THE SAGA OF VIGA-GLUM – An Ancient Viking Saga – CHAPTER’s VII & VIII

CHAPTER VII

GLUM sailed out to Iceland, and went home to Thverá, where he straightway found his mother. She received him gladly, and told him the unfairness of Sigmund and his father towards her. She bade him however have patience, for that she was not able to cope with them. Then he rode to the homestead, and saw that the fence ran in such a way as to encroach on his property, and he sung these verses:–

 

Yes! closer than I thought, fair dame,
This hedge so green hath hemm’d us in;
Our peace at home is spoilt, and shame
Must cling to us and all our kin.

I sing it now, but in the fray
I soon shall have to draw my sword.
Too surely, whilst I’ve been away,
My land hath found a wrongful lord.

 

What had occurred whilst he was absent, was that Sigmund had worried Astrida, and evidently wanted to drive her off her land. In the autumn, before Glum returned, Sigmund and Thorkel had lost two heifers, and supposed they had been stolen. Their suspicions fell on the serfs of Astrida, who, they said, had no doubt killed and eaten them off hand, and they caused these serfs to be summoned in the spring for the theft. Now these were the best men Astrida had, and she thought she could hardly mange her farm if they went away. So she went to her son Thorstein, and told him what wrong Sigmund and his father were doing her, and asked him to answer for her serfs. “I would rather atone for them in money,” she said, “than that they should be found guilty on a false charge, and I should think it your business now to stand before us, and to show yourself worthy of a good name.” Thorstein seemed to think that the prosecutors would so follow up the matter as to bring the full force of their family interest to bear on it. “And if,” said he, “these serfs are essential to your household, we had better take such a share of the fine as will make it possible to get the money to pay it.” “Yes,” she answered, “but I hear that the only atonement they will take is one which is intended to ruin us. However, as I see there is a little help to be got where you are, the matter must rest in their hands.”
One of the best things about the estate at Thverá was a certain field known by the name of “the Suregiver,” which was never without a crop. It had been so arranged in the partition of the land that either party should have this field year and year about. Then Astrida said to Thorkel and Sigmund, “It is clear thay you wish to push me hard, and you see that I have no one to manage for me, but rather than give up my serfs I will leave the affair to be settled on your own terms.” They replied that was very prudent on her part, and after consulting together they decided that they must either declare the men guilty, or award what damages they thought proper. But Thorstein did not stir in the case, so as to take the award out of their hands, and they assigned to the field to themselves, as sole owners, with the intention of getting hold of all her land, by thus depriving her of the main prop of her housekeeping. And that very summer which was coming on, she ought, if she had her rights, to have had the field.
Now, in the summer, when men were gone to the Thing, and when this suit had been thus settled, the herdsmen going round the pastures found the two heifers in a landslip, where the snow had drifted over them early in the winter, and thus the calumny against Astrida’s serfs was exposed. When Thorkel and Sigmund heard that the heifers had been found, they offered money to pay for the field, but they refused to renounce the conveyance which had been made of it to them. Astrida however answered that it would not be too great a compensation for the false charge which had been go up, if she were allowed to have what was her own. “So,” said she, “I will either have what belongs to me, or I will submit to the loss; and though there is no one here to set the matter straight, I will wait, and I expect that Glum will come out and put it in the right way.” Sigmund replied, “It will be a long time before he ploughs for that harvest. Why, there is that son of yours, who is a much fitter man to help you, sitting by and doing nothing.” “Pride and wrong,” said she, “often end badly, and this may happen in your case.”
It was somewhat late in the summer when Glum came out; he stayed a little while with the ship, and then went home with his goods. His temper and character were the same as they had been. He gave little sign of what he thought, and seemed as if he did not hear what had happened whilst he was away. He slept every day till nine o’clock, and took no thought about the management of the farm. If they had had their right, the field would, as had been said, have been that summer in the hands of Glum and his mother. Sigmund’s cattle moreover did them much injury, and were to be found every morning in their home-field.
One morning Astrida waked Glum up, and told him that many of Sigmund’s cattle had got into their home-field, and wanted to break in among the hay which was laid in heaps, “and I am not active enough to drive them out, and the men are all at work.” He answered, “Well, you have not often asked me to work, and there shall be no offence in your doing so now.” So he jumped up, took his horse, and a large stick in his hand, drove the cattle briskly off the farm, thrashing them well till they came to the homestead of Thorkel and Sigmund, and then he let them do what mischief they please. Thorkel was looking after the hay and the fences that morning, and Sigmund was with the labourers. The former called out to Glum, “You may be sure people will not stand this at your hands–that you should damage their beasts in this way, though you may have got some credit while you were abroad.” Glum answered, “The beasts are not injured yet, but if they come again and trespass upon us some of them will be lamed, and you will have to make the best of it; it is all you will get; we are not going to suffer damage by your cattle any longer.” Sigmund cried, out, “You talk big, Glum, but in our eyes you are now just as great a simpleton as when you went away, and we shall not regulate our affairs according to your nonsense.” Glum went home, and then a fit of laughter came upon him, and affected him in such a manner that he turned quite pale, and tears burst from his eyes, just like large hailstones. He was often afterwards taken in this way when the appetite for killing someone came upon him.

CHAPTER VIII

WE are told that as the autumn went on Astrida came and spoke to Glum another morning, and, waking him up, asked him to give directions about the work, for the haymaking, she said, would be finished this day if all was ordered as it ought to be. Sigmund and Thorkel had already finished their hay, and they had gone early in the morning to the field “Sure-giver;’ “and they are no doubt very well pleased in having that field, which we should have, if all were as it should be.” Then Glum got up, but he was not ready before nine o’clock. He took his blue cloak, and his spear with gold about it in his hand, and got his horse saddled. But Astrida said to him, “You take a good deal of pains about your dress, my son, for haymaking.” His answer was, “I do not often go out to labour, but I shall do a good stroke of work, and I will be well dressed for it. However, I am not able to give directions for the farm-work, and I shall ride up to Hole and accept the invitation of my brother Thorstein.” So he crossed over to the south side of the river, and as he came to the field he took the brooch out of his cloak. Vigdis and her husband Sigmund were in the field, and when she saw Glum she came towards him and greeted him, saying, “We are sorry that our intercourse as relations is so little, and we wish in everything to do our part to increase it.” Glum told her, “I have turned in here because the brooch is gone from my cloak, and I want you to put a stitch in it for me.” She said she would do it with pleasure, and did it accordingly. Glum looked over the field and remarked, “Sure-giver has not yet lost his character.” Then he put on his cloak again, took his spear in his hand, and turned sharp on Sigmund, with it uplifted. Sigmund sprang up to meet him, but Glum struck him on the head so that he needed no second blow.1 Then he went up to Vigdis, and told her to go home, “and tell Thorkel, on Glum’s part, nothing is yet done which will necessarily hinder our being on the footing of kinsmen, but that Sigmund is unable to leave the field.” Glum rode on to Hole, and said nothing to his brother of what had happened; but when Thorstein saw how he was equipped, and how he had his cloak and spear, and perceived the blood in the ornaments of the weapon,2 he asked him if he had used it within a short time. “Oh,” cried Glum, “it is quite true; I forgot to mention it, I killed Sigmund, Thorkel’s son, with it to-day.” “That will be some news,” replied Thorstein, “for Thorkel and his kinsmen at Espihole.” “Yes,” said glum; “however, as the old saying is, ‘The nights of blood are the nights of most impatience.’ No doubt they will think less of it as time goes on.” He staid three nights at his brother’s house, and then got ready to return home. Thorstein was preparing to ride with him, but Glum told him, “Look after your won household–I shall ride the straight path home to Thverá; they will not be so very keen in this business.” So he went home to Thverá.
Thorkel went to see Thorarin, and asked him for counsel as to the course to be taken. His answer was, “It may now be that Astrida will say, Glum has not got on his legs for nothing.” “Yes,” said Thorkel, “but I trow that he has got on that leg which will not bear him long.” Thorarin replied, “That is as it may be. You have long dealt unfairly with them, and tried to turn them out, without considering what was to be expected from the descendants of one such as Eyiolf, a man of great family and withal himself of great courage. We are closely connected with Glum by kindred, and with you by marriage, and the suit seems a difficult one, if Glum follows it up, as I think he will.” Thorkel then returned home, and the whole matter was kept quiet through the winter; but Glum had somewhat more men about him than he usually had.

 


Footnotes

1 Glum’s spear was probably a sort of halberd, with which he could either cut or thrust; such as is called “höggspiót,” in Chapter xxii.

2 The words of the text are that he saw the blood “I málunum,” which may mean in “the marks–letters–or ornaments of the weapon.” Runes or letters were sometimes engraved on the blade of a sword or spear. In the Edda, the sword which Sigurd lays on the bridal bed between himself and Brynhilda is called “mæki málfáinn,” which is interpreted “ornamented” (Sigurdarkvida iii. stanz 4), and again a similar epithet is applied to the sword which Skirnir shows to Gerda (Skirnismál, stanza 23). In both cases it may mean “bearing runes or letters chased on the blade.”


From: The Story/Saga of Viga Glum

TRANSLATED FROM THE ICELANDIC, WITH NOTES AND AN INTRODUCTION, BY THE RIGHT HONOURABLE SIR EDMUND HEAD, BART., K.C.B

ISBN: 978-1-907256-45-5

URL: http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_vg.html

 

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