to her home?"
- "She bade me home with her to fare.
- A steed she gave me, life and peace."
"Great will your life be and troublous," said Vermund; "but now you have learnt to beware of your foes. I cannot keep you here, for it would rouse the enmity of many powerful men against me. Your best way is to seek your kinsmen; there are not many who will be willing to take you in if they can do anything else; nor are you one who will easily follow the will of another man."
Grettir remained for a time in Vatnsfjord and went thence to the Western fjords and tried several of the leading men there, but something always happened to prevent their taking him in.
LIII. GRETTIR WINTERS IN LJARSKOGAR WITH THORSTEINN KUGGASONDuring the autumn Grettir returned to the South and did not stop till he came to his kinsman Thorsteinn Kuggason in Ljarskogar, who welcomed him. He accepted Thorsteinn's invitation to stay the winter with him. Thorsteinn was a man who worked very hard; he was a smith, and kept a number of men working for him. Grettir was not one for hard work, so that their dispositions did not agree very well. Thorsteinn had had a church built on his lands, with a bridge from his house, made with much ingenuity. Outside the bridge, on the beam which supported it, rings were fastened and bells, which could be heard from Skarfsstadir half a sea-mile distant when any one walked over the bridge. The building of the bridge had cost Thorsteinn, who was a great worker in iron, much labour. Grettir was a first-rate hand at forging the iron, but was not often inclined to work at it. He was very quiet during the winter so that there is not much to relate.
The men of Hrutafjord heard that Grettir was with Thorsteinn, and gathered their forces in the spring. Thorsteinn then told Grettir that he must find some other hiding-place for himself, since he would not work. Men who did nothing did not suit him.
"Where do you mean me to go to? "asked Grettir.
Thorsteinn told him to go South to his kinsmen, but to return to him if he found them of no use.
Grettir did so. He went to Borgarfjord in the South to visit Grim the son of Thorhall, and stayed with him till the Thing was over. Grim sent him on to Skapti the Lawman at Hjalli. He went South over the lower heaths and did not stop before he reached Tunga, where he went to Thorhall, the son of Asgrim the son of Ellidagrim, and paid few visits to the farms around. Thorhall knew of Grettir through the relations which had been between their ancestors; indeed Grettir's name was well known throughout the country because of his exploits. Thorhall was a wise man and treated Grettir well, but did not want to keep him there for very long.
LIV. ADVENTURE WITH LOPTGrettir went from Tunga up the Haukadal valley northwards to Kjol and was there for some time in the summer. For men travelling either to the North or to the South there was no certainty of their not being stripped of what they had on them, for he was hard pressed for the means of living.
One day when Grettir was keeping to the North near Dufunesskeid he saw a man riding South along the Kjol valley. He was a tall man on horseback, riding a good horse with a studded bridle, and was leading another horse loaded with sacks. He had a slouched hat on his head, so that his face was not clearly seen. Grettir was very pleased to see his horse and his property, and went to meet him and asked him his name. He said it was Lopt, and added: "I know what your name is; you are Grettir the Strong, son of Asmund. Whither are you going?"
"I have not made up my mind yet about that," said Grettir. "My present business is to know whether you will lay off some of the property which you are travelling with."
"Why should I give you what belongs to me? What will you give me for the things?"
"Have you not heard that I never pay anything? And yet it seems to most people that I get what I want."
Lopt said: "Make this offer to those who seem good to you; I am not going to give my property away for nothing. Let us each go our own way." Then he whipped on his horse and was about to ride away from Grettir.
"We shall not part so quickly as that," said Grettir, and seized the bridle of Lopt's horse in front of his hands, pulled it from him and held it with both hands.
"Go your own way," said Lopt; "you will get nothing from me as long as I am able to hold it."
"That shall now be tried," said Grettir.
Lopt reached down along the cheek-strap and got hold of the reins between the end ring and Grettir's hands, pulling with such force that Grettir let go, and at last Lopt wrenched the whole bridle away from him. Grettir looked at his palms and thought that this man must have strength in his claws rather than not. Then he looked at him and said: "Where are you going to now?
- "To the storm-driven den, over ice-clad heights,
- I ride to the rock and the rest of the hand."
Grettir said: "There is no certainty to be had from asking where your dwelling is if you do not speak more clearly." Then Lopt spoke and said:
- "I seek not to hide thy ways from thy ken.
- 'Tis the place which the Borgfirdings Balljokull call."
Then they parted. Grettir saw that he had no strength against this man. Then he spoke a verse:
- "Illugi brave and Atli were far.
- Never again may such hap be mine!
- The bridle was torn away from my hand.
- Her tears will flow when I am afeared."
After this Grettir left Kjol and went South to Hjalli where he asked Skapti for shelter. Skapti said: "I am told that you are acting with violence and are robbing men of their property; that ill becomes a man so highly connected as you are. It would be easier to negotiate if you gave up robbing. Now as I am called Lawman of this country, it would not be seemly for me to break the law by harbouring outlaws. I would like you to betake yourself somewhere where you do not need to commit robbery."
Grettir said he would be very glad to, but that he could scarcely live alone owing to his fear of the dark. Skapti said he would have to content himself with something short of the best: "And trust no one so fully that what happened to you in the Western fjords may be repeated. Many have been brought to death by over-confidence."
Grettir thanked him for his good advice and turned back to Borgarfjord in the autumn, when he went to his friend Grim, the son of Thorhall, and told him what Skapti had said. Grim advised him to go to the North to Fiskivotn in the Arnarvatn Heath, and he did so.
LV. GRETTIR IN THE ARNARVATN HEATH. DEATH OF GRIM THE FOREST-MANGrettir went up to the Arnarvatn Heath and built himself a hut there of which the remains are still to be seen. He went there because he wanted to do anything rather than rob, so he got himself a net and a boat and went out fishing to support himself. It was a weary time for him in the mountains because of his fear of the dark. Other outlaws heard of his having come there and wanted to go and see him, thinking that he would be a great protection to them.
There was an outlaw from the North named Grim. This man was bribed by those of Hrutafjord to kill Grettir. They promised him pardon and money if he succeeded. He went to visit Grettir and asked for his hospitality.
Grettir said: "I do not see how you will be holpen by coming to me, and you men of the forest are untrustworthy. But it is ill to live alone; I have no choice. Only he shall be with me who is willing to work at whatever comes to hand."
Grim said that was just what he wished and pressed Grettir much, until Grettir let himself be persuaded and took him in. He stayed there right into the winter, and watched Grettir closely, but it seemed no easy matter to attack him, for Grettir was suspicious and kept his weapons at hand night and day; when he was awake the man would not venture to approach him.
One morning Grim came home from fishing and went into the hut stamping with his feet and wanting to know whether Grettir was asleep. Grettir lay still and did not move. There was a short sword hanging above his head. Grim thought he would never have a better opportunity. He made a loud noise to see whether Grettir took any notice, but he did not, so Grim felt sure that he was asleep. He crept stealthily to the bed, reached up to the sword, took it down and raised it to strike. just at the moment when he raised it Grettir sprang up on to the floor, and, seizing the sword with one hand, Grim with the other, hurled him over so that he fell nearly senseless. "This is how you have proved yourself with all your friendly seeming," he said. Then he got the whole truth out of him and killed him. He learned from this what it was to take in a forest-man. So the winter passed. The hardest thing of all to bear was his fear of the dark.
LVI. TREACHERY AND DEATH OF THORIR REDBEARDThorir of Gard now heard where Grettir had taken up his abode and meant to leave no stone unturned to get him slain. There was a man named Thorir Redbeard, a stout man and a great fighter, on which account he had been declared outlaw throughout the country. Thorir of Gard sent word to him, and when they met asked Redbeard to undertake the business of slaying Grettir. Redbeard said that was no easy task, as Grettir was very wide awake and very cautious. Thorir told him to try it, saying: "It would be a splendid deed for a valiant man like you; I will get your outlawing removed and give you sufficient money as well."
So Redbeard agreed and Thorir told him how he should go to work to deal with Grettir. Redbeard then went away into the East in order that Grettir might not suspect where he came from. Thence he came to the Arnarvatn Heath, where Grettir had then been for one winter, found Grettir and asked him for entertainment. He said: "I cannot allow people to play with me again as the man did who came here last autumn, pretending to be very friendly; before he had been here very long be began plotting against my life. I cannot risk taking in anymore forest-men."
"I think you have reason," Thorir said, "to mistrust forest-men. It may be you have heard tell of me as a man of blood and a disturber of peace, but never did you hear of such a monstrous deed of me as that I betrayed my host. Ill is the lot of him who has an ill name; for men think of him but as such; nor would I have come here if I had had any better choice. All is not lost for us if we stand together. You might venture so much to begin with as to try how you like me, and then if you find any unfitness in me turn me away."
"Well," said Grettir, "I will risk it with you; but know of a surety that if I suspect you of any treachery it will be your death."
Thorir agreed. Grettir took him in and found that in whatever he did he had the strength of two men. He was ready for anything that Grettir gave him to do. Nothing did Grettir need to do for himself, and he had never lived so comfortably since he had become an outlaw. Nevertheless he was so wary that Thorir got no chance. Two years was Thorir Redbeard with Grettir on the Heath, and at last he began to weary of it. He thought over what he could do to take Grettir off his guard.
One night in the spring a heavy gale sprang up while they were asleep. Grettir awoke and asked where their boat was. Thorir sprang up, ran to the boat, broke her all in pieces, and threw the fragments about so that it looked as if the storm had wrecked her. Then he returned to the hut and said aloud: "You have had bad luck, my friend. Our boat is all broken in pieces and the nets are lying far out in the lake."
"Get them back then," said Grettir. "It seems to me to be your doing that the boat is smashed."
"Of all things which I can do," said Thorir, "swimming is that which suits me least. In almost anything else I think I can hold my own with any ordinary man. You know very well that I have been no burden to you since I came here; nor would I ask you to do this if I were able to do it myself."
Grettir then arose, took his arms and went to the lake. There was a point of land running out into the lake with a large bay on the further side of it. The water was deep up to the shore. Grettir said: "Swim out to the nets and let me see what you are able to do."
"I told you before," Thorir said, "that I cannot swim. I do not know now where all your boldness and daring are gone to."
"I could get the nets," he said; "but betray me not if I trust you."
"Do not think such shameful and monstrous things of me," said Thorir.
"You will prove yourself what you are," Grettir said.
Then he threw off his clothes and his weapons and swain out to the nets. He gathered them together, returned to the shore and cast them up on to the bank. just as he was about to land Thorir quickly seized his short sword and drew it. He ran towards Grettir as he stepped on to the bank and aimed a blow at him. Grettir threw himself down backwards into the water and sank like a stone. Thorir stood by the shore intending to guard it until he came up. Grettir swam beneath the water, keeping close to the bank so that Thorir could not see him, and so reached the bay behind him, where he landed without letting himself be seen. The first Thorir knew of it was when Grettir lifted him up over his head and dashed him down with such violence that the sword fell out of his hand. Grettir got possession of it and without speaking a word cut off his head. So his life ended. After that Grettir refused to take in any forest-men, and yet he could not live alone.
LVII. ATTACK ON GRETTIR BY THORIR OF GARD WITH EIGHTY MEN REPULSED WITH THE AID OF HALLMUNDAt the All-Thing Thorir of Gard learned of Thorir Redbeard having been killed. It was evident that the matter was not so easy to deal with. He now determined to ride from the Thing in a westerly direction through the lower heath, and with the aid of about eighty men whom he had with him to take Grettir's life. Grim the son of Thorhall heard of his plans and sent word to Grettir, bidding him beware of himself. Grettir therefore continued closely to watch the movements of men who came and went.
One day he saw a number of men coming in the direction of his place of dwelling. He went into a gorge between two rocks, but did not go right away because he did not see the whole of the troop. Thorir then came up with his whole party and bade them go between his head and his body, saying that the scoundrel had but a poor chance now.
"A filled cup is not yet drunk," answered Grettir. "You have come far to seek me, and some of you shall bear the marks of our game before we part."
Thorir urged his men on to attack him. The gorge was very narrow so that he could easily defend it from one end, and he wondered much that they did not get round to his rear to hurt him. Some of Thorir's men fell and some were wounded, but they effected nothing. Then Thorir said: "I always heard that Grettir was distinguished for his courage and daring, but I never knew that he was so skilled in magic as I now see he is; for there fall half as many again behind his back as before his face, and I see that we have to do with a troll instead of a man."
So he bade his men retire, and they did so. Grettir wondered what the explanation could be, but was terribly exhausted. Thorir and his men withdrew and rode into the northern parts. Their expedition was considered very disgraceful. Thorir had left eighteen men on the ground and had many wounded.
Grettir then went up the gorge and found there a man of huge stature sitting up against the rock and sorely wounded. Grettir asked his name, and he said it was Hallmund, adding: "That you may recognise me I may remind you that you thought I gripped the reins rather tightly when I met you in Kjol last summer. I think I have now made that good."
"Indeed," said Grettir, "I think you have done me a manly service; whenever I can I will repay it."
"Now I wish," said Hallmund, "that you may come to my home, for it must seem wearisome to you here on the Heath."
Grettir said he would come willingly, and they both went together to the foot of the Balljokull, where Hallmund had a large cave. There they found his daughter, a fine and well-grown maiden. They treated Grettir well, and the daughter nursed both the wounded men to health again. Grettir stayed there some time that summer. He composed an ode on Hallmund in which the line occurs:
- "Hallmund steps from his mountain hall";
- "The war-fain sword in Arnarvatn
- went forth to hew its bloody path.
- Heroes inherit Kelduhverfi.
- Hallmund the brave came forth from his den."
It is said that at that encounter Grettir slew six men and Hallmund twelve.
As the summer passed Grettir began to long for the habitations of men, and to see his friends and kinsmen. Hallmund told him to visit him when he returned to the South and Grettir promised to do so. He went westwards to Borgarfjord and thence to Breidafjardardalir and sought counsel of Thorsteinn Kuggason as to where he should go next. Thorsteinn said that his enemies were now becoming so numerous that few would care to take him in; but told him to_go to Myrar and see what he found there. So in the autumn he went to Myrar.
LVIII. GRETTIR VISITS BJORN THE HITDALE WARRIOR AND TAKES REFUGE IN THE FAGRASKOGAFJALLThere lived in Holm Bjorn the Hitdale Warrior, who was the son of Arngeir, the son of Bersi the Godless, the son of Balki, who was the first settler in Hrutafjord, as has already been told. Bjorn was a great chief and a valiant man, always ready to take in outlaws. He received Grettir well when he came to Holm on account of the friendship which had existed between their former kinsmen. Grettir asked if he would give him shelter, and Bjorn said that he had so many quarrels throughout the land that men would be reluctant to take him in for fear of being outlawed themselves. "But," he said, "I will give you some help if you will leave the men who are under my protection in peace, whatever you do to others in this part."
Grettir promised that he would, and Bjorn continued: "I have thought of something. In the mountain which stretches away from the Hitara river there is a good position for defence, and likewise a good hiding-place if it is skilfully managed. There is a hole through the mountain from which you can see down upon the high road that lies immediately beneath it, and a sandy slope down to the road so steep that few could get up it if it were defended above by one doughty man up in the hollow. It may, I think, be worth your while to consider whether you can stay there; it is easy to go down from there to the Myrar to get your supplies, and to reach the sea."
Grettir said he would trust to his foresight if he would help him a little. Then he went to Fagraskogafjall and made himself a home there. He hung some grey wadmal in front of the hole, and it looked from the road below as if one could see through. Then he began to get in his supplies, but the Myramen thought they had an unhappy visitor in Grettir.
Thord the son of Kolbeinn was an excellent poet who dwelt in Hitarnes. There was a great feud between him and Bjorn at that time, and Bjorn thought it would be more than half useful to him if Grettir were to busy himself with Thord's men or his cattle. Grettir was a great deal with Bjorn and they had many games of strength. It is related in Bjorn's saga that they were considered equal in strength, but the opinion of most people is that Grettir was the strongest man that had been in the land since the days when Orin Storolfsson and Thoralf Skolmsson ceased their trials of strength. Grettir and Bjorn swam in one course the whole length of the Hitara from the lake at its head down to the sea. They brought the stepping-stones into the river which neither floods nor freezing nor icedrifts have since moved from their places. Grettir stayed a year in Fagraskogafjall without any attack being made upon him, and yet many lost their property through his means and got nothing for it, because his position was strong for defence and he was always in good friendship with those who were nearest to him.
LIX. THE CHASTISEMENT OF GISLIThere was a man named Gisli; he was the son of that Thorsteinn whom Snorri the Godi had caused to be slain. He was a big strong man, very ostentatious in his dress and in his armour, a man with a high opinion of himself and very boastful. He was a mariner, and landed at the Hvita river in the summer after Grettir had spent a winter in the mountains. Thord the son of Kolbeinn rode to his ship and was welcomed by Gisli, who offered him of his wares whatever he cared to have. Thord accepted his offer and they began to have some talk together. Gisli asked: "Is it true what I hear that you are in difficulty how to rid yourself of a forest-man who is doing you much hurt?" "We have made no attempt yet," said Thord, "because a great many think he is difficult to reach, and have found it so."
"It seems likely that you will have trouble with Bjorn, unless you drive him away. All the worse it is that I must be too far away next winter to give you any help."
"It is better for you to know of him only by hearsay."
"Don't talk to me about Grettir," said Gisli. "I have been in much greater straits in my campaigns with King Knut the Mighty and in the western seas, where I was always considered to have held my own. Only let me come within reach of him and I will trust myself and my armour."
Thord answered that he should not do it for nothing if he killed Grettir: "There is more money on his head than on that of any other outlaw. First there were six marks of silver, this summer Thorir of Gard added three more, and men think that he who wins it will have had enough trouble."
"Everything will be attempted for money," said Gisli: "especially with us traders. But we must keep quiet about what we have been saying, for Grettir will be more on his guard if he hears that you have taken me into your counsels. I intend next winter to be at Olduhrygg; is there any hiding-place of his on my way there? He will not be prepared for this, and I shall not take many men with me to attack him."
Thord approved of his proposal. He rode home soon after and kept very quiet about it. And now was proved what has often been said, that: Off in the woods is a listener nigh. Men who were friends of Bjorn in Hitardal overheard their conversation and reported it accurately to him. Bjorn told Grettir of it when they met, and said now he should see how to encounter him. "It would be no bad joke," he said, "if you were to injure him in some way without killing him if you can."
Grettir grinned but said little. Towards the time of gathering in the cattle Grettir went down to Flysjuhverfi to get some sheep and got four wethers. The bondis heard of his having come and went after him. They came up just at about the moment when he reached the foot of his mountain and wanted to drive the sheep away from him. But they would not attack him with weapons. There were six of them and they stood across his path to bar his way. He was concerned about his sheep, got angry, seized three of them and threw them down the hill so that they lay senseless. The others when they saw it went at him, but rather halfheartedly. Grettir took the sheep, fastened them together by the horns, threw two over each shoulder and carried them off. Then he went up into his den. The bondis turned back feeling they had had the worst of it, and were more discontented with their lot than ever.
Gisli stayed with his ship that autumn until she was ready to be hauled up. Several things happened to delay him, so that he was late in getting away and rode off very little before the winter nights. Then he rode North and stayed at Hraun on the south bank of the Hitara. Next morning before he rode out he said to his servants: "Now we will ride in red clothes and let the forest-man see that we are not like the other travellers who beat about here every day."
There were three of them and they did as he bade. When they had crossed the river he said: "Here I am told dwells the forest-man, up in that peak; but the way is not an easy one. Would it not please him to come to us and see our array?" They said this was always his habit.
That morning Grettir had got up early. The weather was cold, it was freezing and some snow had fallen, but very little. He saw three men riding from the South across the Hitara, and the light shone from their apparel and from their enamelled shields. It occurred to Grettir who it might be, and he thought he would relieve them of some of their accoutrements. He was very curious to meet a man who went about so ostentatiously. So he took his weapons and hurried down the hillside. Gisli when he heard the clattering of the stones said: "A man, rather tall, is coming down the hill and wants to meet us. Let us act boldly and we shall have good sport." His men said that this fellow had great confidence in himself to run into their hands; but that he who asked should have. Then they got off their horses. Grettir came up to them and laid hold of a bag of clothes which Gisli had behind him on his saddle, saying:
"I must have this; I often stoop to little things."
Gisli said: "You shall not; do not you know with whom you have to do?"
Grettir said: "No; that is not so clear to me. Nor do I make much difference between one man and another since I claim so little."
"May be it seems little to you," said Gisli; "but I would sooner part with thirty hundred ells of wadmal. It seems that extortion is your way. Go for him, boys! Let us see what he can do."
They obeyed. Grettir fell back a little and reached a stone which is still standing by the side of the way and is called Grettishaf, where he stood at bay. Gisli urged on his men, and Grettir saw that he was not quite so valiant as he pretended to be, for he kept well behind them. Grettir got tired of being hemmed in, so he made a lunge with his sword and killed one of Gisli's men, sprang from his stone and assailed them so vigorously that Gisli fell back all along the foot of the hill. Then his other man was killed.
Grettir said: "One would scarcely see that you have achieved much in the world abroad, and you have shamefully forsaken your comrades."
Gisli answered: "The fire is hottest to him who is in it; it is ill dealing with men from Hel."
They had exchanged few more blows when Gisli threw away his arms and bolted right away along the foot of the mountain. Grettir gave him time to throw away whatever he liked, and at every opportunity he threw off something more of his clothes. Grettir never followed him so closely that there was not some distance between them. He ran right away from the mountains, across Kaldardal, round Aslaug's Cliff, above Kolbeinsstad and out to Borgarhraun.
By that time he had nothing left on him but his shirt, and was terribly exhausted. Grettir still followed, keeping now within reach of him. He pulled off a great branch. Gisli did not stop till he reached Haffjardara river, which was all swollen and difficult to ford. Gisli was going right out into the river when Grettir pressed forward and seized him and showed him the difference in their strength.
Grettir got him down, sat on the top of him and asked: "Are you the Gisli who wanted to meet Grettir?"
"I have found him now," he answered; "but I know not how I shall part with him. Keep what you have taken and let me go free."
Grettir said: "You will not understand what I am going to tell you, so I must give you something to remember it by." Then he pulled up Gisli's shirt over his head and let the rod play on both sides of his back. Gisli struggled to get away, but Grettir gave him a sound whipping and then let him go. Gisli thought that he would sooner not learn anything from Grettir than have another such flogging, nor did he do anything more to earn it. Directly he got his feet under him again he ran off to a large pool and swam across the river. In the evening he reached the settlement called Hrossholt, very exhausted. There he lay for a week, his body covered with blisters, and afterwards went on to his own place.
Grettir turned back, gathered up all the things which Gisli had thrown away and took them home. Gisli never got them back again; many thought be had only got what he deserved for his noisy boasting. Grettir made a verse about their encounter:
- "The horse whose fighting teeth are blunted
- runs from the field before his foe.
- With many an afterthought ran Gisli.
- Gone is his fame, his glory lost!"
In the spring after this Gisli prepared to go on board his ship and forbade in the strongest terms anything which belonged to him being carried South by the way of the mountains; for he said that the Fiend himself was there. Gisli when he went South to join his ship kept all the way along the coast and he never met Grettir again. Nobody considered him worth thinking about, nor do we hear any more of him in this saga. Grettir's relations with Thord the son of Kolbeinn became worse than ever, and Thord tried every means to get Grettir driven away or killed.
LX. THE BATTLE WITH THE MYRAMENWhen Grettir had been two winters in Fagraskogafjall and the third winter had set in, he went South into Myrar to the farm called Laekjarbug, where he took six wethers without their owner's permission. Then he went down to Akrar and drove off two oxen for slaughter with several sheep, and went up South to the Hitara. When the bondis heard of his exploits they sent word to Thord at Hitarnes and asked him to take the lead in the slaying of Grettir. He was rather reluctant, but as they had asked him he sent his son Arnor, afterwards called Jarlsbard, to go with them, and told them not to let Grettir escape. Messengers were then sent round to all the farms.
There was a man named Bjarni who dwelt in Jorvi in Flysjuhverfi. He collected men on the other side of the Hitara; the intention was that each band should keep on its own side. Grettir had two men with him, one named Eyjolf, a stout man, the son of a bondi in Fagraskogar, and another. The party came on, about twenty in number, under Thorarin from Akrar and Thorfinn of Laekjarbug. Grettir tried to get out across the river, but was met by Arnor and Bjarni coming from the coast. There was a narrow point jutting out into the river on Grettir's side, and when he saw the men approaching he drove his animals on to it, for he never would let go anything of which he had once got possession. The Myramen prepared to attack in good order and Grettir told his companions to guard his rear. They could not all come on at once. There was a hard struggle between them; Grettir used his short sword with both hands and they found it not easy to get at him. Some of the Myramen fell and some were wounded. The men on the other side of the river were rather slow in coming up because there was no ford near. Before they had been fighting very long they fell back. Thorarin of Akrar was a very old man and not able to join in the fighting. When the battle was over there came up his son Thrand, his brother Ingjald's son Thorgils, Finnbogi the son of Thorgeir, the son of Thorhadd of Hitardal, and Steinolf the son of Thorleif of Hraundal. They set on their men and there was a hard struggle.
Grettir saw that there was no choice left but either to flee or else to do his utmost and not spare himself. He pressed on hard and nothing could hold against him, for his foes were so numerous that there was no chance of escaping except by fighting to the last before he fell. He tried always to engage those who seemed most courageous; first he went for Steinolf of Hraundal and cleft his skull down to his shoulders; then he struck at Thorgils the son of Ingjald and almost cut him in two. Then Thrand tried to spring forward and avenge his kinsmen, and Grettir hewed at his right thigh, cutting out all the muscles so that he could fight no more. Next he gave Finnbogi a severe wound. Then Thorarin ordered them off. "The longer you fight," he said, "the worse you will get from him and the more will he choose out the men from your company."
They obeyed and fell back. Ten had fallen; five were wounded to death or crippled, and nearly all who had been in the battle were hurt. Grettir was terribly fatigued but little wounded. The Myramen drew off, having suffered heavy losses, for many a good man had fallen. Those who were beyond the river came over slowly and did not arrive till the fight was over, and when they saw the plight of their men Arnor would not risk himself any further, for which he was much blamed by his father and by others. Men thought he was not much of a warrior. The place where they fought is now called Grettisoddi.
Grettir and his companions were all wounded; they took their horses and rode back along the foot of the mountain. When they reached Fagraskogar Eyjolf was behind. There was a bondi's daughter there and she asked for their tidings, which Grettir told her fully and spoke a verse:
- "Goddess of horn-floods! Steinolf's wounds
- are such that scarcely may be healed.
- Of Thorgils' life is little hope;
- his bones are smashed; eight more are dead."
Then Grettir went to his retreat and spent the winter there.
LXI. GRETTIR WINTERS UNDER THE GEITLAND GLACIERThe next time that Bjorn met Grettir he told him that this was a very serious affair, and that he would not be able to stay there in peace much longer. "You have killed kinsmen and friends of mine, but I will not depart from my promise to you so long as you are here."
Grettir said he was sorry to have given him offence, but that he had to defend his hands and his life. Bjorn said it would have to remain so. Soon there came to him some of the men who had lost their kinsmen through Grettir and petitioned him not to allow such a ruffian as he was to stay there any longer and molest them. Bjorn said he would do as they desired directly the winter was over.
Thrand the son of Thorarin of Akrar had now recovered from his wound. He was a man of much worth, and had married Steinunn the daughter of Hrut of Kambsnes. Steinolf's father Thorleif of Hraundal was a great man; from him are sprung the Hraundal men.
No more meetings are told of between Grettir and the Myramen while he was in the mountains. Bjorn continued in friendship with him, but some of Bjorn's other friends fell away from him because of his allowing Grettir to remain there, for they were annoyed at getting no compensation for the slaying of their kinsmen. When the Thing assembled Grettir left the Myrar district and went to Borgarfjord, where he visited Grim the son of Thorhall and sought counsel of him where he should move to next. Grim said he was not powerful enough to keep him there, so Grettir went off to his friend Hallmund and stayed there till the end of the summer.
In the autumn Grettir went to Geitland, where he stayed till bright weather set in. Then he ascended the Geitlandsjokull and turned his steps South-east along the glacier, taking with him a kettle and fuel. It is supposed that he went there by the counsel of Hallmund, who knew the country far and wide. He went on till he came to a long and rather narrow valley in the glacier, shut in on every side by the ice which overhung the valley. He went about everywhere, and found fair grass-grown banks and brushwood. There were hot springs, and it seemed as if volcanic fires had kept the ice from closing in above the valley. A little stream flowed down the dale with smooth banks on either side. Little did the light of the sun enter there, and the number of sheep in the valley seemed to him countless. They were much better and fatter than any which he had ever seen.
Grettir stayed there and built himself a hut out of logs which he found about. He caught a sheep to eat, and it was better for slaughter than two in other places. There was a ewe there with her lamb; she had a brown head and excelled all the others in size. He was anxious to have the lamb, so he caught it and slaughtered it and got half a measure of suet out of it, and it was better in every way. When Brownhead missed her lamb she came up every night to Grettir's hut and bleated so that he never could get any sleep. He regretted much having killed the lamb on account of the disturbance which she caused him. Every evening when the twilight set in he heard a voice calling in the valley, and then the sheep used to run together into a place of shelter. Grettir has told us that a blending ruled over the valley, a giant named Thorir, under whose protection he remained. Grettir called the valley after him Thorisdal. He said that Thorir had daughters with whom he had some play, and that they were very pleased, because not many people came there. And when the days of fasting came Grettir remembered to tell them that fat and liver should be eaten in Lent. Nothing particular occurred that winter, and Grettir found it so dull that he could not stay there any longer. He left the valley and went to the South through the glacier, reaching the middle of Skjaldbreid from the North. There he took up a stone, cut a hole in it and said that if a man put his eye to the hole he could see into the gully which flows out of Thorisdal. Then he went across the country South and reached the eastern fjords. He spent the summer and the winter on this journey and visited all the great men, but found them all against him so that nowhere could he get lodging or shelter. So he returned to the North and stayed in various places.
LXII. HALLMUND IS KILLED BY A FOREST-MAN NAMED GRIMSoon after Grettir had left the Arnarvatn Heath there came a man there named Grim, the son of a widow at Kropp. He had killed the son of Eid of Ass, the son of Skeggi, and been outlawed for it. So there he stayed where Grettir had been before him and got plenty of fish out of the lake. Hallmund was not at all pleased at Grim being there instead of Grettir, and said that he should have little advantage from his great catches of fish. One morning Grim had caught a hundred fish, which he brought to the hut and arranged outside. The next morning when he went there every fish was gone. He thought it very strange, but returned to the lake and caught this time two hundred. He carried them home and arranged them; again everything happened as before; in the morning all were gone, evidently through the same agency as before. The third day he caught three hundred, carried them home and kept a watch on his hut. He looked out through a hole in the door to see if any one came, and so he remained for a time. When about one third of the night had passed he heard some one walking near and stepping rather heavily; so he immediately took his axe, which was very sharp, and wanted to know what was the matter. There came a man with a big basket on his back; he put it down and looked round, but saw no one outside. He rummaged about among the fish and seemed to think that they would do for him to lay hands upon. He threw them all into his basket and they quite filled it. The fishes were so large that Grim thought no horse would be able to carry more. This man then took the load and got beneath it. Just as he was about to rise Grim rushed out and taking his axe in both hands struck a blow at his neck which went through the skin. He started in surprise and then ran off towards the south of the hill with his basket. Grim went after him to see whether he had got him. They went south along the foot of the Balljokull where the man entered a cave. There was a bright fire in the cave and a woman standing in it, very tall but shapely. Grim heard her greet her father, calling him Hallmund. He flung down his load and heaved a great sigh. She asked why he was covered with blood. He answered in a verse:
- "No man, I see, may trust his might.
- His luck and heart will fail at death."
Then she pressed him to say what had happened, and he told her everything.
"Hear now," he said, "what I tell you of my adventure. I will tell it to you in verse, and you shall cut it in runes on a staff."
She did so, and he spoke the Hallmundarkvida, in which the following occurs:
- "I was strong when Grettir's bridle I seized
- I saw him gazing long at his palms.
- Then Thorir came on the Heath with his men.
- 'Gainst eighty we two had play with our spears.
- Grettir's hands knew how to strike;
- much deeper the marks that were left by mine.
- Arms and heads then flew as they tried
- to gain my rear; eighteen of them fell.
- The giant-kind and the grim rock-dwellers,
- demons and blendings fell before me,
- elves and devils have felt my hand."
Many exploits of his did Hallmund recount in the lay, for he had been in every land.
The daughter said: "That man was not going to let his catch slip away from him. It was only to be expected, for you treated him very badly. But who is going to avenge you?"
"It is not certain that anybody will, but I think that Grettir would avenge me if he were able. It will not be easy to go against this man's luck; he is destined to great things." Then as the lay continued his strength began to fail. Hallmund died almost at the moment when he finished the song. She grieved much for him and wept sorely. Then Grim came forward and bade her be comforted. "All," he said, "must depart when their fate calls. It was partly his own fault, for I could not look on and see myself robbed."
She said he might speak much about that: "The unjust man prospers ill."
She was somewhat cheered by the talk with him. Grim stayed several nights in the cave and learned the lay; all went well with them. Grim was in the Arnarvatn Heath all the winter after Hallmund's death. Afterwards Thorkell the son of Eyjolf came to the heath and fought with him. The meeting ended by Grim having Thorkell's life in his power, but he would not kill him. Thorkell then took him in, sent him abroad and supplied him with means; each was considered to have acted generously towards the other. Grim became a great traveller and there is a long saga about him.
LXIII. GRETTIR'S MEETING WITH THORIR ON THE REYKJA HEATHWe now return to Grettir, who came from the eastern fjords, travelling in disguise and hiding his head because he did not wish to meet Thorir. That summer he spent in Modrudal Heath and other places. For a time too he was on Reykja Heath. Thorir heard of his being on Reykja Heath, gathered his men and rode thither, determined not to let him escape. Grettir scarcely knew of their plans before they came upon him. He was in a hill-dairy a little off the road with another man, and when they saw the troop they had to lay their plans quickly. Grettir said they should make their horses lie down inside the house, and they did so. Thorir rode forward across the heath in a northerly direction, missed the place, did not find Grettir and turned back home. When the troop had ridden round to the West, Grettir said: "They will not be pleased with their expedition if they do not meet me. You stay and mind the horses while I go after them. It would be a good jest if they did not recognise me."
His companion tried to dissuade him, but he would go. He changed his dress, put on a wide hat which came down over his face and took a stick in his hand. Then he went along the road towards them. They addressed him and asked whether he had seen any men riding over the heath.
"I have seen the men whom you are seeking," he said, "you very nearly came upon them; they were on your left hand just south of the marshes."
On hearing this they galloped off towards the marshes, which were so swampy that they could not get through and had to spend a great part of the day dragging their horses out. They swore much at the supposed traveller for playing a practical joke upon them. Grettir returned speedily home to his companion, and when they met spoke a verse:
- "I will not ride to the warriors' arms;
- too great the danger is.
- I dare not meet the storm of Vidri;
- but homeward turn my steps."
They rode off as fast as they could westwards towards the homestead in Gard before Thorir could come there with his company. When they were near the place they met a man on the road who did not know them. There was a young woman standing outside, very much dressed up, and Grettir asked who she was. The man who had come up said she was Thorir's daughter. Then Grettir spoke a verse:
- "Maiden, when thy father comes
- tell him, little though it please him,
- how I rode his dwelling past;
- only two who with me rode."
From this the man learnt who it was, and rode to the house to tell them that Grettir had come round. When Thorir returned many men thought that he had been bamboozled by Grettir. He then set spies to watch Grettir's movements. Grettir took the precaution of sending his companion to the western districts with his horse, while he himself went North into the mountains at the beginning of the winter, muffling up his face so that no one should recognise him. Every one thought that Thorir had fared no better but even worse than at their former encounter.