THE SAGA OF VIGA-GLUM – An Ancient Viking Saga – CHAPTER’s XXIII & XXIV

CHAPTER XXIII

 

WHILST they were fighting a man came up at full speed, wearing a hood of skins, with a sword in his hand. He came where Thorvald Tafalld had fallen before Eystein, and rushing at the latter, gave him a death-blow. Then he joined himself to Glum’s side, and Glum called out to him, “Good luck to you Thundarbenda! I made a good bargain when I bought you. You will pay me well to-day for the outlay.” Now Glum had a thrall who was called by that name, and that is why he spoke thus; but in reality it was Vigfuss, Glum’s son, though few or none except Glum himself knew him, for he had been three winters outlawed and living in concealment, so that most people thought he had gone abroad. It happened that whilst Glum was getting away he fell, and lay on the ground, and his two thralls lay over him, and were killed with spear-thrusts; but at that moment Márr with his men came up. Then Thorarin got off his horse, and he and Márr fought, without any other men meddling with them. Glum sprung up, and joined heartily in the fight, and there was then no advantage of number on either side. A servant of Thorarin’s, named Eirik, who had been about his work in the morning, came too his mater’s aid with a club in his hand, but without other arms of offence of defence; and Glum suffered much by him because his men were injured both in person and in their arms by that club which he bore. It is told too that Halldor, Glum’s wife, called on the women to go with her, saying, “We will bind up the wounds of those men who have any hope of life, whichever party they belong to.” When she came up Thorarin was just struck down by Márr, his shoulder was cut away in such fashion that the lungs were exposed. But Halldor bound up his wound, and kept watch over him till the fight was over.
Halli the fat was the first who came up to interfere, and may men were with him. The end of the combat was that five men of those from Espihole were killed, that is to say, Thorvald the crooked, Arngrim, Eysein, Eirik, and Eyvind the Norwegian. On Glum’s side there fell Thorvald Tafalld, Eyiolf son of Thorleif, Jöd, and the two thralls. Thorarin got home with his people; Glum also returned with his men, and had the dead carried into an outbuilding, where the utmost honour was done to the body of Thorvald, for garments were placed under it, and it was sewn up in a skin. When the men had returned, Glum said to Halldora, “Our expedition to-day would have been successful, if you had staid at home, and if Thorarin had not escaped with his life.” She replied, There is little of life in Thorarin, and if he lives you will not be able to remain in the district long; but if he dies you will not be able to remain in the country at all.” After this Glum said to Gudbrand, “You got much honour by your prowess to-day in killing Thorvald the crooked, and you did us good service.” Gudbrand replied that nothing of the sort had happened; he had only defended himself as well as he could. “Oh,” said Glum, “that is all very well. I saw clearly what took place; a mere child in age to kill such a champion as Thorvald! You will always be talked of for this deed. I got credit abroad in the same way for killing the Berserker.” “I never slew Thorvald,” answered Gudbrand. “It is no use trying to conceal it, my good friend, you gave him the wound which killed him. Do not shirk the good luck which has fallen to you.” Glum maintained his point with Gudbrand till the latter believed what he said, admitted that he had done it, and thought it an honour to himself, so that it could no longer be concealed, and the death was formally laid to his charge. This seemed to those who took up the suit for Thorvald’s slaughter to be less promising than had been expected: Thorvald was chosen as the man whose death was to be avenged.
People report a speech of Glum’s–“One thing I do not like, and that is that Márr should have his head tied up, though he has gat a bump on it.” What he called “a bump” was in fact a cut crosswise over his head. Márr’s answer was, “I should not need this so much if I had lain down and use a couple of thralls as a shield.” “Well, my lad,” said Glum, “our field Hrisateig (Bush acre) was hard to mow to-day.” Márr replied, “It will turn out a bad mowing for you in one way, for you have mowed the land at Thverà out of your own hands.” “I do not think you know that for a certainty,” rejoined Glum. “I may not know it, but it will turn out for you as if I did now it,” was Márr’s answer. Now, when Helga, Glum’s sister, heard the tidings, she came over to Thverà and asked how her son had borne himself. “There was no better man,” said Glum. “I should like to see him dead,” said she, “if that is all that is left for me.” they allowed her to do so, and she caused him to be lifted into the waggon, and tenderly handled, and when she got home she cleansed his wounds and bound them up, and dealt with him in such a way that he recovered his speech.
The law was then that if an equal number of men were killed on either side they were set off against each other, though there might be a difference in the men themselves; but if one party had the worst of it they had to select the man for whom atonement was to be demanded. If anything however, happened to turn up afterwards, by which it would have seemed better to have made a different choice, they could not change their selection. When Thorarin heard that Thorvald Tafalld was alive, he chose his own brother Thorvald the crooked, as the man to be atoned for. When, however, he found a little afterwards that the latter’s death was laid to the charge of Gudbrand, he would gladly have selected another man, but he had to abide by his first choice. Then they found Einar the son of Eyiolf, and Thorarin told him he should now take advantage of that agreement which they had formerly made with each other. Einar replied, “My mind is the same now that it was formerly when Bárd was killed.” he then took up the suit to carry it on at the Thing, in the summer, and he made the charge against Glum. Thorarin was laid up with his wounds the whole summer, and so was Thorvald Tafalld, but they both recovered. Glum had a great number of men with him at the Thing, and so in fact had both parties. An attempt was now made by persons of consideration connected with both sides to bring about a settlement of the case. The suit was compounded on these conditions, that is to say, that the death of Steinolf was to be considered as atoned for, if Vigfuss, Glum’s son, were proclaimed free from his penalty. Gudbrand, however, was convicted of the death of Thorvald, and Glum got him taken abroad. They returned home with affairs in this condition; but Thorvard and Thorarin were very much dissatisfied, and the latter thought he had obtained no honourable satisfaction for the death of his brother Thorvald. Glum remained at home much looked up to, and in the course of the winter there got abroad a stanza which he had lately composed:

 

She asks–the nymph that pours the wine–
the deeds of death that I have done.
They’re past and gone, those deeds of mine;
But no man yet has talked of one.1


Footnotes

1 There are four other lines in the original text, but they are so corrupt and obscure that I cannot venture to paraphrase them.


CHAPTER XXIV

 

ONE day, when men had got together at the warm bath of Hrafnagil, Thorvard came thither. He was a merry fellow, and amused himself in many ways. “What men,” he asked, “have you got here who can entertain us with some fresh stories?” “There is plenty of amusement and fun where you are,” they said. “Well,” he replied, “nothing amuses me more than reciting Glum’s verses; but I keep thinking over what can be the faulty reckoning he speaks of in one of his stanzas, when he says he did not get credit for all the people he had killed. What are we to suppose to be the real state of the case? Which is more likely, that Gudbrand killed Thorvald, or that Glum did it?” This view seemed to many men worth consideration, and Thorvard rode to meet Thorarin, and said to him, “I have been thinking the matter out, and I am convinced that the truth has not been known about the death of Thorvald the crooked. You will find in Glum’s verses, that he says he has not got credit for all the men he has killed.” Thorarin answered, “I can hardly take the case up again, though you should be right, and so things shall remain as they are.” Thorvard rejoined, “That is not a proper course, although if the matter had not been revived, all might have gone on quietly; no I shall talk of it publicly, and there will fall on you disgrace greater than any which has yet ensued in this affair.” “Well,” said Thorarin, “it seems to me an awkward matter to carry this cause to the Althing, in the face of the power of Glum and his kinsmen.” Thorvard replied,” I can give you a piece of advice on that point. Summon him to the Hegranes Thing: you have plenty of kinsmen there, and he will find it hard to defend the case.” “That we will do,” said Thorarin, an so they parted.
The spring was a bad one, and everything became difficult to procure. At that time Thorarin set on foot the suit as against Glum at Hegranes Thing, inasmuch as all the priests of the different division in the district who belonged to that Thing, were bound to Thorarin by the ties of kindred. It was scarcely possible to get across the moors with horses, on account of the snow. So Glum adopted the plan of putting a large vessel into the charge of his brother, Thorstein, who was to sail in her to the westward, and convey arms and provisions to the Thing. When, however, they came off Ulfsdal, the ship went to pieces, and all the men and property on board her were lost. Glum got to the Thing with a hundred and twenty men, but he could not encamp nearer to the place itself than in the outer circle, or “verge” of the court.  1 Einar, the son of Eyiolf, with the men of Espihole, was already there. Word was sent to Glum that he was to present himself to the court, and produce his plea in answer to the indictment. Glum went accordingly, but the men were drawn up on both sides in such a way that there was not more space than would allow of one man passing, and Glum was desired to go into the enclosure if he wanted to get to the court. He did not think this an advisable course, so he said to his men, “It is easy to see that they think they have got our affair in their own hands now. Well, it may be so, but I should like you to fall back and change your order. I will march first, then two men following me in a line, and then four in a line after them, and so on; and we will march right at them, keeping our spears before us, and this sort of wedge must make its way in if you follow close up. They did this, and pushed without interruption right into the ring which was cleared for the court, but it was night long before they could be got of the ground again, so as to allow the court to sit; so great was the crush and press. At last it was brought about that the court was reconstituted, and they were proceeding to sum up the case when Glum came forward on the bank were the court was held, and called his witnesses to the fact that the sun had risen again on the field of the Thing; then he protested solemnly against any judgment being given in the case before them. It followed from this protest that every suit before the court at once discontinued and fell to the ground. Men rode away, and the people of Espihole were very ill pleased with what had happened.  2

Thorarin declared that Glum had dealt vexatiously with them, but Einar replied, “The matter does not appear to me to be so very ugly, for the suit may be taken up again at the point where it left off.” Afterwards the men of Espihole rode to the Althing with Einar, and with many of their friends who had promised them their support against glum. Glum’s kinsmen gave him their help also in securing the benefit of the point of law, and the matter was settled by the advice of skilled men, on condition that Glum would take an oath in the case to the effect that he did not kill Thorvald the crooked. So when many men interceded, they compounded the matter on these terms–that Glum should swear he had not slain him; and the time was appointed when the oath should be taken, that is to say, in the autumn, five weeks before winter. They followed up the suit with such vigour that they were determined to bring it on again, if he did not take the necessary oath in three temples on the Eyjafirth, and if it were not done at the prescribed time the right to clear himself by the oath was to be forfeited. There was much talk about this business, and what Gum’s oaths would be, and how he would get on with them.


Footnotes

1 I believe that the word in the original “Fiörbaugsgardr’ occurs only twice in the sense of the verge or ring round the ground on which the Thing met. Mr. Dasent speaks of it as “an enclosed space near a court, a ‘verge’, or ‘liberty,’ within which the Fiörbaugsmadr (that is one liable to the lesser outlawry) was safe.” See preface to the Nial’s Saga, p. clxii.

2 The reason for this seems to be that the defendant was summoned to answer on a certain day, and when the sun rose again before he was formally called on, that day was over, and the whole proceedings were avoided.


 

 ———————

 

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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