GXD13Y8-20WcLeEZm8aPxw Laxdæla Saga

Laxdæla Saga

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

Section Reference 40


Asgeir hight a man, and he was called Madpate : he dwelt at Asgeirswater in Willowdale. He was the son of Audun Skokul, who came to Iceland first of his kin: he settled Willowdale. The second son of Audun hight Thorgrim Graypate; he was the father of Asmund the father of Grettir. Asgeir Madpate had five bairns. His son hight Audun, the father of Asgeir, the father of Audun, the father of Egil, who had to wife Ulfheid daughter of Eyolf the Halt; their son was Eyolf, who was slain at the Althing. The second son of Asgeir hight Thorvald. His daughter was Dalla, who was wedded to Isleif the bishop : their son was Gizor the bishop. The third son of Asgeir hight Kalf. All the sons of Asgeir were well-liking men. Kalf Asgeirson was at that time a seafarer, and was deemed a man of the most mark. The daughter of Asgeir hight Thurid: she was given to Thorkel Kugg son of Thord Yeller: their son was Thorstein. The second daughter of Asgeir hight Hrefna; she was the fairest woman of the north country, and was well befriended. Asgeir was a mighty man of his hands. It is told that on a time Kjartan Olaf-son made him ready to fare south to Burgfirth; nought is told of his journey before he came to Burg. Then dwelt there Thorstein Egilson his mother's brother. Bolli was afaring with him, since such love there was betwixt those fosterbrethren that, neither of them took joy in aught if they twain were not together. Thorstein welcomed Kjartan with all blithesomeness: he could him thank, said he, whether he abode there long time or short. Kjartan tarried at Burg awhile. That summer a ship lay in Steam-water-oyce. Kalf Asgeirson was the owner of that ship. He had been lodging the winter long with Thorstein Egilson. Kjartan saith to Thorstein privily that this was most of all his errand south thither, that he would fain buy of Kalf half the ship; for my heart is set on faring from the land; and he asks Thorstein what he thought of Kalf. Thorstein said he deemed that Kalf was a valiant fellow: That is much to be looked for, kinsman, quoth he, that thou shouldst long to know the ways of other men : thy journey may well be worthy of mark in some fashion. Thy kindred hath much at stake in whatso wise thy faring come to pass. Quoth Kjartan that all should come to pass right well. Then Kjartan buys of Kalf half of the ship, and furnishes an even share of her crew. Kjartan is to come aboard when ten weeks are left of summer. Kjartan was sped from Burg with gifts. Then he and Bolli ride home. But when Olaf learned this change of rede he deemed that Kjartan had taken counsel over hastily, but said that it might not be altered. A little after Kjartan rides to Bathstead, and tells Gudrun of his faring from the land. Gudrun spake: Hastily hast thou taken this rede, Kjartan. She laid thereto some words whereby Kjartan might know that Gudrun was ill pleased hereat. Kjartan spake: Let not this thing mislike thee: I shall do somewhat else so as thou shalt deem well of it. Gudrun spake: Hold thou to that ; for I shall speedily tell thee thereof, Kjartan bade her do so. Spake Gudrun: Then I will fain fare from the land with thee this summer, and so shalt thou make atonement to me for this sudden rede : inasmuch as I love not Iceland. That may not be, said Kjartan; thy brethren are witless and thy father is old; and they will be lacking in all foresight if thou fare abroad from the land; nay, but do thou abide me three winters. Gudrun said that she would not pledge herself thereto, and either of them held to his own way, and so they part. Kjartan rode home. Olaf rode to the Thing that summer. Kjartan rode with his father eastward from Herdholt, and they sundered in Northwaterdale. Thence rode Kjartan shipward, and Bolli his kinsman was faring with him. Ten were those Iceland men in all who were in the journey with Kjartan, and would not part from him for their love's sake. Kjartan rideth to the ship with these faring-fellows. Kalf Asgeirson gives them good welcome. Much goods had Kjartan and Bolli with them. Now they betake them to fitting out the ship, and straightway when the wind blew fair they sail out down Burgfirth before a light wind and good, and so out to sea. They sped well, took Norway northerly and hold in to Throndhjem, and there they came to speech of men and asked for tidings. It was told them that a shift of rulers had come to pass in the land. Hakon the earl was by then fallen, and Olaf Tryggvason set in his place, and all Norway was fallen into his power. Olaf the king put forth the change of faith in Norway. Men yielded thereto in unlike fashion. Kjartan and his folk aid their ship into Nidoyce. At this time were there a many Iceland men in Norway of such as were men of worship. Three ships lay there by the bridges, and Icelandmen owned them all. One ship owned Brand the Openhanded, the son of Vermund Thorgrimson. The second ship owned Hallfred Troublous-skald. The third ship two brethren owned: the one hight Bjarni, the other Thorhall; they were sons of Broad-Skeggi from Fleetlithe in the east country. These men had all been minded to fare out to Iceland that summer, but the king had laid a ban on all these ships, because they would not take the faith which he set before them. All the Iceland men greet Kjartan well, but Brand the best, for they had been much known one to the other aforetime. Now the Icelanders took rede together, and this was agreed among them, to gainsay the faith which the king offered them; and all those were in league together who are here aforenamed. Now Kjartan and his fellows laid their ship against the bridges, and cleared the ship, and were busy with their goods, Olaf the king was in the town. He learns the coming of this ship, and therewith that there should be many men aboard her who were of great account. It was at harvest-tide on a fair-weather day,i that men fared out of the town to swimming in the water of Nid: Kjartan's folk see this. Then spake Kjartan to his fellows, that they should fare to the swimming for their disport that day. They do so. One man there far outdid the others. Then Kjartan asks Bolli if he will try feats of swimming with the townsman. Bolli answers: I trow that I am no match for him. I wot not whither thy valour is now flown, saith Kjartan, but I shall make trial thereof. Bolli answers : That mayst thou do if it likes thee. Now Kjartan flings himself into the river and makes for that man who is best skilled at swimming, and straightway draws him under, and holds him down for a space : Kjartan lets him come up, and when they have been above water no long time, that man grips at Kjartan and draws him under, and they abode below no short time, but Kjartan deemed it enow; again come they up; no word spake they one to the other. A third time fare they down, and then were they much the longest under ; Kjartan deems now that he knows not how that game should fare, and Kjartan deemed that never before was he come into such sore straits; the end of it was that they come up and strike out for the shore. Then spake the townsman : Who is this man? Kjartan told his name. The townsman spake: Thou art a good swimmer : is it so that thou art as well skilled in other sports as in this one? Kjartan answers, but somewhat slowly: It was told of when I was in Iceland that the rest were even as this one; but now is this of little worth. The townsman spake: That makes some odds, with whom thou hast had dealing; why askest thou me nought? Kjartan spake : I reck not of thy name. The townsman saith: Sooth it is that thou art a man of might, but somewhat over-bold is thy speech; yet none the less shalt thou wot my name, and with whom thou hast been tried in swimming. Here is Olaf the king Tryggvason. Kjartan answereth nothing, and turns thence straightway cloakless. He had on a kirtle of red scarlet. By then was the king wellnigh clad; he calls to Kjartan, and bade him not fare so fast. Kjartan turns back, but somewhat slowly. Then the king takes from his shoulders a good cloak, and gave it to Kjartan : he should not, said he, go cloakless to his men. Kjartan thanks the king for his gift, and goes to his men and shows them the cloak. His men were not best pleased at this; they deemed that Kjartan had put himself into the king's power overmuch. Things are now quiet. The weather set in hard that autumn; there was much frost and cold. The heathen men say that it is nought wonderful that the weather took an ill turn: it points to the new-fangled ways of the king and this his new faith, at which the gods are wroth. The Icelanders abode that winter all together in the town; Kjartan was by far the foremost of them. The weather betters, and a great company of men came to the town at the wordsending of Olaf the king. Many men had taken the christian faith in Throndhjem, but many more were they who withstood. On a day the king held a Thing in the town out on the eres, and preached the faith before men, a long message and fair-spoken. The Throndhjemers had a host of men, and offered battle to the king. Quoth the king that they must wot that he deemed that he had dealt with greater odds than that he should fight there with thorpdwellers of Throndhjem. Then fear shot into the bonders' breasts, and they yielded all into the king's hand, and much people was there christened. Then was the Thing sundered. That same evening the king sent men to the lodging of the Icelanders, and bade them give ear to what they talked of. They do so; much din was there to hear within. Then Kjartan took up-the word, and spake to Bolli: Is it so, kinsman, that thou art eager to take to that faith which the king bids us have? I am nought eager thereto, answereth Bolli, for that faith seems to me most childish. Asks Kjartan: Did ye deem that the king used any threats against those who would not give in to his will? Bolli answers: In good sooth we deemed that the king spake no dark word when he said that they should meet with much evil at his hands. To no man will I yield against my will, saith Kjartan, while I may stand upright and wield weapons: I deem it also a coward's part to be taken like a lamb out of the fold or a fox out of a snare: I deem that choice far the better, if a man must die, to win somewhat beforehand whereby his name shall abide long after him. Asks Bolli: What wilt thou do? I may not hide it from thee, saith Kjartan: I would burn the king's house over his head. No' coward's rede I call that, saith Bolli: and yet, as I think, this shall not come to fulfil ment: the king must be a lucky wight and of mickle good hap; he has moreover a trusty guard day and night. Kjartan said that most men's hearts fail them in danger, though they be right good carles. Bolli said that it was yet to see whose valour should be doubted; but many men agreed together, that this was but idle talk. And when the king's men had learned all this, then fared they thence, and tell the king all this tale. The next morning the king will hold a Thing, Thereto are summoned all the Iceland men, and when the Thing was set, the king stood up and thanked men for their coming thither, such as would be his friends and had given him troth. He called the Icelanders to speech with him. The king asks them if they will take chrisom. They give no good answer thereto. Saith the king, that they are choosing for themselves that lot which shall be the worser: Which of you deemed it the best rede to burn my house over me? Then answers Kjartan: Thou wilt be thinking that he will not have the courage to come forward who said this; but here mayst thou see him. Yea, I may see thee, saith the king, and a man of no small redes: but it will not be granted thee to stand over the slain body of me; and thou hast guilt enow herein that thou shouldst nevermore threaten to burn kings in their houses, for the cause that it may be the better known to thee; but inasmuch as I wist not whether heart went with speech in thee, but thou hast come forward in manly wise, therefore I will not take thy life for this cause: it may be too that thou shalt hold the faith the better as thou speakest now more against it than others: this also do I know, that it shall so come to pass with thy shipmates, that they shall take the faith on that day when thou lettest thyself be baptised willingly. I deem moreover that it is like that thy kinsmen and friends will pay much heed to that which thou tellest them when ye come out to Iceland: and it is much my foreboding that thou, Kjartan, wilt have a better belief when thou settest sail from Norway than thou hadst when thou earnest hither. Fare ye now in peace and truce howso ye will from this mote. I shall not force you to become christians, for god so speaks, that he is fain that none should come to him unwilling. Good cheer was made at the king's speech, yet mostly from the christian men. But the heathen men charged Kjartan that he should answer as he would. Then spake Kjartan: Fain are we to thank thee, king, that ye give us good peace : and that way mayst. thou best lead us to take thy faith, if thou overlook our great misdeeds and speak to us in all blitheness, even when ye have to-day all our lives in your hand to do as ye will with them; and I am minded for my part to take so much and no more of the faith in Norway, that I pay little heed to Thor the next winter when I come to Iceland. Then saith the king, and he smiled: This is well seen from the bearing of Kjartan, that he deems that there is more trust in his own might and weapons than in Thor and Odin. Then was the Thing sundered. Many men egged on the king in the meantime to force Kjartan's folk to take the faith, and they deemed it ill-advised to have so many heathen men in their midst. The king answers wrathfully, says that he deems that there are many christian men who are not of even worth with Kjartan and his company ; and for such men may one wait long time. The king lets much useful work be fashioned that winter; he lets build a church and much eke the cheaping stead; that church was wholly done by Yule. Then spake Kjartan, that they should go so near to the church that they might see the manner of that belief which the christian men held: many agreed thereto, and said that it would be mickle sport. Now goeth Kjartan with his company, and Bolli; there is also Hailfred a-faring and many men of the Icelanders. The king preached the faith before men, both a long message and fair-worded, and the christian men made good cheer at his speech. But when Kjartan's folk were gone to their lodging, much talk arose among them how the king had seemed to them now at the season which christian men call wellnigh the greatest high-tide : because the king said so that we might hear it, that last night was that chieftain born on whom we should now trow if we do as the king bids us. Kjartan saith : Such seemed to me the king when first I saw him that straightway I knew surely that he was a man of the most worship: and that has endured ever since, when I have seen him in man-motes; but much the best seemed he to me to-day; and my mind it is that all our cause lieth hereon, that we should trow him to be the true god in whom the king bids us trow; and I well wot that the king may not be more eager that I take his faith, than I to let myself be christened : and this alone withholds me from going here and now before the king, that the day is far spent, so that the king will now be at table; but that day shall tarry when we countrymen all let christen us. Bolli agreed well to this, and bade Kjartan alone rule in this matter. The debate of Kjartan's folk was told to the king before the boards were taken away; for the king had set spies in the lodging of the heathen men. The king was right glad thereof and spake: Kjartan has made sooth the saying that hightides are best for hale. And straightway in the morning early as the king was going to the church Kjartan met him in the street with a mickle following of men. Kjartan bespake the king with mickle blithesomeness, and said that he had an errand unto him. The king took well his greeting, and said that he had learned of his errand full clearly: and this business shall be made easy for thee. Kjartan bade tarry not to lead him to the water, and said that much might well be needed. Saith the king, and he smiled : Yea, Kjartan, saith he, we twain shall not sunder by reason of hard bargaining, though thou shouldst be somewhat dear in the cheaping. Then were Kjartan and Bolli christened, and all their shipmates, and much other folk. This was on the second day of Yule before the office. Then the king bade Kjartan to his Yule-feast, and Bolli his kinsman also. It is the tale of most men that Kjartan handselled troth to the king on the day when both he and Bolli put off their chrisom raiment. Hallfred was not christened on that day, because he would have nought for it but the king himself should hold him at the font. The king put that off till the next day after. Kjartan and Bolli abode with the king for what was left of the winter. The king held Kjartan above all men for the sake of his kindred and great deeds, and it is told of all that Kjartan was so well-beloved that he had no unfriend at the court. This too said all men that no such man had come from Iceland as was Kjartan. Bolli was also a right valiant man and well judged of by good men. Now the winter so wears, and when the spring came, men made ready for their journeys whithersoever each had a mind.


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