NOW Thorgrim’s ale of heirship is brewed and drunk, and Bork gives good gifts to many of his friends. The next thing we have to say is, that Bork bargains with Thorgrim Bottlenose that he should work spells and charms, by which no man should be able to house or harbour him that had slain Thorgrim, however great their will might be, and that the slayer should have no rest on land. An ox nine winters old was given him for this; and now Thorgrim sets about his spells over his cauldron, and makes him a high-place, and fulfils his work with all witchcraft and wickedness. After that, the guests broke up, and each man went to his own abode.
And now, too, a thing happened which seemed strange and new. No snow lodged on the south side of Thorgrim’s howe, nor did it freeze there. And men guessed it was because Thorgrim had been so dear to Frey for his worship’s sake that the god would not suffer the frost to come between them.
Now Bork sets up his abode with Thordisa, and takes his brother’s widow to wife, with his brother’s goods; that was the rule in those days–wives were heritage like other things. But Thordisa was not single when this happened, and after a while she bears a son to Thorgrim, and he is sprinkled with water, and at first called Thorgrim, after his father; but as he grew up he was thought snappish and unyielding in temper, and so his name was changed to suit his mood, and he was called Snerrir the Snarler, and afterwards Snorro.
So Bork abode there that half-year, and the sports they had spoken of were set afoot. There was a woman named Audbjorga who dwelt at the top of the Dale at Anmarkstead. She was sister to Thorgrim Bottlenose. Her husband had been that Thorkel of whom we have spoken. Her son’s name was Thorstein, and he was about the strongest man in all the west country, save Gisli. They are partners in the game at ball, Gisli and Thorstein and against them were matched Bork and Thorkel. One day a host of men came to see the game, for many were eager to behold the sport, and all wanted to know who was the strongest man and the best player. But here, as elsewhere, it happened that the players played with greater spirit when there were many lookers-on. It is said that Bork could not stand against Thorstein that day, and at last Bork got wroth, and broke asunder Thorstein’s bat; but Thorstein gave him a fall, and sent him spinning along the slippery ice. But when Gisli sees that he says:
“Thorstein shall go on playing with Bork with all his might. I will change bats with thee.”
So they changed bats, and Gisli sate him down and tries to put the broken bat to rights, and then he looks at Thorgrim’s howe. There was snow on the ground, but on the south side of the howe there was no snow; and there, up on the steep brink sat Thordisa and many other women, who thought it fun to look on the game.
Then Gisli–woe worth the day!–chaunted this song:
“O’er him who Thor’s grim vizard wore
Melt, wreath by wreath, snow-hangings hoar.
Few have the wit to understand
The riddle of this mound of land.
I harmed him? No! I harmed him not;
A mansion bright is here his lot;
The priest unto his god I gave,
And Frey now warms his servant’s grave.”
Thordisa heard these verses, and learned them by heart. She goes home, and understood their meaning at once.
Now they leave off playing, and Thorstein sets out to go home. There was a man named Thorgeir, called Thorgeir the Gorcock. He lived at Gorcockstead. There was another man named Berg; his nickname was Shortshanks. He lived at Shortshanks-mire, west of the river. Now as men fare home they talk about the games; and Thorstein and Berg from talking fell to quarrelling. Berg takes Bork’s side, but Thorstein stands up for himself. At last Berg smote Thorstein with the back of his axe; but Thorgeir threw himself between them, so that Thorstein could not avenge himself. So he goes home to his mother Audbjorga, who binds up his wound, for the skin was broken, and she is ill-pleased at his plight.
All that night the carline could not sleep, so much did she take it to heart. The weather was cold, but still and bright.
But she goes once or twice round the house widdershins, 1 and snuffs to all airts, and draws in the air. And as she did this the weather began to change, and there was a driving sleet, and after that a thaw; and a flood poured down the hillside; and a snowslip fell on the farm of Berg, and there twelve souls lost their lives, and the tokens of the landslip are still to be seen.
Now Thorstein goes to Gisli, and he sheltered him, and sent him south to Borgarfirth, and so abroad. But as soon as Bork heard of this black deed, he went straight to Anmarkstead, and made them seize Audbjorga, and takes her out to Saltness, and stones her with stones till she dies. And when this is noised abroad, Gisli goes from home to Nebstead, and seizes Thorgrim Bottlenose, and brings him to Saltness, and there a goatskin is drawn over his head, that his evil eye may be harmless, and he too is stoned to death, and buried by his sister’s side, on the ridge between Hawkdale and Tweendale. And now all is quiet, and the spring draws on.
Now Bork makes up his mind to set off south to Thorsness, and thinks to change his abode thither, and thinks he has made rather a sorry figure there away west: lost such a man as Thorgrim was, and got no amends for it. Still he makes ready to go, and means first to set his house to rights, and then to make another journey to fetch his wife and goods. Thorkel too, the Soursop, makes up his mind to go with his brother-in-law Bork.
So men say that Thordisa, Gisli’s sister, went with Bork a bit of the way, and as they went Bork said:
“I wish now thou wouldest tell me why thou wast all at once so sad last autumn when we broke up the games. Thou knowest thou saidst thou wouldst tell me ere I went away.”
They had just then come to Thorgrim’s howe as he uttered these words.
Then she stamps her foot on the ground, and says it was no use to fare farther. And now she tells him of the verses that Gisli had chaunted as he mended the bat and looked at Thorgrim’s howe; and recites the verses.
“I ween,” she said, “thou hast no need to look anywhere else for Thorgrim’s manslayer, and thou mayst sue him for it with a safe heart, for he took the slaying on himself in those verses.”
Then Bork grew awfully angry, and said:
“I will now turn back at once and slay Gisli. The best way is to waste no more time.”
But Thorkel says he will not agree to that. “I am not quite sure whether this be true or not. Bear in mind the saw that says ‘Women’s counsel is always unlucky.’ For even though this should be as bad as she has said, surely, Bork, it is better to follow the law of the land in this matter and make the man an outlaw; for thou hast the cause so made to thy hand that Gisli must be found guilty, even though he had some excuse. So that we shall be able to manage this suit as we choose if we take the right steps, and that is far better than spoiling everything by rushing on so madly against all reason.”
The end was, that he had his way.
1 “Widdershins”–i.e. against the sun.
From: The Story/Saga of Gisli the Outlaw
Translated From The Icelandic Sir George Webbe Dasent D.C.L. With Illustrations By C. E. St. John-Mildmay