KAPJn_F-vUiWi4kMGsTPhQ Hávarðar Saga Ísfirðings

Hávarðar Saga Ísfirðings

The Story of Howard the Halt an 1891 translation into English by William Morris and Eiríkr Magnússon

Section Reference 7


Old Howard rideth to the Thing

So she gat him ready, and he rode his ways: somewhat bent was the old man as he came to the Thing; by which time were the booths tilted, and all men come.

He rode to a great booth, even that which was owned of Steinthor of Ere, a mighty man and a great chief, of the stoutest and best heart: he leapt from his horse, and went into the booth, and there sat Steinthor and his men beside him: so Howard went up to him, and greeted him well, and well he took his greeting, and asked him who he was, Howard told of himself. Said Steinthor: "Art thou he who had that well-renowned son whom Thorbiorn slew, and whose stout defence is in all men's mouths ? "

Howard said that even so it was: " And I will, master, that thou give me leave to abide in thy booth throughout the Thing."

He answered: "Surely I will give thee leave; but be quiet, and abstain from meddling ; for the lads here are ever gamesome, and thou hast a great sorrow in thine heart, and art little fit to hold thine own, an old man, and a helpless."

The tale tells that old Howard took to himself a berth somewhere within the booth, and lay down there, and never stirred thence, nor ever fell into talk with any until the Thing was far spent: but on a morning Steinthor came to him, and said : "Why earnest thou hither to lie there like a bedes? man and a losel?"

Said Howard; "I had it in my mind to seek atonement for Olaf my son, but my heart faileth me, for Thorbiorn is unsparing of foul words and dastardliness."

Said Steinthor: "Take my counsel; go thou to Thorbiorn and complain of thy case; and I deem that if Guest goes with thee thou shalt get righting of Thorbiorn." So Howard arose, and went forth all bent, and fared to the booth of Guest and Thorbiorn, and went in. Thorbiorn was therein, but not Guest: so Howard was greeted of Thorbiorn, who asked him why he was come thither. Howard answered: "So mindful am I of the slaying of Olaf my son that it seemeth to me but newly done; and my errand here is to claim weregild of thee for the slaying."

Thorbiorn answered: "Now give I good rede to thee; come to me at home in my own country and then may I comfort thee somewhat: but here am I busy over many things, and will not have thee whining against me."

Howard answered: "If thou wilt do nought?now, I have well proven that thou wilt do none?the more in thine own country: but I was deeming that someone might perchance back my case?here."

Then spake Thorbiorn: "Hear a wonder!" said he, "he is minded now to draw men upon me! get thee gone, and never henceforward speak to me hereof if thou wilt be unbeaten."

Then Howard waxed very wroth, and turned away from the booth, saying: "Too old am I now, but those days of mine have been, wherein I little looked to bear such wrong."

Now as he went, came men meeting him, Guest Oddleifson to wit, and his folk. Howard was so wroth that he scarce heeded where he went nor would he meet those men, so home he went to his booth; but Guest cast a glance at the man going past him.

Howard went to his berth, and lay down and drew a heavy sigh : so Steinthor asked him how he had fared, and he told him. Steinthor answered: "Such deeds are injustice unheard of ! great shame to him may be looked for some time or other."

Now when Guest came back to his booth he was well greeted of Thorbiorn, but he said: "What man went from the booth even now?"

Thorbiom answered : "A wondrous question from so wise a man! More come and go hereabout than I may make account of."

Guest answered : " Yea, but this man was unlike to other men: a man big-grown, albeit somewhat old and haltfoot, yet most manly of mien withal; and meseemed he was full of sorrow and little-ease and heart-burning: and so wroth he was that he heeded not whither he went: yea, and the man looked lucky too, and not one to be lightly dealt with."

Answered Thorbiorn : "This will have been old Howard, my Thingman."

Guest asked: "Was it his son that thou slewest sackless?"

"Yea, sure," said Thorbiorn.

Said Guest: "How deemest thou that thou hast held to the promise that thou madest me when I gave thee my sister?" Now there was a man named Thorgils, called Hallason after his mother, a man most renowned and great-hearted, who abode as then with Guest his kinsman, and this was in the days of his fast-waxing fame. Him Guest bade go after Howard and bid him thither; so he went to Howard's booth, and told him that Guest would see him : but Howard said: "Loth am I to go and endure the injustice of Thorbiorn and his shameful words."

Thorgils bade him fare. "Guest will back thy case," said he. So Howard went, how loth soever he were, and came to Guest, who stood up to meet him, and welcomed him, and set him down beside him, and spake: "Now shalt thou, Howard, begin, and tell forth all thy dealings with Thorbiorn"

He did so, and when he had spoken, Guest asked of Thorbiorn if that were in any wise true: and Thorbiorn said it was no vain babble. Then said Guest: "Heard any of suchlike injustice! Now hast thou two choices; either I break our bargain utterly, or thou shalt suffer me alone to doom and deal in this your case."

To this said Thorbiorn yea, and so they all went from out the booth. Then Guest called to him a many men, and they stood in a ring round about, but some stood together within the ring, and talked the matter over. Then spoke Guest: "I may not, Thorbiorn, award as much money as ought to be paid, because thou hast not wherewithal to pay it: but I award a threefold mangild for the slaying of Olaf. But as to the other wrong thou hast done to Howard, I offer thee, Howard, that thou come to me every spring and autumn tide, and I will honour thee with gifts, and will promise never to fail thee whiles we both live."

Thorbiorn said: "This will I yeasay, and will pay him at my ease at home in the country-side."

"Nay," said Guest, " thou shalt pay all the money here at the Thing, and pay it well and duly : but I myself will lay down one mangild."

And this same he delivered out of hand well paid down. But Howard sat down, and poured the money into his cloak-skirt. Thereon Thorbiorn went thereto, and paid up little by little, and when he had got through one mangild he said he had come to the end of what he had. Guest bade hint not to shirk the matter, and thereon Thorbiorn took a folded cloth, and undid it, and spake: "Surely now he will not deem himself paid short if he have this withal."

And thereon he draveit on to Howards face so that the blood fell adown him. " Lo there," said he, " the teeth and jaw-teeth of Olaf thy son I"

Then Howard beheld how these were tumbling into his cloak-skirt, and he leapt up mad-wroth, and the pennies rolled this way and that, and staff in hand he rushed at the ring of men, and thrust his staff so hard against the breast of one, that he fell aback, and lay long in a swoon: then leapt Howard over the ring of men, and touched none, and came down afar from any, and so ran home to his booth like a young man; but when he came to the booth, he would give no word to any, but cast himself down and lay as one sick.

After these things spake Guest unto Thorbiorn.: "No man is like to thee for evil heart and wrongdoing : nor can I see aught into a man if thou dost not repent it one day, thou or thy kin ? "

And so wroth and wood was Guest, that he rode straight from the Thing to Icefirth, and took away Thorgerd from Thorbiorn: whereby Thorbiorn and all his kin deemed their honour sorely minished, . but nought might they do. Guest said withal that Thorbiorn would have to abide a greater shame yet, and one more meet for him; and he rideth therewith away to Bardstrand with his kinswoman and a deal of money. The tale tells that Howard got him away home after these things and was by now exceeding stiff; but Steinthor said to him or ever they parted: "If ever thou need a little help, Howard, come thou to me."

Howard thanked him, and so rode home, and lay down in his bed and abode there the third twelvemonth and was by then waxen much stiffen

Biargey still held to her wont of rowing out to sea every day along with Thorhall.


27 December 2019 saga, Howard, norse, viking, translated, english Read Book