GXD13Y8-20WcLeEZm8aPxw Laxdæla Saga

Laxdæla Saga

The Story of the Laxdalers a 1903 translation into English by Robert Proctor

Section Reference 21


Now cometh Hoskuld home from the Thing and heareth these tidings. He liked them somewhat amiss; but forasmuch as his own kin had lot therein he was appeased and let things alone. Now Olaf's folk had a good voyage, and made Norway. Orn spurreth Olaf to fare to the court of Harald the king; he said that the king made good cheer to such as were in nowise better men than was Olaf. Olaf said that he would venture it. Now fare Olaf and Orn to the court and have there good welcome. The king straightway took note of Olaf for his kinsman's sake, and bade him abide with him straightway. Gunnhild made much of Olaf when she knew that he was Hrut's brother's son; but some men gave out that she had deemed it good sport to talk with Olaf though there had been nought else on his behalf. Olaf grew unglad as the winter wore. Orn asketh what it is grieveth him. Olaf answers: I have a journey on my hands, to fare west over sea; and I deem it of great avail that thou have a part therein, that it may be fulfilled this summer. Orn bade Olaf be not over-eager for this; he said that he knew nought by hearsay of any ships that should go west over sea. Gunnhild came into their talk and spake : Now do I hear you talk in such wise as hath never come to pass before, in that either of you will have his own way. Olaf greeteth Gunnhild well, but suffers not the talk to drop. Then goeth Orn away; and Olaf and Gunnhild take up the tale: Olaf tells her his mind, and likewise what he looked to come to him of this journey: he said that he knew in good sooth that Myrkjartan the king was his mother's father. Then spake Gunnhild: I shall find thee the means for this journey, that thou mayst fare in as brave array as thou wilt. Olaf thanketh her for her word. Then let Gunnhild make ready a ship and get men thereto; she bade Olaf name how many men he will have with him west over sea. But Olaf named sixty, and said that he deemed it of much avail that they should be liker unto warriors than unto chapmen. She said that so should it be. Now Orn alone is named of them that were with Olaf on the voyage. That company was full well dight. Harald the king and Gunnhild led Olaf to the ship, and said that they would fain add their good luck to the rest of the friendship which they had showed him : said Harald the king that this would be easy, inasmuch as they wotted that no goodlier man had come out of Iceland in their day. Then asked Harald the king of Olaf how old a man he was. Answereth Olaf: Now am I of eighteen winters. The king spake: Mickle men of might are such men as thou ; for thou art as yet little more than a child in years: but seek thou straightway to usward when thou comest back. Then the king and Gunnhild bade Olaf farewell. So they went aboard, and sail straightway out to sea. An ill voyage had they of it that summer; mickle fogs have they, but little wind, and that little unsteady; so they drave wide about the sea: it was so with most men aboard that seamaze came upon them. Thereafter it came to pass that the fog lifted, and the wind rose ; then they hoisted the sail. Then was counsel taken as to which way they should make for Ireland ; and men were not agreed thereon. Orn was for one way, but most men spake against him, and said that Orn was all mazed; those should rule, said they, who were the more part. Then was Olaf's rede sought for ; but Olaf saith : This will I, that those rule who have more wit; the worse methinks will avail us the rede of lewd men, the more they be gathered together. It was deemed to be ended when Olaf spake thus ; and Orn ruled in the lode-work thereafter. Now sail they nights and days, and have alway light winds. It came to pass one night that the watch leapt up and bade men wake as speedily as they might; they saw land, said they, so near them, that the stem wellnigh smote thereon; the sail was up, and there was full little breeze. Men leap up straightway, and Orn bade beat off from the land if so they might. Quoth Olaf: There are no means thereto in our case, because I see breakers everywhere astern of us ; do ye lower the sail at your swiftest; but let us take rede when it is daylight and men can mark this land. Then cast they out anchors, and these grip straightway. Mickle is their speech together all that night as to whither they be come; but when the daylight came, they knew that it was Ireland. Then spake Orn: This deem I, that we are come to no good place, since we are far here from those havens or cheaping-steads where outland men may have peace ; because now are we beached like sticklebacks; and methinks such are the laws of these Irish that they will hold the goods wherewithal we fare to be their prey; for they let call it drift when the sea has ebbed less from the sternpost than here. Olaf said that no loss should befall them: but I have seen that there is a gathering of men ashore to-day: and these Irish set much store by the coming of our ship; I marked to-day when it was ebb, that an oyce ran up by yon ness, and the sea fell not wholly out of the oyce. But if our ship be not hurt, we may well launch our boat and flit our ship thither. The bottom was of mud whereas they had ridden on a hawser, and no plank of their ship was hurt. So Olaf and his folk flit her thither, and there cast anchor. But as the day wears, a great throng of men drifteth down to the strand. Then fare two men in a boat to the ship. They ask who beareth rule in that ship. Spake Olaf, and answers them in Irish, even as they spake to him. But when the Irish knew that they were Norsemen, then they set forth their law, that they should give up their goods; and then should no mischief be done them before the king had given doom on their case. Olaf said that such was the law if there were no speaker along with chapmen: but I can tell you of a sooth that these be men of peace; and yet shall we not yield us untried. Then the Irish whoop their war-whoop, and wade out into the sea, and are minded to haul the ship ashore under them: it was no deeper there than so as to reach to beneath their arms, or to the breechbelt of such as were tallest. But the pool was so deep where the ship rode that they found no bottom. Then Olaf bade men take up their weapons and man the ship from stem to stern. They stood so thick that it was wholly dight with shields. A spearpoint stood out by every shieldrim. Then went Olaf forth on to the poop, and was so clad that he was in a byrny and had a helm of red gold on his head. He was girt with a sword, and the hilt thereof was gold-bedight. He had a barbed spear in his hand; it was graven, and there was speech full fair thereon. A red shield had he, and thereon was drawn a lion in gold. But when the Irish see their array, fear pierces their breasts, and they deem that the taking of the goods will be no such easy matter as was looked for. Now the Irish turn back from their purpose, and flock together in a thorp. Then cometh a great uproar in their host, and they deem that it is now full clearly seen that this is a warship, and many more ships may well be looked for. They bring word now swiftly to the king: and this was easy, because the king was then afeasting but a short way off. He rideth straightway with a company of men thither whereas the ship was. It was not so far from the land to where the ship rode but that speech might well be had betwixt men. Oft had the Irish made assault on them with shooting, but Olaf's men were in no wise hurt. Olaf stood in such array as is aforewrit, and men marvelled much how glorious was the man who was the captain of the ship there. But when Olaf's shipmates see a mickle host of horsemen ride towards them (and that host was right proud of bearing), then are they silent, because them thought they had to deal with mickle odds. But when Olaf heard what was noised in his company, he bade them be of good heart; because now hath fair hap for us betid; now hail yon Irish Myrkjartan their king. Then rode they so near to the ship that the one part might hear what the other spake. The king asketh, who was master of that ship. Olaf telleth his name, and asked who was that doughty knight with whom he was speaking. He answereth: I hight Myrkjartan. Olaf spake: Art thou then king of the Irish? He said that so it was. Then the king asks for such tidings as are most told of. Olaf made good report of all things whereof he was asked. Then asked the king whence they had put out, or what manner of men they were. And again the king asketh more closely than before of Olaf's lineage, because the king marked that the man was proud, and would tell him no more than he was asked. Quoth Olaf: This shall I make known to thee, that we set forth from Norway, and these men are of the guard of Harald the king Gunnhildson, who are here a-shipboard. But this is to be told of my lineage, lord, that my father dwelleth in Iceland; he hight Hoskuld; he is a man of high lineage; but for my mother's kin I trow that ye will have seen more thereof than I, because Melkorka hight my mother, and it is told in very sooth that she is thy daughter, king; and this it is that hath driven me to so long a journey; and for me much now lieth upon the answer which thou givest to my tale. The king is silent, and speaks apart with his men: his wise men ask the king what is to be made of the tale which this man telleth. Answers the king: It is clear to be seen of this Olaf that he is a man of high lineage, whether he be our kinsman or no; and this likewise, that he speaketh Irish best of all men. After this stood the king up and spake: Now shalt thou have answer to thy tale, that I will grant peace to all you shipmates; but for the kinship which thou claimest of us must, we speak further ere I give thee thine answer. Then they run the gangways to shore, and Olaf comes aland and his faring-fellows from the ship. Now marvel those Irish much what sturdy men at arms these men be. Then Olaf greeteth the king well, and doffeth his helm, and louteth to the king; but the king receiveth him with all blitheness. Then they come to speech together: Olaf setteth forth his tale anew and telleth his errand at length and with fair words. So endeth that business, that he said he had then on his hand the gold which Melkorka gave him at their parting in Iceland; and thus said she, that thou, king, gavest it her for a tooth-fee. The king took it and looked at the gold, and waxed wondrous red of face. Then spake the king: Sooth tokens are these: yet they have no lack whereby they are the less worthy of mark, because thou so much favourest thy mother that one may well know thee thereby. And for this cause will I surely acknowledge thy kinship, Olaf, by the witness of these men who stand near us and hear my speech; this also shall come of it, that I will bid thee to my court, with all thy company; but the worship ye shall have lies hereon, to wit, whether I deem that a man's might is in thee, when I have tried thee more. Then the king lets fetch horses for them to ride; and he sets men to make the ship snug, and to give heed to the lading that they had. Then the king rideth to Dublin: and men deem that mickle tidings, whereas there was afaring with him the son of his daughter who had been lifted thence a long while agone, when she was but fifteen winters old. And yet was the fostermother of Melkorka the most astonished at the tidings: she lay then bedridden, and was sick both by reason of sorrow and eld; and yet went she then staffless to meet with Olaf. Then spake the king to Olaf: Here is now the fostermother of Melkorka, and she will fain have tidings told her of thee concerning her daughter's welfare. Olaf greeted her with open arms and set the carline on his knee, and told her how her fosterling abode in good case in Iceland. Then Olaf gave her the knife and belt, and the carline knew the jewel and was fain even to tears; she said that so it was, that the son of Melkorka was both a man of proud bearing; and well doth that sit upon him. The carline was astir all that winter. The king sat little in peace, because there was then ever raiding in the westlands; the king drave before him that winter wickings and ravagers. Olaf and his company were on the king's ship, and that company was held somewhat ill to deal with by such as were against them. Then the king had speech with Olaf and his fellows, and took rede with them in all things, because Olaf was approved to be both wise and forward in all trials of manhood. But at the close of winter the king summoned a Thing and it was fully thronged. The king stood up and spake. Thus took he up the tale: It is well known to you that last harvest came hither the man who is my daughter's son, and of high lineage by his father's kin: Olaf has shown himself to be so mickle a man of his hands and wight that we have here no such men to set beside him. Now will I bid him take the kingdom after my day, because Olaf is better fitted than my sons to be a ruler of the folk. Olaf thanketh him for that bidding with much courtesy and fair words: and yet, he said, he might not well risk how the king's sons would thole it when Myrkjartan was departed: better was it, said he, to win swift worship than long dishonour : he would fain fare to Norway so soon as it was free of risk for ships to ply from land to land: little joy, said he, would his mother have if he came not back. The king bade Olaf have his way. Then was the Thing sundered. But when Olaf's ship was all-boun, the king goeth with Olaf to the ship, and gave him a spear done about with gold and a fair-wrought sword and much other wealth. Olaf prayed that he might flit the foster-mother of Melkorka abroad with him. The king said there was no need of this; and she fared not. Olaf and his folk went aboard their ship, and he and the king parted with full mickle friendship. After that sail Olaf and his folk out to sea. They had a good voyage and made Norway; and Olaf's faring is much noised abroad: now they lay up their ship. Olaf getteth him horses, and seeketh now to Harald the king with his faring-fellows.


28 December 2019 saga, laxdalers, norse, viking, translated, english Read Book