THE SAGA OF GUNNLAUG THE WORM-TONGUE AND RAVEN THE SKALD – CHAPTER XIII – Of the Winter-Wedding at Skaney, and how Gunnlaug gave the Kings Cloak to Helga

Tells the tale of Raven, that he sat at his weddings-feast at Burg, and it was the talk of most men that the bride was but drooping; for true is the saw that saith, “Long we remember what youth gained us,” and even so it was with her now.


But this new thing befell at the feast, that Hungerd, the daughter of Thorod and Jofrid, was wooed by a man named Sverting, the son of Hafr-Biorn, the son of Mold-Gnup, and the wedding was to come off that winter after Yule, at Skaney, where dwelt Thorkel, a kinsman of Hungerd, and son of Torn Valbrandsson; and the mother of Torn was Thorodda, the sister of Odd of the Tongue.


Now Raven went home to Mossfell with Helga his wife. When they had been there a little while, one morning early before they rose up, Helga was awake, but Raven slept, and fared ill in his sleep. And when he woke Helga asked him what he had dreamt. Then Raven sang:—


“In thine arms, so dreamed I,

Hewn was I, gold island!

Bride, in blood I bled there,

Bed of thine was reddened.

Never more then mightst thou,

Mead-bowl’spourer speedy,

Bind my gashes bloody—

Lind-leek-bough thou likst it.”



Helga spake: “Never shall I weep therefor,” quoth she; “ye have evilly beguiled me, and Gunnlaug has surely come out.” And therewith she wept much.


But, a little after, Gunnlaug’s coming was bruited about, and Helga became so hard with Raven, that he could not keep her at home at Mossfell; so that back they had to go to Burg, and Raven got small share of her company.


Now men get ready for the winter-wedding. Thorkel of Skaney bade Illugi the Black and his sons. But when master Illugi got ready, Gunnlaug sat in the hall, and stirred not to go. Illugi went up to him and said, “Why dost thou not get ready, kinsman?”

Gunnlaug answered, “I have no mind to go.”

Says Illugi, “Nay, but certes thou shalt go, kinsman,” says he; “and cast thou not grief over thee by yearning for one woman. Make as if thou knewest nought of it, for women thou wilt never lack.”


Now Gunnlaug did as his father bade him; so they came to the wedding, and Illugi and his sons were set down in the high seat; but Thorstein Egilson, and Raven his son-in-law, and the bridegroom’s following, were set in the other high seat, over against Illugi.

The women sat on the dais, and Helga the Fair sat next to the bride. Oft she turned her eyes on Gunnlaug, thereby proving the saw, “Eyes will bewray if maid love man.”



Gunnlaug was well arrayed, and had on him that goodly raiment that King Sigtrygg had given him; and now he was thought far above all other men, because of many things, both strength, and goodliness, and growth.


There was little mirth among folk at this wedding. But on the day when all men were making ready to go away the women stood up and got ready to go home. Then went Gunnlaug to talk to Helga, and long they talked together: but Gunnlaug sang:—


“Light-heart lived the Worm-tongue

All day long no longer

In mountain-home, since Helga

Had name of wife of Raven;

Nought foresaw thy father,

Hardener white of fight-thaw,

What my words should come to.

—The maid to gold was wedded.”



And again he sang:—

“Worst reward I owe them,

Father thine, O wine-may,

And mother, that they made thee

So fair beneath thy maid-gear;

For thou, sweet field of sea-flame,

All joy hast slain within me.—

Lo, here, take it, loveliest

E’er made of lord and lady!”



And therewith Gunnlaug gave Helga the cloak, Ethelred’s-gift, which was the fairest of things, and she thanked him well for the gift.


Then Gunnlaug went out, and by that time riding-horses had been brought home and saddled, and among them were many very good ones; and they were all tied up in the road. Gunnlaug leaps on to a horse, and rides a hand-gallop along the homefield up to a place where Raven happened to stand just before him; and Raven had to draw out of his way.


Then Gunnlaug said,—

“No need to slink aback, Raven, for I threaten thee nought as at this time; but thou knowest forsooth, what thou hast earned.”.

Raven answered and sang,—


“God of wound-flamed glitter,

Glorier of fight-goddess,

Must we fall a-fighting

For fairest kirtle-bearer?

Death-staffs many such-like

Fair as she is are there

In south-lands o’er the sea floods.

Sooth saith he who knoweth.”



“Maybe there are many such, but they do not seem so to me,” said Gunnlaug.

Therewith Illugi and Thorstein ran up to them, and would not have them fight.

Then Gunnlaug sang,—


“The fair-hued golden goddess

For gold to Raven sold they,

(Raven my match as men say)

While the mighty isle-king,

Ethelred, in England

From eastward way delayed me,

Wherefore to gold-waster

Waneth tongue’s speech-hunger.”


Hereafter both rode home, and all was quiet and tidingless that winter through; but Raven had nought of Helga’s fellowship after her meeting with Gunnlaug.







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The Story of Gunnlaug the Worm Tongue and Raven the Skald



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