Now at this time there dwelt at Gilsbank, up in White-water-side, Illugi the Black, son of Hallkel, the son of Hrosskel. The mother of Illugi was Thurid Dandle, daughter of Gunnlaug Worm-tongue.


Illugi was the next greatest chief in Burg-firth after Thorstein Egilson. He was a man of broad lands and hardy of mood, and wont to do well to his friends; he had to wife Ingibiorg, the daughter of Asbiorn Hordson, from Ornolfsdale; the mother of Ingibiorg was Thorgerd, the daughter of Midfirth-Skeggi. The children of Illugi and Ingibiorg were many, but few of them have to do with this story. Hermund was one of their sons, and Gunnlaug another; both were hopeful men, and at this time of ripe growth.


It is told of Gunnlaug that he was quick of growth in his early youth, big, and strong; his hair was light red, and very goodly of fashion; he was dark-eyed, somewhat ugly-nosed, yet of lovesome countenance; thin of flank he was, and broad of shoulder, and the best-wrought of men; his whole mind was very masterful; eager was he from his youth up, and in all wise unsparing and hardy; he was a great skald, but somewhat bitter in his rhyming, and therefore was he called Gunnlaug Worm-tongue.


Hermund was the best beloved of the two brothers, and had the mien of a great man.

When Gunnlaug was fifteen winters old he prayed his father for goods to fare abroad withal, and said he had will to travel and see the manners of other folk. Master Illugi was slow to take the matter up, and said he was unlike to be deemed good in the out-lands “when I can scarcely shape thee to my own liking at home.”


On a morning but a very little afterwards it happened that Illugi came out early, and saw that his storehouse was opened, and that some sacks of wares, six of them, had been brought out into the road, and therewithal too some pack-gear. Now, as he wondered at this, there came up a man leading four horses, and who should it be but his son Gunnlaug. Then said he:—

“I it was who brought out the sacks.”


Illugi asked him why he had done so. He said that they should make his faring goods.

Illugi said: “In nowise shalt thou thwart my will, nor fare anywhere sooner than I like!” and in again he swung the ware-sacks therewith.


Then Gunnlaug rode thence and came in the evening down to Burg, and goodman Thorstein asked him to bide there, and Gunnlaug was fain of that proffer. He told Thorstein how things had gone betwixt him and his father, and Thorstein offered to let him bide there as long as he liked, and for some seasons Gunnlaug abode there, and learned law-craft of Thorstein, and all men accounted well of him.


Now Gunnlaug and Helga would be always at the chess-playing together, and very soon each found favour with the other, as came to be proven well enough afterwards: they were very nigh of an age.


Helga was so fair, that men of lore say that she was the fairest woman of Iceland, then or since; her hair was so plenteous and long that it could cover her all over, and it was as fair as a band of gold; nor was there any so good to choose as Helga the Fair in all Burgfirth, and far and wide elsewhere.


Now one day, as men sat in the hall at Burg, Gunnlaug spake to Thorstein: “One thing in law there is which thou hast not taught me, and that is how to woo me a wife.”

Thorstein said, “That is but a small matter,” and therewith taught him how to go about it.

Then said Gunnlaug, “Now shalt thou try if I have understood all: I shall take thee by the hand and make as if I were wooing thy daughter Helga.”


“I see no need of that,” says Thorstein. Gunnlaug, however, groped then and there after his hand, and seizing it said, “Nay, grant me this though.”


“Do as thou wilt, then,” said Thorstein; “but be it known to all who are hereby that this shall be as if it had been unspoken, nor shall any guile follow herein.”


Then Gunnlaug named for himself witnesses, and betrothed Helga to him, and asked thereafter if it would stand good thus. Thorstein said that it was well; and those who were present were mightily pleased at all this.








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The Saga of Gunnlaug the Worm Tongue and Raven the Skald



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This site is about bringing the Ancient Norse & Viking sagas back to life. Each day a chapter or two from a saga will be posted enabling you to read the saga from beginning to end. If you like the saga, it is available to be purchased as a paperback or as an eBook. Abela Publishing is a social enterprise prublisher. By this we mean that a percentage of our profits is donated to charities.
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