THE SAGA OF VIGA-GLUM – An Ancient Viking Saga – CHAPTER’s III and IV


NOW, when Ivar arrived, they went out to meet him as a mark of honour, and received him joyfully. Either brother then aksed the other for tidings and Ivar inquired of Hreidar where he had been through the winter. Hreidar told him he had been in Iceland, and then Ivar asked no more about the matter; “but tell me,” said he, “is that great rough lump I see there a man, or is it some animal?” Eyiolf answered, “I am a man of Iceland, my name is Eyiolf, and I intend to be here all the winter.” “I guess one thing,” said Ivar; “we shall not be without mischief of some kind, if an Icelander is here.” Hreidar replied, “If you deal badly with him, so that he cannot stay here, the affection between us, as near kinsmen, will suffer.” “It was a bad voyage of yours to Iceland,” said Ivar, “if we on that account are to be dependent on Icelanders, or cast off our own friends and kindred: nor do I know why you chose to visit that most hateful people; and then too you have escaped telling me what has happened to you.”  1 “It is very different from what you suppose,” said Hreidar; “there are many good fellows there.” “Well,” replied Ivar, “at any rate that rough and shaggy beast does not look particularly well on the high seat.” But when he saw that his brother set great store by Eyiolf he did not speak so strongly as before against Icelanders. “What can I call him,” said he, “except “Lump?’” and Eyiolf did not seem to object to the name; but they made the worst of everything that he did.
There was a man named Vigfuss, lord of the district of Vorz, the son of Sigurd, who was the son of Kari-Viking; and Vigfuss had a daughter, called Astrida. Hreidar and Ivar were great friends of Vigfuss, and they used to entertain one another alternate winters, at Christmas. At this time it was the turn of the brothers to prepare for the feast. In fact Hreidar had got everything ready, and had then to invite his guest. He asked Eyiolf to go with him, “for,” said he, “I have no curiosity to try how they will behave towards you here.” “I am not well,” replied Eyiolf, “and I cannot go.” That evening, when Hreidar was gone and they took their places, Ivar’s companions exclaimed, “Now we shall amuse ourselves as we please, for old ‘Lump’ is left at home.” “Nay,” said Ivar, “we must think of something which befits us. Here we are, two brothers, holding our property jointly, and he has all the trouble of it, whilst I have none. This is a man to whom he wishes to be kind, and we act in such a way that he can scarcely stay here, but at the same time we have no fault to find with him. No man shall say anything injurious to him whilst Hreidar is absent.” They replied it was just the time to have some sport. “No,” said Ivar, “there is little true manhood in what you say. Every one waits on us here, and we have all the sport we choose, but others have the labour and care. If that man had killed my brother, I would not, for Hreidar’s sake, do him any harm, and no one shall dare to make sport of him.” He shall not be called ‘Lump’ any longer.” In the morning Ivar spoke with Eyiolf: “Will you go into the wood with us and amuse yourself” He assented to this and went with them: they took to cutting down trees and carrying them home. Eyiolf had with him his sword and a hatchet. “I advise you, Icelander,” said Ivar, “if our men go each his own way, that you get home before dark.” So each man went his own way, and Eyiolf went off by himself, and taking off his rough cloak, laid upon it the sword which he hand in his hand. Then he turned into the wood to amuse himself with his hatchet, and cut down the trees which he fancied. As the day advanced it came on to snow, and he thought of going home; but when he came to the spot where he had left his cloak it was gone, and the sword remained behind. He saw a track in the snow as if the cloak had been dragged along. A bear had come and carried off the cloak, but had hardly had strength to hold it off the ground, for it was a young bear, just come out of its lair, that had never killed a man. They Eyiolf went and saw the bear sitting before him, so he drew his sword and cut off its snout close to the eyes and took it home with him in his hand. Ivar came home first, missed Eyiolf, and exclaimed, “We have made a bad expedition of it, and we have done wrong in parting from our comrade in the wood, for he does not know his way in it. It is likely that there are wild beasts there, and considering the footing on which we have been with him, it would be much talked about, if he did not get safe back. I advise that we should go and look for him till we find him.” When they got out before the door, there was Eyiolf coming to meet them, and Ivar greeted him well, and asked how he came to be covered with blood. Eyiolf showed them what he held in his hand, and Ivar said, “I fear you are wounded?” but he answered, “Don’t trouble yourself about me; I have no hurt.” Ivar exclaimed, “What folly it is to mock men whom we do not know! He has shown in this matter a courage which I doubt if any of us would come up to.”
The following evening Hreidar came home, and Ivar asked him, “Why are you so moody, brother? Are you anxious about ‘Lump?’ How do you think I am likely to have dealt with him?” “No doubt,” said Hreidar, “it is of some consequence how you have acted in this matter.” “What will you give me, if I should be on the same terms with him as you are yourself?” “I will give you,” answered Hreidar, “that gold ring which belongs to both of us and which you have long liked.” Ivar replied, “I don’t covet your property, but I shall for the future stand to him in the same relation as to yourself, and henceforth he shall sit by my side, and not by yours.” Then both of them held Eyiolf in high honour, and felt that the place he sat in was worthily filled; and so it went on.


1 Ivar considers it an aggravation of the annoyance caused by Eyiolf that his brother had visited a place which he hated and which he had no wish to hear anything about, and so they had not the pleasure of telling one another how they had fared during their absence.



NOW people came to the Christmas feast, and those who were to sit together were told off in messes of twelve. Lots were cast to see who should sit next to Astrida, the daughter of the chief Vigfuss, and Eyiolf always drew the lot for sitting by her side. No one observed that they talked together more than other persons did, but still men said that it was fated to come about in that way that he should marry her. The feast came to an end, after being celebrated with great splendour, and the guest were dismissed with presents. Eyiolf went sea-roving for four summers, and was held to be a very valiant man. He gained great reputation and much booty. It happened one winter that a certain Thorstein came to Vorz, who was a great friend of the brothers, and lived in the upland country. He told them of the strait he was in; how the Berserker,  1 who was called Asgaut, had challenged him to the “holmgang,” because he had refused to give him his sister, and he asked them to escort him to the field with a large number of men, so that the pirate might not seize on his property. He added that Asgaut had killed many of his people, and that he must give up his sister to him if they would not support him; “for,” said he, “I have no confidence in the result of the ‘holmgang,’ unless I have the benefit of the good luck which attends you.”
They did not like to refuse to go with him, and so they went into the upland with thirty men in their company; when they got to the place of meeting the question was put to all the people there, “Was there any man who desired to win a wife by fighting Asgaut?” but though the lady was attractive enough, there was no one ready to win her a that price. Then the brothers asked Eyiolf to bear Thorstein’s shield for him in the fight,  2 but he replied that he never defended any other man, and not even himself in that way. “I shall not like it,” said he, “if he is killed whilst he is under my care, and there could be no honour in that.” “But if this young fellow is slain on our hands now, what are we to do? Are we to go away again when that is done, or are we to get a second and third man to fight the Berserker? Our disgrace will only increase in proportion as more men are killed on our side, and we shall get little credit by our journey if we go back without avenging him who thus falls, as it were, on our behalf.” “Ask me, if you like, to fight the Berserker myself; that is a thing one may do for one’s friends, but what you now ask I will not grant.” They thanked him much, but the stake to be risked seemed very great in his case.
“Well,” observed Eyiolf, “my opinion is, that none of our people ought to go back to their homes again, if the man who falls is not avenged, and I think it worse to fight the Berserker after your kinsman is killed than it would be before.” So he stepped forward, and Ivar offered to hold the shield for him. Eyiolf answered– “It is well offered, but the matter concerns me most, and the old proverb is true, a man’s own hand is most to be trusted.” Then he went on to the holm, and the Berserker called out, “Is that fellow going to fight with me?” “Is it not true,” said Eyiolf, “that you are afraid to fight with me? It may be that you are not of the right sort when you fear a big man, and crow over a little one.” “That has never been laid to my charge,” replied the Berserker, “but I will explain to you the laws of the combat. If I am wounded I am to get off by paying five marks.” “Oh,” said Eyiolf, “I do not feel bound to keep any rules with you, when you set your own price on yourself, and that price is one which in our country would be paid for a thrall.” Eyiolf had to strike the first blow, and that first blow he struck in such a way that if fell on the point of the Berserker’s shield, and cut it off, and his foot along with it. He got great honour by this feat, and returned home with the brothers. A good deal of money was offered for his acceptance, but he said he had not done the deed for the sake of money, nor for the sake of the lady, but out of friendship for Hreidar and Ivar. Asgaut paid the fine to be released from the duel, and lived a maimed man.
After all this Eyiolf wooed Astrida, the daughter of Vigfuss, and the brothers went to press his suit for him. They said he was a man of great family, who held a good position in Iceland, and had many kinsmen to back him, and they thought it probable his career would be a distinguished one. Eyiolf himself then said, “It may be that Astrida’s friends think we are boasting in what we say, but many know the fact of my having in Iceland an honourable descent and a good property.” Vigfuss answered, “This will be her destiny, though we did not look lower for our kinswoman,” and so she was betrothed to him and they sailed out to Iceland together.


1 It is hardly necessary to explain that the Berserkers were men who were ready to fight anybody, and who worked themselves into a frenzy by drugs or other means, as a North American savage does by his war-dance. They appear in some cases to have made a profession of challenging every one, to whose land, or wife, or sister they took a fancy. A story very similar to this is told in the Egil’s Saga, and in the Eyrbyggia Saga Styrr, the son of Thorgrim, gets rid of two of these men by the most unscrupulous treachery. They were probably such a nuisance to society that anything was thought fair against them. The “Holmgang” was so called because the parties used often to fight in a “holm,” or small island. Compare the preface to Mr. Dasent’s Nial’s Saga, and Maurer, Enstehung des Isländ. Staats, ss. 596, 599. Se also the story which follows in chapter vi.

2 That is to say to act as his second. See the story of Hermund, quoted by Maruer, from the Saga of Gunnlaug Ormstunga Enstehung des Isländischen Staats, s. 202.

From: The Story/Saga of Viga Glum


ISBN: 978-1-907256-45-5




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