THE SAGA OF VIGA-GLUM – An Ancient Viking Saga – CHAPTER’s V & VI

Chapter V

THERE was a man named Bödvar; he was the son of Vikingakari, and the brother of Sigurd the father of Vigfuss, whose daughter was Astrida, the mother of Erik father of another Astrida, the mother of Olaf, the son of Tryggvi. Vikingakari was the son of Eymund the pirate,1 the son of Thorir. Bödvar was the father of Oluf the mother of Gizor the white. When Eyiolf and his wife Astrida got out to Iceland, Ingiald was dead, and Eyiolf succeeded to his property and his office as priest. Ingiald had a daughter named Ulfeida, who was married to Narvi of Hrisey. Four children of Eyiolf and Astrida are mentioned, of whom Thorstein was the eldest, but his share of the inheritance was paid him when he married, and he dwelt on Eyjafirth as long as he lived, and has little to do with our story. The second was Vigfuss, who married Halfrida, the daughter of Thorkel the tall from Myvain. Glum was the youngest of their sons, and the daughter was named Helga. She was wedded to Steingrim of Sigluvik, and their son was Thorvald Tafalld, who comes up afterwards in this story. Vigfuss, however, died very soon after his marriage, leaving one child, who survived him a short time only, and thus it came to pass that all his property vested half in Halfrida and half in Glum and Astrida, for Eyiolf was dead before this happened. Then Thorkel the tall moved his establishment to Thverà, and Sigmund his son with him. The latter was a man of much importance, an looked forward to becoming chief of the district, if he made a good match, and got the support of good kinsmen.
Thorir was the name of a man who lived at Espihole, the son of Hamund of the dark-skin, and of Ingunna, the daughter of Helgi the thin. He had married Thordis, the daughter of Kadal, and their children were Thorarin and Thorvald the crooked, who lived at Grund on the Eyjafirth, Thorgrim, who lived at Mödrufell, Ingunna, the wife of Thord the priest of Frey, and Vigdis, who married Sigmund.
Now Thorkel and Sigmund took to disturbing the property of Astrida 2 and they divided the land in half, but Glum and his mother got that part which had no house on it. So they made their dwelling at Borgarhole, but Glum took very little trouble about household matters, and seemed to be somewhat slow in coming to his full faculties. He was for the most part silent and undemonstrative, tall, of a dark complexion,3 with straight white hair; a powerful man, who seemed rather awkward and shy, and never went to the places where men met together.
The temple of Frey was on the south of the river at Hripkelstad. Thorarin, of Espihole, was a prudent and popular man, but his brother Thorvald the crooked was a bully and hard to deal with. Sigmund thought he should be a great man if he could ally himself to the people at Espihole. In the meantime the property of Glum and Astrida was getting less every day, and their condition became uncomfortable, for Sigmund and Thorkel thwarted them, so that in everything they got less than their share. Then Glum says to his mother that he will go abroad, “for I see clearly I shall never get on here, but it may be I shall meet with more luck by means of the reputation of my kindred: I do not like to bear the encroachments of Sigmund, for whom as yet I am no match. However, do not you let go your hold on the land, through your position may be a difficult one.” Glum at that time, when he desired to go abroad, was fifteen years of age.


1 The second name of Eymund, which I have translated “Pirate,” may mean “the spoiler of ships,” or the “spoiler of acres,” according s it is written “Askaspillir,” or Akraspillir.” Myvatn, mentiond shortly afterwards, signifies “midge-water,” or “gnat water.”

2 Thorkel and his son claimed, of course, as representing the interest of Halfrida, the widow of Vigfuss, Glum’s brother. The other half of Vigfuss’s property, after the death of himself and his child, returned to his mother and brother.

3 The Icelandic word is “Skolbrunn,” and its meaning is uncertain. If, as has been supposed, it had to do with the brow, it would probably be written “Skolbrynn.” The senses given in the text is that suggested by my friend Mr. Vigfusson, the editor of the Eyrbyggia Saga (Leipzig, 1864.)


NOW we have to tell of Glum’s voyage. As soon as he landed in Norway he went up to Vigfuss’s house; and when he came thither he saw a great crowd of people, and all sorts of amusements and games going on. He understood at once that everything there must be on a great scale, but he saw many men of mark, and did not know which was his kinsman Vigfuss. He made him out by observing a tall and distinguished-looking man, in a full blue cloak, on the high seat, playing with a gold-mounted spear. Then Glum went up to him and greeted him, and his greeting was received courteously. Vigfuss asked who he was; he replied that he was an Icelander from Eyjafirth. Vigfuss inquired after his son-in-law, and his daughter Astrida. Glum told him that the former was dead, but that the latter was still living. Then he asked what children of theirs were alive, and Glum gave an account of his brothers and his sister, and added that he who now stood before him was one of the sons, but when he had said that, the conversation went no further. Glum asked Vigfuss to assign him a seat, but he said he did not know how much of what had been told him was true, told him to take a seat on the outside of the lower bench, and took little notice of him. Glum spoke little, and was unsociable in his habits, and when men were drinking or amusing themselves in other ways, he used to lie with his cloak wrapt round his head, so that he seemed a sort of fool. At the commencement of winter there was a feast prepared, and a sacrifice to the gods, in which observance all were expected to take part, but Glum sat in his place and did not attend it. As evening passed on, and the guests had arrived, there was not so much merriment, on account of the meeting of friends and the welcoming one another, as might have been expected when so many had come together. On the day on which the people came, Glum had not stirred out to meet them, nor did he ask anyone to sit by him ort to take his place.
After they were set down to table, it was said that the man called “Biörn with the Iron Skull,” and eleven others with him, were come into the homestead. He was a great Berserker, who used to go about to feasts where many people were assembled, and picked a quarrel with anyone who chose to say anything which he could take hold of; the he challenged them to the “holmgang:” and Vigfuss therefore desired that everyone should take care what he said. “For,” said he, “it is less disgrace to do that than to get something worse at his hands.” This all men promised to observe, and Biörn walked into the hall and looked for compliments, and asked the last man on the upper bench whether he thought himself as good a man as he (Biörn) was?” to which the reply was “Very far from it.” Then he asked the same question of one man after the other, until he got up in front of the high seat. People used different words in answering him, but the end of it was that no one professed to be his match. When he came up to Vigfuss he asked him if he knew where to find such champions as he (Biörn) was? Vigfuss said he did not know any men equal to him. “Well,” said Biörn, “that is a proper and discreet answer, as might have been expected from you, for you are an honourable man, and your life has been according to your wishes, without any check to your prosperity or any stain on your reputation. It is well therefore that I need address nothing but fair words to you, but I wish to ask you one question–Do you think yourself as good a man as I am?” Vigfuss replied, “When I was young, out sea-roving and getting some honour of my own–well, I do not know whether I might then have been your match, but now I am not half as good, for I am old and decrepid.” Biörn turned away and proceeded further out along the second bench, and went on asking men whether they were his equals, but they all answered that they were not so. At last he came to the place where Glum lay stretched out on the bench. “Why does this fellow lie there,” said Biörn, “and not sit up?” Glum’s comrades answered for him and spoke on his behalf, and said that he was so dull that it mattered little what he said. Biörn gave him a kick, told him to sit up like other people, and asked him if he was as brave a man as he? Glum replied that Biörn had no need to meddle with him, and that he (Glum) knew nothing about his courage; “but there is one reason,” he added, “why I should not like to be put on the same footing with you, and that is because out there, in Iceland, a man would be called a fool who conducted himself as you do, but here I see everybody regulates his speech in the most perfect manner.” Then he jumps up, pulls Biörn’s helmet off, catches up a stick of firewood, and brings it down between his shoulders, so that the great champion bends beneath the stroke. Glum gives him one blow after another till he is down, and then, as he tries to get on his feet, he smites him on the head, and so he goes on till he gets him outside the door. When Glum wanted to return to his seat, Vigfuss had come down from the dais to the floor of the hall and greeted his kinsman, telling him that he had now shown what he was, and proved that he belonged to the race. “Now I shall honour you as befits us,” said Vigfuss; and he added that he acted as he had done at first, because Glum seemed slow and stupid. “I chose to wait till you on your way into our family by some act of manhood.” Then he led him up to a seat next himself, and Glum told him he would have accepted that place before, if it had been offered to him. The next day they heard of Biörn’s death, and Vigfuss offered Glum to succeed to himself in his position and dignity. The latter said he would accept the offer, but he must first go to Iceland in order to see that his inheritance there did not fall into the hands of those whom he did not choose should enjoy it, but that he would return as soon as possible. Vigfuss expressed his conviction that Glum would do credit to his race and increase his reputation in Iceland. So when summer came he got a ship ready for Glum, and put a cargo on board, with much store of gold and silver, and said to him, “I feel sure we shall not see one another again; but certain special gifts I will give you, that is to say, a cloak, a spear, and a sword, which we in this family have put great trust in. Whilst you retain these articles, I expect that you will never lose your honour; but if you part with them, then I have my fears:” and so they separated.



From: The Story/Saga of Viga Glum


ISBN: 978-1-907256-45-5



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