jeudi 10 août 2017

Of The Kings of the Uplands

Of The Kings of the Uplands

1: Concerning King Olaf the Tree-Feller

Olaf, the son of Ingjald the Ill-Advised, king in Sweden, cleared Vermaland. He was called Olaf the Tree-Feller. He was fostered in West Gautland by a man named Bofi. Bofi's son was named Saxi, who was called the Plunderer. Olaf's mother was Gauthild, the daughter of King Algaut, who was the son of King Gautrek the Mild, son of Gaut, after whom Gautland is named. Alof was the mother of Gauthild, daughter of King Olaf the Clear-Sighted, king in Naeriki.
       At that time, Ivar Widegrasp had conquered all Denmark and Sweden, and so Olaf and a great multitude of his folk fled, and were proclaimed outlaws by King Ivar. They went north to Vaeni, and cleared the forests and settled in a large area that they called Vermaland, and the Swedes elected Olaf the Tree-Feller, and he was their king until old age. His wife was named Solva. She was the sister of Solvi the Old, who first cleared the Soley Isles.
       Olaf and Solva had two sons, one named Ingjald, and the other Halfdan. Ingjald was king in Vermaland after his father, but Halfdan was fostered in the Soley Isles by Solva, his uncle. He was called Halfdan Whitebone. He was king in the Soleys after King Solvi. He married Asa, daughter of Eystein the Ill-advised, king in Heid. This Eystein conquered the Eynafylki in Trondheim, and gave them his hound for king, who was named Sorr; Sorshaug is named after him. Halfdan and Asa had two sons, Eystein and Gudrod. Halfdan Whitebone took Raumariki and much of Heidmark. He died in Thotni, and was taken to Heidmark and buried there.

 

2: Concerning Halfdan Whitebone's Descendants

 Gudrod, Halfdan's son, was king in Heidmark after his father. His son was Helgi, father of Ingjald, father of Olaf the White, who married Unn the Deep-Minded, daughter of Ketil Faltnose. Their son was Thorsteinn the Red, who was an earl in Scotland and fell there.
       Eystein, son of Halfdan Whitebone, was king in Raumariki. He married the daughter of Eirik Agnarsson, who was king in Vestfold. Eirik had no son. Agnarr, Eirik's father, was son of King Sigtrygg of Vindli. King Eystein fell overboard, and drowned in the boatyard in the sound.
       His son was named Halfdan, and he took the kingdom after him. He surrounded himself with powerful men and great warriors, giving out gold to his henchmen as other men gave silver, but he was hesitant to provide his men with food. He was called Halfdan the Mild but Miserly with Meat. He married Lifa, daughter of Dag, king of Vestmar. He died in Vestfold, and was buried there.


Their son was named Gudrod, and he took the kingdom after his father. He was called Gudrod the Generous. He married Asa, daughter of King Harald Redbeard, who was king of Agder. They had two sons. One was named Halfdan, the other Olaf. Gudrod the Generous was killed at Geirstad in Vestfold, where was killed with a halberd, and he died on his ship in Stiflusund, in the evening. Asa, his wife, had egged on a man to kill him, because King Gudrod had killed King Harald, her father, and Gyrd, his son. King Gudrod had also married the daughter of Alfarin of Alfheim and had received half Vingulmark with her, as a dowry. Their son was Olaf. He was full-grown when his father fell, and he took the kingdom after his father. He was the best of all men, and strongest and most handsome to be seen. He was called Olaf, the Elf of Geirstad.
       Asa the Ambitious went north to Agdir with Halfdan, her son, who was a winter old, and she held the kingdom that her father had owned. Halfdan grew up with Asa, his mother, and he was soon a big man, strong and black-haired, and so he was called Halfdan the Black.
       After King Gudrod's fall, King Alfgeirr took under him Vingulmark and put his son over it, who was called Gandalf. Father and son took to themselves the greater part of Raumariki. Then King Eysteinn, son of Hogni Eysteinsson the Powerful but Ill-Advised, conquered all Heidmark and the Soleys, then Olaf the Elf of Geirstad had Grenland and Vestfold. Olaf died of a sickness of the foot (gout?) at Geirstad and was buried there. His son was Rognvald, who was called Mountain-High. He was king in Grenland after his father. Thjodolf of Hvina composed the Ynglingatal about him, and said that his kindred descended from Yngvi-Frey in Sweden, from whose name they are known as Ynglings.


http://www.germanicmythology.com/FORNALDARSAGAS/AfUplendingaChappell.html

lundi 7 août 2017

Hamðismál

Hamðismál

1. In that court
arose woeful deeds,
at the elf's
doleful lament;
at early morn,
men's afflictions,
troubles of various kinds;
sorrows were quickened.

2. It was not now,
nor yesterday,
a long time since has passed away,
few things are more ancient,
when Gudrun,
Gjuki's daughter,
her young sons instigated
Svanhild to avenge:

3. «She was your sister,
her name Svanhild,
she whom Jormunrek
with horses trod to death,
white and black,
on the public way,
with grey and way-wont
Gothic steeds.

4. Thenceforth
all is sad to you,
kings of people!
Ye alone survive.

5. Branches of my kin,
as the asp-tree in the forest,
lonely I am become,
when the scather of twigs,
of kindred bereft,
as the fir of branches;
as the leaves of the tree
comes in the warm day.»

6. Then spake Hamdir,
the great of soul,
«Little, Gudrun!
Didst thou care Hogni's deed to praise,
when Sigurd they
from sleep awaked,
on the bed thou satst,
and the murderers laughed.

7. Thy bed-clothes,
blue and white,
woven by cunning hands,
swam in thy husband's gore.
When Sigurd perished,
o'er the dead thou satst,
caredst not for mirth
- so Gunnar willed it.

8. Atli thou wouldst afflict
by Erp's murder,
and by Eitil's life's destruction:
that proved for thyself the worse:
therefore should every one
so against others use,
a sharp-biting sword,
that he harm not himself.»

9. Then said Sorle
- he had a prudent mind -
«I with my mother
will not speeches exchange:
though words to each of you
to' me seem wanting.
What, Gudrun! Dost thou desire,
which for tears thou canst not utter?

10. For thy brothers weep,
and thy dear sons,
thy nearest kin,
drawn to the strife:
for us both shalt thou,
Gudrun! Also have to' weep,
who here sit fated on our steeds,
far away to' die.»

11. From the court they went,
for conflict ready.
The young men journeyed
over humid fells,
on Hunnish steeds,
murder to avenge.

12. On their way they had
found the wily jester.
«Maybe auburn-little
offer us aid?»

13. He of another mother answered:
so he said aid he would
to his kin afford,
as one foot to the other.
«What can a foot
to a foot give;
or, grown to the body,
one hand the other?»

14. Then said Erp,
all at once
- the noble youth was joking
on his horse's back -
«Ill 'tis to a timid man
to point out the ways.»
They said the bastard
was over bold.

15. From the sheath
they drew the iron blade,
the falchion's edges,
for Hel's delight.
They their strength diminished
by a third part,
they their young kinsman
caused to earth to' sink.

16. Their mantles then they shook,
their weapons grasped;
the high-born were clad
in sumptuous raiment.

17. Forward lay the ways,
a woeful path they found,
and their sister's son
wounded on a gibbet,
wind-cold outlaw-trees,
on the town's west.
Ever vibrated the ravens' whet:
there to tarry was not good.

18. Uproar was in the hall,
men were with drink excited,
so that the horses'
tramp no one heard,
until a mindful man
winded his horn.

19. To announce they went
to Jormunrek
that were seen
helm-decked warriors.
«Take ye counsel,
potent ones are come;
before mighty men
ye have on a damsel trampled.»

20. Then laughed Jormunrek,
with his hand stroked his beard,
asked not for his corslet;
with wine he struggled,
shook his dark locks,
on his white shield looked,
and in his hand
swung the golden cup.

21. «Happy should I seem,
if I could see
Hamdir and Sorle
within my hall.
I would them then
with bowstrings bind,
the good sons of Gjuki
on the gallows hang.»

22. Then said Hrothglad,
on the high steps standing;
«Prince» said she
to her son,
for that was threatened
which ought not to happen,
«shall two men alone
ten hundred Goths
bind or slay
in this lofty burgh?»

23. Tumult was in the mansion,
the beer-cups flew in shivers,
men lay in blood
from the Goths' breasts flowing.

24. Then said Hamdir,
the great of heart:
«Jormunrek! Thou didst desir
 our coming,
brothers of one mother,
into thy burgh:
now seest thou feet,
seest thy hands
Jormunrek! Cast into
the glowing fire.»

25. Then roared forth
a godlike mail-clad warrior,
as a bear roars:
«On the men hurl stones,
since spears bite not,
nor edge of sword,
nor point,
the sons of Ionacr.»

26. Then said Hamdir,
the great of heart:
«Harm didst thou, brother!
When thou that mouth didst ope.
Oft from that mouth
bad counsel comes.»

27. SORLE:
«Courage hast thou, Hamdir!
If only thou hadst sense:
that man lacks much
who wisdom lacks.»

28. HAMDIR:
«Off would the head now be,
had but Erp lived,
our brother bold in fight,
whom on the way we slew,
that warrior brave
- me the goddess instigated -
that man sacred to us,
whom, we resolved to slay.»

29. SORLE:
«I ween not that ours
should be the wolves' example,
that with ourselves we should contend,
like the grey norns,
that voracious are
in the desert nurtured.

30. Well have we fought,
on slaughtered Goths we stand,
on those fallen by the sword,
like eagles on a branch.
Great glory we have gained,
though now or to morrow we shall die.
No one lives till eve
against the norns' decree.»

31. There fell Sorle,
at the mansion's front;
but Hamdir sank
at the house's back.

This is called the ancient lay of Hamdir.

dimanche 6 août 2017

The (old) Lay of Sigurd

The (old) Lay of Sigurd

Sigurþarkviða inn forna
The (old) Lay of Sigurd
~a fragment~
from the Appendix: Excerpts from the Poetic Edda
in 
The Story of the Volsungs


Translated by William Morris and Eirikr Magnusson

Back to Source Texts Index







(The beginning is lost)


************


Hogni said:
"What hath wrought Sigurd of any wrong-doing
That the life of the famed one thou art fain of taking?"


Gunnar said:
"To me has Sigurd sworn many oaths,
Sworn many oaths, and sworn them lying,
And he bewrayed me when it behoved him
Of all folk to his troth to be the most trusty."


Hogni said:
"Thee hath Brynhild unto all bale,
And all hate whetted, and a work of sorrow;
For she grudges to Gudrun all goodly life;
And to thee the bliss of her very body."


************

Some the wolf roasted, some minced the worm,
Some unto Guttorm gave the wolf-meat,
Or ever they might in their lust for murder
On the high king lay deadly hand.


Sigurd lay slain on the south of the Rhine.
High from the fair tree croaked forth the raven,
"Ah, yet shall Atli on you redden edges,
The old oaths shall weigh on your souls, O warriors."


Without stood Gudrun, Giuki's daughter,
And the first word she said was even this word:
"Where then is Sigurd, lord of the warfolk,
Since my kin come riding the foremost?


One word Hogni had for an answer:
"Our swords have smitten Sigurd asunder,
And the grey horse hangs drooping o'er his lord lying dead."


Then quoth Brynhild, Budli's daughter;
"Good weal shall ye have of weapons and lands,
That Sigurd alone would surely have ruled
If he had lived but a little longer.


"Ah, nothing seemly for Sigurd to rule
Giuki's house and the folk of the Goths,
When of him five sons for the slaying of men,
Eager for battle, should have been begotten!"


Then laughed Brynhild - loud rang the whole house -
One laugh only from out her heart:
"Long shall your bliss be of lands and people,
Whereas the famed lord you have felled to the earth!"


Then spake Gudrun, Giuki's daughter;
"Much thou speakest, many things fearful,
All grame be on Gunnar the bane of Sigurd!
From a heart full of hate shall come heavy vengeance."


Forth sped the even, enow there was drunken,
Full enow was there of all soft speech;
And all men got sleep when to bed they were gotten;
Gunnar only lay waking long after all men.


His feet fell he to moving, fell to speak to himself
The waster of men, still turned in his mind
What on the bough those twain would be saying,
The raven and erne, as they rode their ways homeward.


But Brynhild awoke, Budli's daughter,
May of the shield-folk, a little ere morning:
"Thrust ye on, hold ye back, - now all harm is wrought, -
To tell of my sorrow, or to let all slip by me?"


All kept silence after her speaking,
None might know that woman's mind,
Or why she must weep to tell of the work
That laughing once of men she prayed.


Brynhild spake:
"In dreams, O Gunnar, grim things fell on me;
Dead-cold the hall was, and my bed was a-cold,
And thou, lord, wert riding reft of all bliss,
Laden with fetters 'mid the host of thy foemen."


"So now all ye, O House of the Niblungs,
Shall be brought to naught, O ye oath-breakers!


"Think'st thou not, Gunnar, how that betid,
When ye let the blood run both in one footstep?
With ill reward hast thou rewarded
His heart so fain to be the foremost!


"As well was seen when he rode his ways,
That king of all worth, unto my wooing;
How the host-destroyer held to the vows
Sworn beforetime, sworn to the young king.


"For his wounding-wand all wrought with gold,
The king beloved laid between us;
Without were its edges wrought with fire,
But with venom-drops deep dyed within."


 https://web.archive.org/web/20070714001613/http://www.angelfire.com/on/Wodensharrow/sigurdold.html

The Elder Edda

vendredi 28 juillet 2017

Adieu

Adieu


     L'automne déjà ! — Mais pourquoi regretter un éternel soleil, si nous sommes engagés à la découverte de la clarté divine, — loin des gens qui meurent sur les saisons.
     L'automne. Notre barque élevée dans les brumes immobiles tourne vers le port de la misère, la cité énorme au ciel taché de feu et de boue. Ah ! les haillons pourris, le pain trempé de pluie, l'ivresse, les mille amours qui m'ont crucifié ! Elle ne finira donc point cette goule reine de millions d'âmes et de corps morts et qui seront jugés ! Je me revois la peau rongée par la boue et la peste, des vers plein les cheveux et les aisselles et encore de plus gros vers dans le cœur, étendu parmi les inconnus sans âge, sans sentiment... J'aurais pu y mourir... L'affreuse évocation ! J'exècre la misère.
     Et je redoute l'hiver parce que c'est la saison du comfort !
     — Quelquefois je vois au ciel des plages sans fin couvertes de blanches nations en joie. Un grand vaisseau d'or, au-dessus de moi, agite ses pavillons multicolores sous les brises du matin. J'ai créé toutes les fêtes, tous les triomphes, tous les drames. J'ai essayé d'inventer de nouvelles fleurs, de nouveaux astres, de nouvelles chairs, de nouvelles langues. J'ai cru acquérir des pouvoirs surnaturels. Eh bien ! je dois enterrer mon imagination et mes souvenirs ! Une belle gloire d'artiste et de conteur emportée !
     Moi ! moi qui me suis dit mage ou ange, dispensé de toute morale, je suis rendu au sol, avec un devoir à chercher, et la réalité rugueuse à étreindre ! Paysan !
     Suis-je trompé, la charité serait-elle sœur de la mort, pour moi ?
     Enfin, je demanderai pardon pour m'être nourri de mensonge. Et allons.
     Mais pas une main amie ! et où puiser le secours ?
__________
     Oui, l'heure nouvelle est au moins très sévère.
     Car je puis dire que la victoire m'est acquise : les grincements de dents, les sifflements de feu, les soupirs empestés se modèrent. Tous les souvenirs immondes s'effacent. Mes derniers regrets détalent, — des jalousies pour les mendiants, les brigands, les amis de la mort, les arriérés de toutes sortes. — Damnés, si je me vengeais !
     Il faut être absolument moderne.
     Point de cantiques : tenir le pas gagné. Dure nuit ! le sang séché fume sur ma face, et je n'ai rien derrière moi, que cet horrible arbrisseau !... Le combat spirituel est aussi brutal que la bataille d'hommes ; mais la vision de la justice est le plaisir de Dieu seul.
     Cependant c'est la veille. Recevons tous les influx de vigueur et de tendresse réelle. Et à l'aurore, armés d'une ardente patience, nous entrerons aux splendides villes.
     Que parlais-je de main amie ! un bel avantage, c'est que je puis rire des vieilles amours mensongères, et frapper de honte ces couples menteurs, — j'ai vu l'enfer des femmes là-bas ; — et il me sera loisible de posséder la vérité dans une âme et un corps.

mardi 25 juillet 2017

ÁGRIP AF NÓREGSKONUNGAS¯GUM

GAUTREK'S SAGA

GAUTREK'S SAGA

http://aj69.tripod.com/ancestry/gautreksaga.html
1. IN THE BACK WOODS
This is the start of an amusing story about a certain King Gauti. He was a shrewd sort of man, very quiet, but generous and outspoken. King Gauti ruled over West Gotaland, lying east of the Kjolen Mountains between Norway and Sweden; the Gota River separates Gotaland from the Uplands. In that part of the world there are immense forests, very difficult to get about in except when the ground is frozen.
This king we're talking about, Gauti, used to go into these forests with his hawks and hounds, for he was keen on hunting and got a great deal of pleasure from it.
At this time there were plenty of people living deep in the forests, as a good many settlers had cleared the land to make their homes right away from the world. A number of these backwoodsmen had turned from society because of some misdeed or other, or else had cleared out to avoid the consequences of youthful escapades or adventures; they thought the best way of protecting themselves against people's scoffing and sneering was to get completely away from it all, and so they lived out the rest of their lives without seeing another human being apart from their own companions. As these men had gone to live right off the beaten track, hardly anybody ever came to visit them, unless from time to time someone who happened to lose his way in the forest might stumble on their homes, and even so, he would often wish that he'd never set foot there.
This King Gauti we've been talking about started out with his retainers and his finest hounds to hunt deer in the forest. The king sighted a fine stag and set his heart on getting it, so he unleased his hounds and began chasing hard after it. This went on all day, and by evening he had lost all his fellow huntsmen and was deep into the forest. He realized that he wouldn't be able to get back to them, as it was already dark and he'd covered so much ground during the day. Besides this, he'd hit the stag with his spear, and it had stuck fast in the wound. He didn't want on any account to lose the spear if he could possibly help it, since it seemed to him a great humiliation to surrender one's weapon. Gauti had been hunting so hard that he'd thrown off all his clothes except for his underwear. He'd lost his socks and shoes, and his legs and feet were badly torn by stones and branches, but still he had not caught up with the stag. By now it was night and dark, and he had no idea where he was going, so he stopped to listen if he could hear anything, and after a little while he heard the bark of a dog. It seemed most likely that where a dog barked there would be people about, so he walked on in the direction of the sound.
Shortly afterwards he saw a small farmstead, and standing outside was a man with a woodcutter's axe. When he saw the king coming closer, the man pounced on the dog and killed it.
'This is the last time you'll show a stranger the way to our house,' he said. 'It's obvious, this man's so big he'll eat up all the farmer has once he gets inside. Well, that won't ever happen if I can help it.'
The king heard what the man said and smiled to himself. It occured to him that he wasn't at all suitably dressed for sleeping out; on the other hand, he wasn't certain what sort of hospitality he would be offered if he waited for an invitation, so he walked bodly up to the door. The other man ran into the doorway with the idea of keeping him out, but the king forced his way past him into the house. He came into the living-room, where he saw four men and four women, but there wasn't a word of welcome for King Gauti. So he sat down.
One of them, evidently the master of the house, spoke up. 'Why did you let this man in?' he asked the slave at the door.
'I wasn't a match for him,' said the slave, 'he was so powerful.'
'What did you do when that dog started barking?' said the farmer.
'I killed the dog,' said the slave, 'I didn't want it to lead any more roughs like this to the house.'
'You're a faithful servant,' said the farmer, 'and I can't blame you for this awkward situation that's cropped up. It's difficult to find the proper reward for the trouble you've taken, but tomorrow I'll repay you by taking you along with me.'
It was a well-furnished house and the people were good looking but not particularly big. It struck the king that they were frightened of him. The farmer ordered the table to be laid, and food was served. When the king saw that he wasn't going to be invited to share in the meal, he sat down at the table next to the farmer, picked up some food and settled down to eat. When the farmer saw this, he stopped eating himself and pulled his hat down over his eyes. Nobody said a word. After the king had finished eating, the farmer pushed up his hat and ordered the platters to be cleared from the table....'since there's no food left there now,' he said.
The king lay down to sleep, and a little later on one of the women came up to him and said, 'Wouldn't you like me to give you a bit of hospitality?'
'Things are looking up now you're willing to talk to me,' said the king. 'Your household seems a pretty dull one.'
'Don't be surprised at that,' said the girl. 'In all our lives, we've never had a single visitor before. I don't think the master is too pleased to have you as a guest.'
'I can easily compensate him for all that he spends on my account,' said the king, 'as soon as I get back to my own house.'
'I'm afraid this queer business will bring us something more from you than compensation,' said the woman.
'I'd like you to tell me what you and your family are called,' said the king.
'My father's called Skinflint,' she said, 'and the reason is, he's so mean he can't bear to watch his food stocks dwindle or anything else he owns. My mother's known as Totra because she'll never wear any clothes unless they're already in tatters. She was the idea that this is very sound economics.'
'What are your brothers called? asked the king.
'One's called Fjolmod, another Imsigull, and the third Gilling,' she said.
'What about you and your sisters?' asked the king.
'I'm called Snotra, because I'm the most intelligent. My sisters are called Hjotra and Fjotra,' she said. 'There's a precipice called Gillings Bluff near the farm, and we call its peak Family Cliff. The drop's so great there's not a living creature could ever survive it. It's called Family Cliff simply because we use it to cut down the size of our family whenever something extraordinary happens, and in this way our elders are allowed to die straight off without having to suffer any illnesses. And then they can go straight to Odin, while their children are spared all the trouble and expense of having to take care of them. Every member of our family is free to use this facility offered by the cliff, so there's no need for any of us to live in famine or poverty, or put up with other misfortunes that might happen to us.
'I hope you realize, my father thinks it quite extraordinary, your coming to our house. It would have been remarkable enough for any stranger to take a meal with us, but this really is a marvel, that a king, cold and naked, should have been to our house. There's no precedent for it, so my father and mother have decided to share out the inheritance tomorrow between me and my brothers and sisters. After that they're going to take the slave with them and pass on over Family Cliff on the way to Valhalla. My father feels that's the least reward he could give the slave for trying to bar your way into the house, to let the fellow share this bliss with him. Besides, he's quite sure Odin won't ever receive the slave unless he goes with him."
'I can see that you're the most eloquent member of your family,' said the king, 'and you can depend on me. I take it you're still a virgin, so you'd better sleep with me tonight.'
She said that was entirely up to him.
In the morning when the king woke up, he said, 'I'd like to remind you, Skinflint, that I was barefoot when I came to your house, so I wouldn't mind accepting a pair of shoes from you.'
Skinflint made no reply but gave him a pair of shoes. All the same he pulled out the laces first. The king said:
'Skinflint gave me
a pair of shoes,
but held the laces back.
I tell you a miser
can never give
a gift without a snag.'
After that the king got ready to go, and Snotra came to see him off. 'I'd like to ask you to come with me,' said King Gauti, 'I've an idea our meeting may have certain consequences. If you have a boy, call him Gautrek; it'll remind you of me and all the trouble I've caused your family.'
'I think you're pretty near the mark,' she said. 'But I shan't be able to go along with you now, as it's today my parents divide their property between me and my brothers and sisters. When that's done my father and mother intend to move on over Family Cliff.'
The king said good-bye to her and told her to come and see him whenever she felt like it. Then he went on his way until he came up with his men, and now he took it easy.
2. OVER THE CLIFF
But to get on with the story, when Snotra came back to the house, there was her father squatting over his possessions.
'What an extraordinary thing to happen,' he said, 'a king has paid us a visit, eaten us out of house and home and then taken away what we could least afford to lose. It's clear to me that we won't be able to stay together any longer as one family since we're reduced to poverty. That's why I've gathered together all my things. And now I'm going to divide them up between my sons. I'm going to take my wife along to Valhalla, and my slave as well, since it's the least I can do to repay him for his faithful service, to let him go there with me.'
'Gilling is to have my fine ox, to share with his sister Snotra. Fjolmod and his sister Hjotra are to have my bars of gold, Imsigull and his sister Fjotra all my cornfields. And now I want to implore you, my children, not to add to the family, so that you'll be able to preserve what you've inherited.'
When Skinflint had said all he wanted, the family climbed up to Gillings Bluff. After that the young people helped their parents to pass on over Family Cliff, and off they went, merry and bright, on the way to Odin.
Now that the young people had taken over the property, they decided they'd better set things right. So they cut some wooden pegs and used them to pin pieces of cloth round their bodies so they couldn't touch each other. They felt this was the safest method of controlling their numbers.
When Snotra realized she was going to have a baby, she loosened the wooden pins that held her dress together, so that her body could be touched. She was pretending to be asleep when Gilling woke or stirred in his sleep. He stretched out his hand and happened to touch her cheek.
Once he was properly awake, he said 'Something terrible has happened, I' afraid that I've got you into trouble. You seem to be much stouter now than you used to be.'
'Keep it to yourself as long as you can,' she said.
'I'll do no such thing,' he said, 'once there's been an addition to our family there wouldn't be a hope of hiding it.'
Not long after, Snotra gave birth to a beautiful boy. She chose a name for him and called him Gautrek.
'What a queer thing to happe,' said Gilling, 'there's no hiding this any longer. I'm going to tell my brothers.'
'Our whole way of life is being threatened by this remarkable event,' they declared. 'This is indeed a serious violation of our rule.'
Gilling said:
'How stupid of me
to move my hand
and touch the womans's cheek.
It doesn't take much
to make a son
if that's how Gautrek was got.'
They said it wasn't his fault, particularly since he'd repented and was wishing it had never happened. He said he'd willingly pass on over Family Cliff, and added that this little affair might only a beginning. His brothers told him to wait and see whether anything else would happen.
Fjolmod used to herd his sheep all day, carrying the gold bars with him wherever he went. One day he fell asleep and was woken up by two black snails crawling over the gold. He got the idea that the gold had been dented where it was really only blackened, and he thought it greatly diminished.
'It's a terrible thing,' he said, 'to suffer such a loss. If this should happen once more I'll be penniless when I go to see Odin. So I'd better pass on over Family Cliff just to cover myself in case it happens again. Things have never looked so black, not since my father handed me out all this money.'
He told his brothers about his remarkable experience, and asked them to share our his part of the property. Then he added:
'Scrawny snails
have swallowed my gold,
everything goes against me.
Stripped of my wealth,
I snivel and sulk,
now all my gold's been gobbled.'
Then he and his wife went up to Gillings Bluff and passed on over Family Cliff.
One day Imsigull was inspecting his cornfields. He saw a bird called the sparrow---it's about the size of a tit. He thought the bird might have caused some serious damage, so he walked round the fields till he saw where the bird had picked a single grain from one of the ears. Then he said:
'The sparrow's done
dire devastation
to Imsigull's field of corn.
He ravaged an ear
and gobbled a grain;
What grief to the kin of Totra!'
Then he and his wife passed joyfully on over Family Cliff, unable to risk such another loss.
One day, Gautrek happened to be outside when he noticed the fine ox---the boy was seven years old at the time. It so happened that he stabbed the ox to death with a spear. Gilling was watching and said:
'The young boy has killed
that ox of mine,
a deadly sinister omen.
Never again
shall such treasure be mine,
no matter how old I grow.'
'This has really gone too far,' he added. And then he climbed up Gillings Bluff and passed on over Family Cliff.
Now there were only two of them left, Snotra and her son Gautrek. She made them both ready for a journey, and off they went all the way to King Gauti who gave his son good welcome.
So from then on Gautrek was brought up at his father's court. He matured early in every way, and it only took him a few years to reach full manhood. Then it so happened that King Gauti fell ill and called his friends around him.
'You've always proved obedient and loyal to me,' he said, 'but now it looks as if this illness of mine is going to put an end to our friendship. I've decided to hand over my authority to my son Gautrek, and with it the title of King.'
His friends were all in favor of this, and after King Gauti's death Gautrek was made King over Gotaland. He's mentioned in many of the old sagas.
At this point we must shift our story north to Norway for a while and tell you something about the provincial Kings who were ruling there at the time and also about their progeny. After this, our story will come back to King Gautrek of Gotaland and his sons.
This story is the same that's told in Sweden as well as in a good many other lands.
3. STARKAD THE OLD
There was a King called Hunthjof who ruled over Hordaland. He was the son of Frithjof the Brave and Ingibjorg the Fair. Hunthjof had three sons: Herthjof, who later was King of Hordaland; Geirthjof, King of the Uplands; and Frithjof, King of Telemark. All three brothers were powerful kings and great warriors, but King Herthjof was more shrewd and a better leader than either of the others. He spent a lot of his time on viking expeditions, which earned him a great reputation.
At this time there was a king over Agder Province called Harald the Agder-King. He was a powerful ruler, with a young, promising son called Vikar.
There was a man called Storvirk, the son of Starkad the Ala-Warrior. Starkad was a giant and had uncanny wisdom. He'd abducted a woman called Alfhild, from Alfheim---King Alf's daughter. Then King Alf called on Thor to bring his daughter back, so Thor killed Starkad and carried Alfhild back to her father. She was going to have a child and her son was the boy Storvirk whom we've already mentioned.
Storvirk was a fine-looking man, with black hair, and taller and stronger than other men. He was a great viking, and joined the court of King Harald of Agder Province, where he took charge of his defences. King Harald gave him Thruma Island in Agder and Storvirk owned a farm there. He used to go on long viking expeditions, and at other times he stayed with King Harald.
Storvirk abducted Unn, daughter of Earl Freki of Halogaland, and after that he made his home on his island farm. The had a son called Starkad.
Earl Freki's sons, Fjori and Fyri, made an attack on Storvirk one night. The arrived unexpectedly with a force of men and burned down the farm, killing Storvirk and their sister Unn and all the other people who were in the house at the time. The attackers had not wanted to risk opening the door in case Storvirk should escape. They sailed away the same night and travelled north along the coast, but late the following day they were overtaken by a sudden storm and ran on to a submerged rock off Stad, where they were drowned with all hands.
Storvirk's son, Starkad, was very young when his father was killed, and King Harald had him brought up at his court. [At this point, the author begins to interpolate verses of a poem on the life of Starkad. The points in the text where these verses occur are numbered 1-20 and a prose translation will be found against the appropriate number later. We have regulated all but the last two groups of verses to the end of the saga, as they merely repeat the events described in the prose narrative.] (1)
4. VENGEANCE
King Herthjof of Hordaland went out with an army, unexpectedly attacked King Harald one night, killed him treacherously, and took his son Vikar as hostage. King Herthjof conquered all of Harald's kingdom, made hostages of a good many more sons of important men and collected tributes throughout the whole country.
There was an important man in King Herthjof's army called Grani Horse-hair. He lived at Ask on Fenhring Island, off Hordaland. Grani took Starkad Storvirksson captive and brought him home with him to Fenhring. Starkhad was three years old at the time, and spent the next nine years at Fenhring with Grani Horse-hair. (2)
King Herthjof was a great warrior constantly at war, and there was always trouble in his own kingdom. He had warning beacons built on the mountains with watchmen in charge of them, so they could light the fires as soon as war broke out. Vikar and two other men looked after the beacons on Fenhring. At the first sign of enemy forces the nearest beacon was to be lit, and then the rest, one after another.
One morning shortly after he had taken charge of the beacon, Vikar went over to Ask to see his fosterbrother Starkad Storvirksson. Starkad was an exceptionally big man, but he was a layabout and slept among the ashes by the fire. He was twelve years old at the time. Vikar pulled him out of bed and gave him some weapons and clothes. When he took Starkad's measurements he was amazed to see how much he had grown since he had come to live at Ask. Later they went aboard Vikar's ship and sailed away. (3)
Starkad himself has said that although he was only twelve at the time he was already growing a beard. When Starkad had got to his feet, and Vikar had given him weapons and clothes, they went down to the ship and gathered a troop of men. He managed to get twelve, all of them warriors and duellers. (4)
With these men, Vikar marched against King Herthjof. As soon as the king heard of this attack he had his forces made ready. King Herthjof had a great house which was as strongly fortified as a castle or a town, and there he kept seventy warriors as well as all the farm-hands and other servants. The vikings wasted no time, for as soon as they arrived they started ramming the gates and doors and breaking down the doorposts, forcing the locks and bars inside them. The king's men fell back, the vikings were able to force their way into the house and a fierce skirmish began. (5)
King Herthjof had a number of excellent fighting men, so he was able to hold out for a long time, but since Vikar had a choice company of outstanding fighters, Herthjof's men had to give way. Vikar was always to the front of his men (6) and close by his side Starkad went hard against King Herthjof. Eventually they killed him. All Vikar's warriors fought like champions, killing a number of men and wounding many others. (7) So Vikar won the victory, and on King Herthjof's side thirty men were killed and a number fatally wounded, but Vikar didn't lose a single man.
After that Vikar took all the ships which had belonged to King Herthjof, and sailed east along the coast with as many men as he could muster. When he came to Agder he was joined by those who'd been his father's friends, so now he had a large body of men following him. Then he was made king over Agder and Jæderen Provinces, and soon he laid Hordaland under him, as well as Hardanger and all the other regions King Herthjof had ruled.
King Vikar soon became a powerful war leader. He used to go every summer on viking expeditions. Once he brought his forces east to Oslofjord and landed the army on the east coast, plundering as far as Gotaland and creating havoc there. When he reached Lake Væner he ran into King Sisar of Kiev, who was a great warrior and had a formidable army with him. The two kings, Vikar and Sisar, fought a hard battle there. Sisar made a sharp attack and killed a good number of Vikar's men. Starkad was there fighting on Vikar's side, and he moved up against Sisar. They fought for a long time, and neither could complain that the other was striking too feebly. Sisar hewed Starkad's shield to pieces with his sword and gave him two nasty head wounds and broke his collar bone. Starkad also got a wound on his side above the hip, (8) then another deep wound from Sisar's halberd on the opposite side. (9)
Starkad struck back at Sisar with his sword, slicing a piece off his side and wounding him badly in the leg below the knee. Finally he cut off Sisar's other leg at the ankle, and King Sisar fell down dead. (10)
There were a great many casualties in this battle, but Vikar won the victory, and the survivors of the Kiev forces were routed. After this victory King Vikar went back to his own kingdom.
5. HERTHJOF'S BROTHERS
King Vikar heard that King Geirthjof of the Uplands had gathered a large force, intending to attack Vikar and avenge the killing of his brother Herthjof. So Vikar ordered a general levy throughout his kingdom, and with this he marched against King Geirthjof of the Uplands. The battle between them was so fierce that they fought for seventeen days without a break. As it turned out King Geirthjof was killed, and Vikar won the victory and so he laid the Uplands and Telemark under him, since King Frithjof of Telemark happened to be away at the time. (11)
King Vikar left some of his men in charge of the kingdom he had won in the Uplands, and went back home to Agder; his power and his army had now become very great. He got himself a wife, and had two sons by her, the elder called Harald, and the younger Neri. Neri was the wisest of men, and every piece of advice he gave turned out for the best, but he was such a miser that he could never part with anything without immediately regretting it. (12) Earl Neri was a great warrior, but his meanness is a household word, and all the most niggardly men, the most reluctant to give anything to others, have been compared with him ever since.
When Frithjof heard that his two brothers had been killed he went to the Uplands and took back the kingdom Vikar had previously won. Then he sent word to Vikar, ordering him to pay tribute from his own land, or else look out for Frithjof's warriors. (13) As soon as Vikar got this message, he called a meeting and conferred with his councillors about how he ought to reply. They discussed the problem at great length. (14) Word was sent to King Frithjof that Vikar intended to defend his land. So Frithjof set off with his army to attack King Vikar.
There was a king called Olaf the Keen-eyed ruling over Næriki in Sweden, a powerful ruler and a great warrior. Olaf ordered a general levy in his kingdom and with this force he went to support King Vikar. They had a huge army and set out to confront King Frithjof. Before the battle started they formed up in a wedge-shaped column. (15) There was some hard fighting, and Vikar's men advanced sturdily, since there were a good many famous warriors amongst them. First of all, there was Starkad Storvirksson, then Ulf and Erp and plenty of other great fighters and champions. King Vikar made a brave fight of it. Starkad was without a coat of mail, and waded through the enemy army hewing about him with both hands. (16) Vikar and his men kept this attack going fiercely until King Frithjof's army started breaking up and Frithjof was forced to ask King Vikar for mercy. (17)
It had been a very hard battle and most of King Frithjof's men were dead, so when he asked for peace Vikar ordered his army to stop fighting. Frithjof made a peace settlement with King Vikar, and King Olaf was to fix the terms. The final agreement was that King Frithjof should surrender his authority over the Uplands and Telemark. After that he went into exile.
King Vikar appointed his sons rulers of these territories. He made Harald king over Telemark and gave Neri the title of earl, and authority over the Uplands. Earl Neri became a friend of King Gautrek of Gotaland, and it's said in some books that King Gautrek gave him that part of Gotaland to rule over which was closest to the Uplands. It's also said that he was King Gautrek's earl and gave advice whenever the king was in need of it.
After this, King Vikar went back home to his own kingdom, and he and King Olaf parted great friends, as they remained for the rest of their lives. King Olaf went back home to Sweden.
6. THE FARMERS BOY
There was a wealthy farmer called Rennir who lived on what came to be called Rennis Island, off Jæderen in Norway. He had been a great viking before he settled down on his farm. Rennir was married and had one son, called Ref.
When he was young Ref used to lie in the kitchen and eat twigs and tree bark. He was an exceptionally big man, but never bothered to wash the filth off his body, nor would he ever give anyone a helping hand. His father was a very thrifty man and took a very poor view of his son's shiftless behaviour. So Ref didn't earn his fame by any wisdom or bravery but rather by making himself the laughing stock of all his sturdy kinsmen. His father thought it unlikely that Ref would ever do anything worth while, as was expected at that time of other young men.
Rennir had one treasured possession which he valued more than anything else he owned, a big ox with very elegant horns. Both horns had been incised and laid with gold and silver, and the point of the horn was also decorated with gold. There was a silver chain stretched between the horns, with three gold rings on it. This ox was the finest of its kind in the whole land, both for its size and magnificence. Rennir made such a fuss of this ox that it was never allowed to go about unattended.
Rennir took part in many of King Vikar's battles, and they were good friends.
7. THE GODS IN JUDGMENT
King Vikar became a great war leader and had with him a number of outstanding warriors, but Starkad was the most highly-regarded of them all and the one best loved by the king; he sat next to him on the high-seat, acted as his counsellor and was in charge of the defences. King Vikar had given him a good many striking gifts, one of them a gold bracelet weighing three marks. In return, Starkad gave the king Thruma Island, which King Harald had once given to Storvirk, Starkad's father. He was with King Vikar for fifteen years. (18)
King Vikar set out from Agder and sailed north to Hordaland with a large army. Then he ran into unfavourable winds and had to lie at anchor off a certain group of small islands. They tried by means of divination to find out when the wind would be favourable and were told that Odin expected a human sacrifice from the army, the victim to be chosen by lot. So they drew lots throughout the army and every time, King Vikar's lot came up. They were all very shaken by this, and it was decided that all their leading men should have a meeting the following day to consider the problem.
Then just about midnight, Grani Horse-hair woke up his foster-sn Starkad and asked him to come along with him. They got a small boat and rowed over to another island. They walked through a wood until they came to a clearing where a large number of people were attending a meeting. There were eleven men sitting on chairs but a twelfth chair was empty. Starkad and his foster-father joined the assembly, and Grani Horse-hair seated himself on the twelfth chair. Everyone present greeted him by the name Odin, and he said that the judges would now have to decide on Starkad's fate.
Then Thor spoke up and said: 'Starkad's mother, Alfhild, preferred a brainy giant to Thor himself as the father of her son. So I ordain that Starkad himself shall have neither a son nor a daughter, and his family will end with him.'
Odin: 'I ordain that he shall live for three life spans.'
Thor: 'He shall commit a most foul deed in every one of them.'
Odin: 'I ordain that he shall have the best in weapons and clothing.'
Thor: 'I ordain that he shall have neither land nor estates.'
Odin: 'I give him this, that he shall vast sums of money.'
Thor: 'I lay this curse on him, that he shall never be satisfied with what he has.'
Odin: 'I give him victory and fame in every battle.'
Thor: 'I lay this curse on him, that in every battle he shall be sorely wounded.'
Odin: 'I give him the art of poetry, so that he shall compose verses as fast as he can speak.'
Thor: 'He shall never remember afterwards what he composes.'
Odin: 'I ordain that he shall be most highly thought of by all the noblest people and the best.'
Thor: 'The common people shall hate him every one.'
Then the judges decreed that all that had been said should happen to Starkad. The assembly broke up, and Grani Horse-hair and Starkad went back to their boat.
'You should repay me well, my foster-son,' said Grani Horse-hair to Starkad, 'for all the help I've given you.'
'That I will,' said Starkad.
'Then you're to send King Vikar to me,' said Grani Horse-hair. 'I'll tell you how to go about it.'
Starkad agreed, and Grani Horse-hair gave him a spear which he said would seem to be only a reed stalk. Then they joined the rest of the army, just a little before daybreak.
In the morning the king's councillors held a meeting to discuss their plans. They agreed that they would have to hold a mock sacrifice, and Starkad told them how to set about it. There was a pine tree nearby and close to it a tall tree trunk. The pine tree had a slender branch just above the ground, but stretching up into the foliage. Just then the servants were making breakfast. A calf had been slaughtered and its entrails cleaned out. Starkad asked for the guts, then climbed up the trunk, bent down the slender branch and tied the calf guts around it.
'Your gallows is ready for you now, my lord,' he said to King Vikar, 'and it doesn't seem all that dangerous. So come over here and I'll put a noose round your neck.'
'If this contraption isn't any more dangerous than it looks,' said the king, 'then it can't do me much harm. But if things turn out otherwise, it's a matter for fate to decide.'
After that he climbed up the stump. Starkad put the noose round his neck and climbed down.
Next Starkad stabbed at the king with the reed stalk and said, 'Now I give you to Odin.'
Then Starkad let the branch loose. The reed stalk turned into a spear which went straight through the king, the tree stump slipped from under his feet, the calf guts turned into a strong withy, the branch shot up with the king into the foliage and there he died. Ever since, that place has been known as Vikarsholmar.
This business made Starkad hated by all the common people, and because of it he was first banished from Hordaland, and later had to flee from Norway east to Sweden. He stayed for a long time at Uppsala with the kings there, Eirik and Alrek (the sons of Agni Skjalf's husband), and took part in viking expeditions with them. When Alrek asked Starkad what he could tell him about his kinsmen or himself, Starkad composed the poem called Vikar's Piece in which he described how King Vikar died.
'I fought with the greatest king of them all, and those were the happiest years of my life. Then we went on out ill-starred and last trip to Hordaland.
'It was then Thor ordained that I should become a traitor and suffer other misfortunes. I was forced to commit wicked, infamous deeds.
'I was made to dedicate Vikar (the killer of Geirthjof) to the gods high up in the tree. I thrust with a spear into the king's heart: no act of mine has brought me such pain.'
'From there I wandered about unhappily and aimlessly---the people of Hordaland hated me---a man with no gold and no songs, a kingless man with his fill of sorrow.
'Then I drifted across to Sweden, to the Yngling Kings at Uppsala. I shall long remember how indifferently I've been treated by those royal retainers.'
It's quite obvious from Starkad's poem that he thought his killing of Vikar the most wicked and hateful thing he ever did. We've never heard any stories to indicate that Starkad ever returned to Norway again.
While Starkad was at Uppsala, twelve berserks were also there as mercenaries. They were extremely aggressive and used to make fun of him, particularly two brothers called Ulf and Otrygg. Starkad was very taciturn and the berserks said he was a reborn giant as well as a traitor; as it is said here:
'They placed me among the warriors---a white-browed mocked old man. These men, unsparing in their cruelty, have made me their laughing-stock and ridicule me.
'They claim they can see on me the Killer of Hergrim, the monstrous scars which show the traces of eight arms torn off by Thor, north of the cliffs.
'People laugh when they see me; the ugly jaws, the long snout-shaped mouth, the wolf-grey hair and the tree-like arms, the bruised rough-skinned neck.'
When King Eirik and Alrek settled down, Starkad went on plundering expeditions with the ship that King Eirik had given him, manned with Norwegians and Danes. He travelled widely, fought duels and battles in many lands, and always won. And so Starkad is out of our story.
King Alrek didn't live very long, and this is the way he died---his brother, King Eirik, struck him dead with a bridle when they had gone out to train their horses. After that King Eirik was the sole ruler of Sweden for a long time, as will be told elsewhere in Hrolf Gautreksson's Saga.
8. KING GAUTREK'S RULE
Now there are two series of events which have been taking place at the same time, so we must go back to the point at which we broke off earlier, when King Gautrek had become the ruler of Gotaland and established himself as an outstanding leader and fighting man. Still, the king felt it was a great flaw in his splendour that he had no wife, so he decided to look out for one.
There was a king called Harald ruling over Wendland, a shrewd man but not much of a fighter. He was married and had a daughter called Alfhild, a fine-looking, well-mannered girl.
King Gautrek got ready for a journey and travelled to Wendland to ask for King Harald's daughter. His proposal was well received, and whatever was said, the outcome was this, that the princess was promised to King Gautrek. So he brought her with him back to Gotaland and celebrated their wedding. They hadn't been married long before Alfhild gave birth to a beautiful daughter. They chose a name for her and called her Helga. She was a girl who matured early; she grew up with her father, and was thought to be the finest match in all Gotaland.
King Gautrek had a number of very important men with him. One of his friends was a great viking called Hrosskel. On one occasion King Gautrek invited him to a feast, and when it was over, he gave Hrosskel some excellent parting gifts: a grey stallion and four mares, silk-pale and splendid. Hrosskel thanked the king for the presents, and they parted the best of friends.
King Gautrek ruled his kingdom in peace for a number of years. Then his wife fell ill, and got no relief till she died. King Gautrek was deeply grieved by this, and had a burial mound raised over the queen. Her death affected him so much, he paid no attention to matters of state. Every day he used to sit on her mound and from there he would fly his hawk. This was his way of amusing himself and whiling away the time.
9. THE PRINCE AND THE PEASANT
Now we come back to Earl Neri, the ruler of the Uplands, whom we mentioned before. When he heard that his father, King Vikar, had been killed he arranged a meeting with his brother Harald, and there they discussed how they ought to divide their inheritance. They agreed that Harald, who was the elder, should take over all the kingdoms that King Vikar had ruled and have the king's title; but Earl Neri was to stay ruler of the Uplands and also get Telemark which up till then had been ruled by his brother Harald. The brothers parted on good terms. Earl Neri was so wise you could never find his equal, and all his plans turned out well, whatever the problem. He would never accept any gifts, for he was so mean he could never bring himself to give any in return.
One day the farmer Rennir, whom we've already mentioned, was passing through his kitchen and tripped over the feet of his son Ref.
'It's a terrible disgrace to have a son like you, you bring nothing but trouble,' said Rennir to his son. 'Well, you'd better get right out of my sight. And don't ever show your face here again, if you must act in this stupid way.'
'Since your throwing me out,' said Ref, 'it's only fair I should take with me the thing you love and value most.'
'There's nothing I'm not willing to give for not having to see you again,' said Rennir, 'your the laughing stock of the family.'
Nothing more was said, but one fine day not long after, Ref rose to his feet and got ready to leave. He took the fine ox with him and led it down to the sea. Then he launched a large boat, intending to go over to the mainland. He didn't care whether or not the ox got a bit wet, so he tied it to the boat, then he sat down on the rowing bench and rowed over to the mainland. He was wearing a short cloak and breeches down to the ankles. When he had landed he set out with the ox behind him, travelling east through Jæderen and so by the usual route to the Uplands.
Ref journeyed on without a break until he arrived at Earl Neri's residence. The retainers told the earl that Ref, Rennir's idiot son, had arrived with the famous ox. The earl told them not to make fun of the boy. When Ref came up to the door of the hall where the earl usually sat, he told the doorkeeper to call the earl to come and talk with him.
'You're still the same fool as ever,' they said. 'The earl isn't in the habit of rushing out to talk with peasants.'
'You give him the message,' said Ref. 'He'll answer for himself.'
So they went inside to the earl and told him that Ref the Fool was asking for him to come out.
'Tell Ref I'll come and see him,' said the earl. 'You can never tell what may bring you luck.'
So the earl went outside, and Ref greeted him.
'What have you come here for?' asked the earl.
'My father's thrown me out,' said Ref. 'Here's an ox of mine I'd like you to have as a present.'
'Haven't you been told that I never accept gifts, as I don't like having to give any myself?' said the earl.
'I've heard you're so mean that no one can expect a gift in return for anything he's given you,' said Ref. 'But even so, I'd still like you to accept this ox as a gift. Maybe you could help me with your advice. Never mind the money.'
'Since you put it like that, I'll accept the ox,' said the earl. 'Come inside and stay the night.'
Ref let go of the ox and went into the house. The earl asked someone to bring Ref some clothes to make him look more decent, and when Ref had washed himself, he seemed a very handsome man. Ref settled there for a while.
The earl's hall was completely lined with overlapping shields, and not an empty space between them when they were all hanging. The earl took one of the shields, heavily inlaid with gold, and gave it to Ref.
Next day when the earl went to drink in the hall, he looked at the gap where the shield had hung, and said:
'The bright shield used to glitter
on the tapestried wall,
but now it gives me pain
to watch the empty space.
This is a fearful breach:
I'll soon lose all my wealth,
if others bring me gifts
and take my shields away.'
The earl had his high-seat turned round, for it upset him very much that the shield wasn't there any more.
When Ref realized this, he took the shield and went up to the earl.
'My lord,' he said, 'cheer up now, here's that shield you gave me. I'd like to give it back to you, for it's no use to me, I've no weapons to go with it.'
'Good luck to a generous man!' said the earl, 'now my hall will have its old splendour again, once the shield's back in its usual place. Here's a present I want to give you, and it may be you'll find it useful as long as you take my advice.'
The earl gave him a whetstone, 'but you'll probably think that this isn't a gift of very much value,' he said.
'I can't see how this can be much use to me,' said Ref.
'The fact is, I refuse to give food to any idler who hangs about doing nothing,' said the earl. 'Now I'm going to send you to King Gautrek, and you're to hand this whetstone to him.'
'This is the first time I've ever acted as an emissary between kings,' said Ref, 'and I can't see what possible use the king can have for this whetstone.'
'I'd hardly have a reputation for wisdom if I couldn't see further into the future than you,' said the earl. 'But this job won't in any way test your courage, since you're not even to talk to him. I've been told that the king often sits on the queen's burial mound, and flies his hawk from there. But as the day wears on, the hawk gets tired and then the king gropes round the chair to find something to throw at the bird. Now if it happens that the king can't find anything to throw at it, you're to put the whetstone into his hand. And if he gives you something in return you're to take it and then come back to me.'
So Ref set out as the earl had told him and travelled on till he arrived at the mound where King Gautrek was sitting. Everything turned out precisely as Earl Neri had said it would. The king threw all the objects he could lay his hands on at the hawk. Ref sat down behind the king's chair. Then he realized his turn had come, and when the king stretched his hand back, Ref put the whetstone into it, and the king hurled the stone at the hawk. The bird flew up as soon as the stone hit it. The king was so pleased with his success he didn't want his helper to go unrewarded, so without bothering to see who it was, he reached out behind him with a gold ring. Ref took it and went back to Earl Neri, who asked him how his trip had gone. Ref told him and showed him the ring.
'This is a valuable thing,' said the earl. 'It's a lot better to earn a thing like this than just sit around.'
Ref stayed there over the winter, and in the spring the earl asked him, 'What are you going to do now?'
'That shouldn't be difficult to decide,' said Ref. 'Now I can sell my ring for hard cash.'
'I'm going to take a hand in your affairs again,' said the earl. 'There's a king called Ælla who rules over England. You're to give him the ring, you won't lose by it. Come back to me in the autumn, I'll give you plenty of good food and advice even if I don't repay you for the ox any other way.'
'There's no need for you to bring that up,' said Ref.
Then he sailed over to England and went before King Ælla and greeted him courteously. On that occasion Ref was wearing fine clothes and weapons. The king wanted to know who this man was.
'I'm called Ref,' he said, 'and I'd like you to accept this gold ring as a present from me.'
Then he laid it on the table in front of the king.
The king looked at it. 'This is a great treasure,' he said. 'Who gave it you?'
'The ring was given me by King Gautrek,' said Ref.
'What had you given him?' said the king.
'A little whetstone,' said Ref.
'King Gautrek's a pretty generous man, to repay stone with gold,' said the king. 'I'm going to accept this ring, and invite you to stay with me.'
'Thank you, my lord, for your invitation. But I've decided to go back to my foster-father, Earl Neri.'
'You must stay here for a while,' said the king.
The king had a ship fitted out, and one day he asked Ref to come with him for a walk. 'Here's a ship I want to give you, with all the crew you need and a cargo of all the goods you'll find most useful,' said the king. 'Wherever you choose to go, I don't want you to be someone else's passenger any longer. But this isn't to be compared with King Gautrek's gift when he repaid you for the whetstone.'
'This is a most generous gift,' said Ref, and thanked the king for it with many well-chosen words and then made ready for the voyage.
The king said: 'Here are two little dogs I'd like to give you.'
These were exceptionally small and pretty, and Ref had never seen anything like them. They each wore a halter of gold with a gold clasp round their necks, and there were seven small rings on the chain that linked them. No one had seen any treasures quite like this before.
Then Ref put out and sailed on till he came to the land ruled by Earl Neri who went out to meet him and welcome him. 'Come with all your men and stay with me,' he said.
'I've money enough now to pay our own way,' said Ref.
'Good,' said the earl. 'But you mustn't spend your money on that. You're to eat at our table, that's not too much to pay for the ox.'
'The only thing that annoys me,' said Ref, 'is when you bring that up.'
So Ref spent the winter with the earl, and got on well with people, and plenty of men used to follow him around.
In the spring the earl said to Ref, 'What are you going to do now?'
'Wouldn't it be possible for me to go on a viking expedition or else go trading,' said Ref, 'now I've plenty of money?'
'That's true,' said the earl. 'But I'm still going to take a hand in your affairs. You're to go south to Denmark and see King Hrolf Kraki and give him the dogs. They're not the thing for ordinary people. You won't lose money by it if King Hrolf's willing to accept the gift.'
'I'll take your advice,' said Ref, 'though I've plenty of money already.'
10. KING HROLF
Ref made ready for a voyage and sailed over to Denmark. He went to see King Hrolf and greeted him, and the king asked him who he was. He said he was called Ref.
'Aren't you called Gift-Ref?' asked the king.
'It's true I've accepted gifts from people,' said Ref, 'and occasionally I've given presents to others.' Then he added: 'I'd like, Sir, to present you with these little dogs and their outfit.'
The king looked at them. 'These are very valuable,' he said. 'Who gave them to you?'
'King Ælla.'
'What had you given him?'
'A gold ring.'
'And who'd given you the gold ring?'
'King Gautrek.'
'And what had you given him?'
'A whetstone.'
'He's a remarkably generous man, King Gautrek, when he repays stones with gold,' said the king. 'I'd like to accept the dogs. You must stay with us.'
'I'm going back to Neri in the autumn,' said Ref.
'There's nothing to be done about it then,' said the king. So Ref stayed there for a while.
In the autumn Ref made his ship ready. Then the king said to him, 'I've decided how to repay you. Like the King of England, I'm going to present you with a ship, fully manned, and laden with the best cargo.'
'I can't thank you enough for this magnificent gift,' said Ref, and got ready to leave.
'Here are two valuable things I want to give you, Ref,' said the king, 'a helmet and a coat of mail.'
Ref took the gifts, both made of red gold, then he and King Hrolf parted good friends, and Ref went back to Earl Neri, this time in charge of two ships.
The earl welcomed him with open arms, and said his money had continued to increase.....'You'd better stay here with all your men over the winter. And even then I've only repaid you for the ox in a small way. But I'll never grudge you my good advice.'
'I'll accept your guidance in everything,' said Ref.
He stayed there over the winter enjoying fine hospitality, and getting a reputation as a famous man.
11. DECEPTION
In the spring Earl Neri asked Ref, 'What are you going to do this summer?'
'I'd like your advice, Sir,' said Ref. 'Now that I've plenty of money.'
'I think you're right about that but there's still one more trip I'd like you to make,' said the earl. 'There's a king called Olaf who's always plundering. He has eighty ships and lies out at sea, inter or warm summer. You're to go and give him the helmet and the coat of mail, and if he accepts the present, I expect he'll let you choose your own reward. Then you're to tell him that in return you want to command his forces for a fortnight and be free to take them wherever you like. The king has a councillor called Ref-Nose, who's a really evil character. It's doubtful which will be the stronger, your good luck or his magic, but you have to take the risk whatever happens. You're to bring all Olaf's forces here, and then maybe I can repay you for the ox.'
'You needn't keep on about that,' said Ref. And so they parted.
Ref put out to sea in search of King Olaf and found him with his fleet. He lay alongside the king's own ship, climbed aboard and presented himself. King Olaf asked him who he was, and Ref told him.
'Are you known as Gift-Ref?' asked the king.
'Some pretty eminent people have given me gifts,' admitted Ref, 'And I've always given them something too. Here are two valuable things I'd like to present you with, a helmet and a coat of mail, both very fitting for a man like you.'
'Who gave you these precious things?' said King Olaf. 'I've never seen anything like them, nor even heard that such things existed, and yet I've been all over the world.'
'King Hrolf Kraki gave them to me,' said Ref.
'What had you given him?' asked the king.
'Two little dogs with gold halters that King Ælla had given me.'
'What had you given King Ælla?'
'A gold ring Gautrek had given me in return for a whetstone.'
'Some kings are remarkably open-handed,' said King Olaf, but King Gautrek outdoes them all in generosity. Should I accept these gifts, Ref-Nose, or should I reject them?'
'I wouldn't advise you to accept them,' said Ref-Nose, 'if you don't know how to repay them,' and with that he grabbed those precious objects and jumped overboard with them.
Ref realized that it would soon be the end of him if he failed to recover the things, so he went after him. There was a sharp skirmish between them, and the outcome was that Ref managed to get the coat of mail, but Ref-Nose held on to the helmet and dived with it down to the bottom of the sea where he went raving mad. By the time Ref managed to surface again, he was exhausted. Then someone said:
'It seems to me
Ref-Nose's advice
is a great deal worse
than Earl Neri's was.
King Gautrek the giver
of gold to Ref
didn't throw his money
into the sea.'
'You're a remarkable man,' said King Olaf.
'Well,' said Ref, 'I'd like you to accept this one treasure that's left.'
'I'm only too glad to accept it,' said King Olaf. 'I'm just as grateful to you as if I'd been given both treasures; and it was my mistake not to accept them straight away. But there's nothing surprising about that, it was an evil fellow's advice I was following. Now, I want you to choose your own reward.'
'I'd like to command your ships and forces for a fortnight,' said Ref, 'and take them wherever I please.'
'That's a queer choice,' said the king, 'but you're welcome to them.'
Then they sailed to Gotaland to meet Earl Neri. They landed there late in the day, and Ref sent messengers in secret to Earl Neri, asking him to come and see him. The earl went to see Ref, who told him all that had happened on his travels.
'Now the time's come, my friend, to put your good luck to the test,' said the earl. 'I want you to marry King Gautrek's daughter and for a family alliance with him.'
Ref said he'd trust in the earl's judgement.
'The next time we meet,' said the earl, 'whatever I say to you, don't show any surprise, and make sure you agree to anything I suggest.'
Then the earl rode off, and didn't stop until he came to King Gautrek's residence. It was just about midnight when the earl arrived and he told the king that an invincible army had invaded his country. 'These men intend to kill you and then lay the country under their rule.'
'Who's the leader of this army?'
'A man we'd never believed would ignore my advice: my foster-son Ref.'
'Your word still carries a lot of weight with him,' said the king. 'Would it be wise to build up a force against him?'
'If you don't make peace with them,' said the earl, 'it seems pretty likely to me that they'll have caused a great deal of damage before you can muster your forces. I think it would be more sensible to make them a generous offer and find out whether you can reach a peaceful settlement. It seems to me any kingdom is on the verge of ruin when men like these start getting too close.'
'We've always been guided by your advice,' said the king.
'I'd like you, Sir, to hear what we have to say to each other,' said the earl.
The king said he'd do as the earl advised. Then they set out with a small number of men, and when they saw the enemy fleet, the king realized how many of them there were and how hard it would be to stand up against them.
The earl called out from the shore, shouting: 'Is it true that my foster-son is the leader of this army?'
'That's so,' said Ref.
'I'd never have thought, foster-son, that you'd attack either my territory or King Gautrek's. Is there anything we can offer to keep the peace?' asked the earl. 'I'm willing to do anything in my power to add to your reputation, and I'm sure King Gautrek will make the same promise on his own behalf. I'd like you to accept an honourable settlement from the king and then leave his kingdom in peace. I realize that you'll be very exacting in your demands, and that's only natural, seeing that your grandfather was a powerful earl and your father a great fighter.
'I'll accept an honourable offer,' said Ref, 'if I get one.'
'I know you can't be bought off cheaply,' said the earl. 'I think I know the sort of thing you have in mind: you want to get my earldom, the one I've held under King Gautrek, and you'll be expecting the king to give you his daughter as well.'
'You've grasped the situation perfectly,' said Ref, 'and this is what I'll agree to as long as the king is willing.'
The earl turned to the king. 'It seems the wisest thing to accept this offer rather than risk our very lives against these killers. Anyway, it's not unlikely they'd first help themselves to your kingdom and then take your daughter captive,' he said. 'It would be perfectly honourable for you to marry your daughter to an earl's grandson. I'll help Ref with my advice if he's trusted with the government of your kingdom, assuming you'll go along with these proposals.'
'Earl Neri,' said King Gautrek, 'your advice has always been a great help to us, and I'm still willing to trust your foresight. Besides, I realize this army's too big a thing to handle.'
'My proposal is that Ref should be given a proper status so that he'll be able to strengthen your kingdom,' said the earl.
So this was agreed on and sealed with oaths, exactly as the earl had laid down the terms. Then King Gautrek went back home.
'You've given me plenty of support, King Olaf, and now you can go on your way, wherever you like,' said Ref.
'They're shrewd men who've had a hand in this affair of yours,' said King Olaf, and after that he sailed away.
And when the fleet had gone, King Gautrek said, 'I've been dealing with cunning men in this business, but I'll not break my oaths.'
The earl spoke to Ref: 'Now that you've only your own men left, you can see the value of my support. This advice was just the thing for you. It looks as though the ox has been paid off. All the same, I've been less generous than you deserve; for you gave me all you had, while I'm still left immensely rich.'
King Gautrek had a feast prepared, and there Ref married Helga, King Gautrek's daughter. The king also gave him the title of earl. Everybody thought Ref a very enterprising fellow; he was descended from men of rank, and his own father had been a great viking and champion. So Ref ruled his earldom, though he didn't live very long.
Earl Neri died suddenly, and there's nothing more to tell about him in this story. King Gautrek gave a funeral feast for him. By now the king himself was getting old and infirm. He'd won a great reputation for his generosity and bravery, but it's not said that he was a very profound thinker. However, he was well-liked and exceptionally open-handed, and was the most courteous of men.
And so we end Gift-Ref's Saga.
STARKAD'S VERSES
1. Starkad himself refers to this: 'How young I was when my father perished with all his men in the fire. There he lies on Thruma Island, this great warrior, King Harald's retainer. Fjori and Fyri, Earl Freki's sons, destroyed their own sister's husband. They were my uncles, and brothers of Unn.'
2. This is what Starkad has said: 'Treacherously Herthjof treated his own lord, King Harald himself: he stole the life of Agder's ruler and put his sons into hard bondage. Grani Horse-hair abducted me to Hordaland when I was three years old. So I grew up on Ask Island, for nine long years, without seeing my family.'
3. As Starkad himself has said: 'I grew in strength and my legs had lengthened like two poles. My head was a sight, for I used to sit in the ashes, taking no interest in anything. Then Vikar came from the beacon, where he'd been Herthjof's hostage, and walked into the room. He recognized me and urged me to get to my feet and speak to him. He measured me with his thumbs and hands, all my arms down to the wrists. I had hair growing on my cheek.'
4. In the words of Starkad: 'Then Vikar gathered a force, enlisting Sorkvir and Grettir, Hildigrim, Erp and Ulf, An and Skuma, Hroi and Hrotti, sons of Herbrand. Styr and Steinthor were there, from Stad in the north, and that old warrior Gunnolf Blaze. We were twelve together in all, and it would be hard to find a finer band of warriors.'
5. As Starkad said: 'When we arrived at the king's residence, we rammed the gates and hewed down the door frames. We broke the locks and drew our swords to face seventy royal warriors, besides a number of labourers, slaves and water-carriers.'
6. As Starkad said: 'How hard it was to keep up with Vikar who was always in the forefront of battle. We smashed their helmets and their heads as well, we sliced their mail-coats and broke their shields.'
7. As Starkad said: 'Vikar was fated to enhance his honour and to repay King Herthjof for his wicked deeds. We wounded the warriors and killed others. I was close by when the king was killed.'
8. As Starkad said: 'You were not with Vikar east at Lake Vanir early one day when we were fighting Sisar. That was a hard task, harder than you could imagine. He wounded me with his sharp-edged sword right through the shield and the helmet. He marked my skull and cut into my jaw as far as the teeth, and smashed my left collar bone.'
9. In the words of Starkad: 'The powerful warrior struck with his sword against my side above the hip; and at my other side he lunged with his cold-pointed halberd, deep into my body. You can still see the scars although the wounds are healed.'
10. As Starkad said: 'I took a slice off his side with my sharp sword, right across his body. So I used my weapon with all my strength, and did all I could.'
11. Starkad mentions also that the Battle of Uplands was Vikar's third battle: 'This courageous king now played his third game of war, and after that he won the Uplands when King Geirthjof had been despatched to Hell.'
12. As Starkad said: 'He had two outstanding sons, this famous king. The elder one was called Harald, later to rule Telemark. Earl Neri was said to be very mean with his money but shrewd in his advice and experienced in war. He was the sole ruler of the Uplands.'
13. As Starkad said: 'Frithjof sent an angry message to the wise king to find out which he would prefer: to pay tribute or suffer Frithjof's army.'
14. As Starkad said: 'We held long consultations and were not deceived. The army chose that the king should fight a battle.'
15. As Starkad said: 'King Olaf the Keen-eyed ruled his lands east in Sweden. He ordered out a levy, so his contingent formed a great part of the army.'
16. As this verse reports it: 'We advanced eagerly into the din of battle, King Vikar's men. Ulf and Erp were both to be seen there, and without any armour I fought with two hands.'
17. In the words of Starkad: 'Frithjof decided to ask for mercy, for Vikar was not going to yield and Starkad Storvirksson put all his strength into the fight.'
18. As Starkad himself had said: 'Vikar gave me foreign gold: the red bracelet which I wear on my arm, three marks in weight. But I gave him Thruma Island and my loyal support for fifteen years.'

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