THE SAGA OF VIGA-GLUM – An Ancient Viking Saga – CHAPTER’s XXV & XXVI

CHAPTER XXV

 

NOW men returned from the Thing, and Glum staid at home all the summer: everything was quiet in the district till it came to the time of the “Leet,”1 when they assembled at that court. Glum, however, was not there, and nothing was heard of him. Márr was at home in his dwelling; but in the autumn, five weeks before winter, he held a wedding-feast, and invited men to it, so that not less than a hundred and twenty people came together. This invitation appeared strange to everybody, for those who were concerned in the wedding were not persons of any consequence. That evening all the men of Eyjafirth were seen riding in from the dales two or five at a time, and the people who came down into the district were all collected in one body. Glum was there, and Asgrim, and Gizor, with three hundred and sixty men, and they came in the course of the night to the homestead, and sat at the wedding-feast.
The morning after Glum sent to find Thorarin, and told him to come to Diupadal, not later than six in the morning, to hear the oaths. Thorarin bestirred himself and got together a hundred and twenty men, and when they came to the temple, six people went into it, that is to say, Gizor and Asgrim with Glum, and Einar and Hlenni the old with Thorarin. Whoever had to take the “temple oath” laid hold with his hand of the silver ring, which was stained red with the blood of the cattle sacrificed, and which ought not to weigh less than three ounces. Then Glum said word for word thus: “I name Asgrim to bear witness, and Gizor in the second place to bear witness, that I take the ‘temple oath,’ on the ring, and I say it to the God.2 When Thorvald the crooked got his death-blow–Vark at þar–ok vák ek þar–ok raudk at þ odd ok egg. Now let those men who are skilled in such matters, and who stand by, look to my oath.”3 Thorarin and his friends were not prepared to find any fault, but they said they had never heard the form of words used before. In the same manner the oaths were taken by Glum at Gnupafell and at Thverà. Gizor and Asgrim stayed some nights at Thverà, and when they went away Glum gave Gizor the blue cloak, and he gave Asgrim the gold-mounted spear (which Vigfuss had given him).4 In the course of the winter Thorvard met Thorarin, and asked him, “Did Glum take the oath properly?” “We found nothing to take hold of,” said Thorarin. “It is a wonderful thing,” replied Thorvard, “that wise people should make such mistakes. I have known men who have declared themselves to have slain others, but I have never known a case of a man swearing explicitly that he was guilty, as Glum did. How could he say more than he did when he declared that he was there at the doing of the deed, that he took part in the death, and that he reddened point and edge, when Thorvald the crooked fell at Hrisateig?–though I admit that he did not pronounce the words as they are commonly pronounced. That scandal will never be done away with.” Thorarin replied, “I did not observe this, but I am tired of having to do with Glum.” “Well,” said Thorvard, “if you are tired because your health is not equal to it, let Einar take the matter up. He is a prudent man, with a great kindred, and many will follow him. His brother Gudmund will not be neutral, and he himself is most anxious for one thing-to get to Thverà.” Then they met Einar and consulted with him, and Thorarin said, “If you will take the lead in the suit many men will back you in it, and we will bring it about that you shall have Glum’s land, at a price not exceeding that which he paid to Thorkel the tall.” Einar observed, “Glum has now parted with those two things, his cloak and his spear, which his mother’s father, Vigfuss, gave him, and bad him keep, if he wished to hold his position, telling him that he would fall away in dignity from the time that he let them out of his hands. Now will I take up the suit and follow it out.”


Footnotes

1 The Haust-thing, or autumn assembly, was the same as the Leid or Leet, and was held not earlier than fourteen days after the Althing, for the purpose of making known in each district what had been done at the general assembly. It had, like every other Thing, to be helgad, “consecrated,” or opened by the Godi. See Maurer, ss. 171-174; Dasent, Preface, p. lxvi.

 

2 The god probably means Thor. See Maurer, § 157.

 

3 It is impossible to represent this oath of Glum’s in English, or any other language, so as to make the point of the story clear; but it may thus be explained–There is in the Icelandic language, or rather there was, and enelitic negative at (sometimes abbreviated to a or t), which is attached to the verb. It occurs only in the ancient tongue, and there only in poetry and legal formulæ. Thus var ek or vark means simply “I was,” ek being the pronoun of the first person; but vark-at means “I was not.” So vák (or vá ek) means “I slew;” but vák-at means “I slwe not.” But at is also a preposition corresponding to our preposition “at,” and vark at, pronounced as two separate words (with the accent on at) would mean “I was at it.” the reader will thus see that the deceit practised by Glum consisted in so pronouncing the verb and the particle at, that his enemies took it for the negative and not for the preposition. The sense depended entirely on the question whether it was or was not an enclitic. Glum’s adversaries understood him to say, “I was not there; I slew him not there; I reddened not edge nor point on him there;” whereas his own construction of what he swore to was precisely the opposite and in fact expressly asserted his guilt. The whole of this story is most curious as illustrative of the manner and character of the people, and also in a philological point of view. The reader who wishes to know more of the extinct negative suffix may consult Grimm’s Grammar, b. iii. s. 715. Grimm is mistaken in saying that this form occurs only in the old poetry, as is sufficiently shown by this very Saga; but it is confined to the poetry and the laws. I may add that Grimm’s attempt, at p. 718, to explain the origin of this negative appears to me unsuccessful. I shall have occasion to remark hereafter that this oath of Glum’s was not in itself part of a judicial proceeding, but was imposed upon him as a special condition of an exceptional character, when his adversaries agreed to compound their suit.

 

4 See chapter vi. The parting with these gifts is the turning-point in Glum’s story. Henceforth his luck is departed.


 

CHAPTER XXVI

 

EINAR now set the suit on foot afresh for the Althing, and both sides collected their people together, but before Glum left home he dreamt that many persons came to Thverà to visit the god Frey, and he thought he saw a great crowd on the sand-banks by the river, with Frey sitting on a chair. He dreamt that he asked who they were who had come thither, and they said, “We are thy departed kindred, and we are now begging Frey that thou may’st not be driven out of Thverà, but it is no use, for he answers shortly and angrily, and calls to mind now the gift of the ox by Thorkel the tall.” At that point Glum woke up, and ever afterwards he professed that he was on worse terms with Frey.
Men rode to the Thing, and the suit was brought to a close in such a way that Glum admitted the killing of Thorvald; but his kinsmen and friends exerted themselves to secure the acceptance of a settlement rather than the imposition of outlawry or banishment. So they compounded the matter at the Thing, on the condition that Glum was to forfeit the land at Thverà, half absolutely as an atonement to Ketell, the son of Thorvald the crooked, and to convey the other half at a valuation; but he was allowed to live there till the spring, and was then to be outlawed in the district, and not to live nearer than in Hörgardal. So they left the Thing. Einar afterwards bought the land, as had been promised to him. In the spring his men came thither to work on the farm, and Einar told them that they should give an account to him of every word which Glum spoke. One day he came and talked with them on this wise, “It is easy to see that Einar has got good workmen about him; the work is well done on the land, and it is now of consequence that great and little matters should both be attended to. You would do well to put up posts here by the water side for drying clothes; it is convenient for the women washing the larger articles; the wells at home are indifferent.”
When they got home Einar asked what Glum had said to them. They told him how careful he was with reference to all the work done. “Did it appear to you,” said he, “that he was desirous of getting everything ready for my hands?” “Yes,” they replied, “so we think.” “Well,” replied Einar, “I think differently. I think he meant very likely to hang you on these posts, or stick on them some insult to me. You must not go there, however.”
Einar transferred his household to Thverà in the spring, but Glum remained where he was till the last day for moving,1 and when people were all ready to start he sat down on the high seat and did not move, although he was summoned to do so. He had the hall decorated with hangings, and refused to turn out like mere “cottage tenants.” Hallbera, the daughter of Thorodd, the son of Hialm, was the mother of Gudmund and Einar, and lived at Hanakamb. She came to Thverà, and saluted Glum, saying, “Good morning to you, Glum, but you cannot stay here any longer. I have marked out the land of Thverà with fire, and I eject you and all yours formally from it, as made over to my son Einar.”2 Then Glum rose up and told her she might chatter away like a miserable old woman as she was; but as he rode away he looked over his shoulder towards the homestead and sung a stanza—

 

With sword and spear, as fame hath told,
Like many a gallant earl of old,
I won these lands by might and main.
But now the wielder of the brand
Has dash’d at last from out his hand,
Broad lands and lordships lost again.

 

Glum lived at Mödrufell, in Hörgardal, with Thorgrim Fiuk, but he was not content to remain there more than one winter. Then he dwelt two winters in Myrkárdal, but a landslip fell near the homestead and destroyed some of the buildings. After that he bought land at Thverbrek, in Öxnadal, and dwelt there as long as he lived, and became aged and blind.3

 


Footnotes

1 The last of the “flitting days”–Fardagar. They began on the Thursday after the expiration of six weeks of summer, which was reckoned to begin on the Thursday between the 9th and 15th of April. They fell therefore about the beginning of June. See the Glossary to the Grágás, and Dasent’s Preface, p. liv.

 

2 Maurer (s. 58) gives a translation of this curious passage, and remarks that it shows the hallowing of the land by fire as applicable not only to its first occupation, but also to a change of possession.

 

3 Some verses of Glum’s occur here, but the text is so doubtful that I cannot venture a translation of them.


 ———————

 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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