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shall I do now?"

Asmund answered, "Thou shalt rub my back at the fire, as I have been
wont to have it done."

"Hot for the hand, truly," said Grettir; "but still a milksop's work."

Now Grettir went on with this work for a while; but autumn came on,
and Asmund became very fain of heat, and he spurs Grettir on to rub
his back briskly. Now, in those times there were wont to be large
fire-halls at the homesteads, wherein men sat at long fires in the
evenings; boards were set before the men there, and afterwards folk
slept out sideways from the fires; there also women worked at the wool
in the daytime. Now, one evening, when Grettir had to rub Asmund's
back, the old carle said, -

"Now thou wilt have to put away thy sloth, thou milk-sop."

Says Grettir, "Ill is it to goad the foolhardy."

Asmund answers, "Thou wilt ever be a good-for-nought."

Now Grettir sees where, in one of the seats stood wool-combs: one of
these he caught up, and let it go all down Asmund's back. He sprang
up, and was mad wroth thereat; and was going to smite Grettir with
his staff, but he ran off. Then came the housewife, and asked what was
this to-do betwixt them. Then Grettir answered by this ditty -

"This jewel-strewer, O ground of gold,
(His counsels I deem over bold),
On both these hands that trouble sow,
(Ah bitter pain) will burn me now;

Therefore with wool-comb's nails unshorn
Somewhat ring-strewer's back is torn:
The hook-clawed bird that wrought his wound, -
Lo, now I see it on the ground."

Hereupon was his mother sore vexed, that he should have taken to a
trick like this; she said he would never fail to be the most reckless
of men. All this nowise bettered matters between Asmund and Grettir.

Now, some time after this, Asmund had a talk with Grettir, that he
should watch his horses. Grettir said this was more to his mind than
the back-rubbing.

"Then shalt thou do as I bid thee," said Asmund. "I have a dun mare,
which I call Keingala; she is so wise as to shifts of weather, thaws,
and the like, that rough weather will never fail to follow, when she
will not go out on grazing. At such times thou shalt lock the horses
up under cover; but keep them to grazing on the mountain neck yonder,
when winter comes on. Now I shall deem it needful that thou turn this
work out of hand better than the two I have set thee to already."

Grettir answered, "This is a cold work and a manly, but I deem it ill
to trust in the mare, for I know none who has done it yet."

Now Grettir took to the horse-watching, and so the time went on till
past Yule-time; then came on much cold weather with snow, that made
grazing hard to come at. Now Grettir was ill clad, and as yet little
hardened, and he began to be starved by the cold; but Keingala grazed
away in the windiest place she could find, let the weather be as rough
as it would. Early as she might go to the pasture, never would she go
back to stable before nightfall. Now Grettir deemed that he must think
of some scurvy trick or other, that Keingala might be paid in full
for her way of grazing: so, one morning early, he comes to the
horse-stable, opens it, and finds Keingala standing all along before
the crib; for, whatever food was given to the horses with her, it was
her way to get it all to herself. Grettir got on her back, and had a
sharp knife in his hand, and drew it right across Keingala's shoulder,
and then all along both sides of the back. Thereat the mare, being
both fat and shy, gave a mad bound, and kicked so fiercely, that her
hooves clattered against the wall. Grettir fell off; but, getting
on his legs, strove to mount her again. Now their struggle is of the
sharpest, but the end of it is, that he flays off the whole of the
strip along the back to the loins. Thereafter he drove the horses out
on grazing; Keingala would bite but at her back, and when noon was
barely past, she started off, and ran back to the house. Grettir now
locks the stable and goes home. Asmund asked Grettir where the horses
were. He said that he had stabled them as he was wont. Asmund said
that rough weather was like to be at hand, as the horses would not
keep at their grazing in such good weather as now it was.

Grettir said, "Oft fail in wisdom folk of better trust."

Now the night goes by, but no rough weather came on. Grettir drove off
the horses, but Keingala cannot bear the grazing. This seemed strange
to Asmund, as the weather changed in nowise from what it had been
theretofore. The third morning Asmund went to the horses, and, coming
to Keingala, said, -

"I must needs deem these horses to be in sorry case, good as the
winter has been, but thy sides will scarce lack flesh, my dun."

"Things boded will happen," said Grettir, "but so will
things unboded."

Asmund stroked the back of the mare, and, lo, the hide came off
beneath his hand; he wondered how this could have happened, and said
it was likely to be Grettir's doing. Grettir sneered mockingly, but
said nought. Now goodman Asmund went home talking as one mad; he went
straight to the fire-hall, and as he came heard the good wife say,
"It were good indeed if the horse-keeping of my kinsman had gone off

Then Asmund sang this stave -

"Grettir has in such wise played,
That Keingala has he flayed,
Whose trustiness would be my boast
(Proudest women talk the most);
So the cunning lad has wrought,
Thinking thereby to do nought
Of my biddings any more.
In thy mind turn these words o'er."

The housewife answered, "I know not which is least to my mind, that
thou shouldst ever be bidding him work, or that he should turn out all
his work in one wise."

"That too we will make an end of," said Asmund, "but he shall fare the
worse therefor."

Then Grettir said, "Well, let neither make words about it to the

So things went on awhile, and Asmund had Keingala killed; and many
other scurvy tricks did Grettir in his childhood whereof the story
says nought. But he grew great of body, though his strength was not
well known, for he was unskilled in wrestling; he would make ditties
and rhymes, but was somewhat scurrilous therein. He had no will to lie
anight in the fire-hall and was mostly of few words.


Of the ball-play on Midfirth Water.

At this time there were many growing up to be men in Midfirth;
Skald-Torfa dwelt at Torfa's-stead in those days; her son was called
Bessi, he was the shapeliest of men and a good skald.

At Meal lived two brothers, Kormak and Thorgils, with them a man
called Odd was fostered, and was called the Foundling-skald.

One called Audun was growing up at Audunstead in Willowdale, he was
a kind and good man to deal with, and the strongest in those north
parts, of all who were of an age with him. Kalf Asgeirson dwelt
at Asgeir's-river, and his brother Thorvald with him. Atli also,
Grettir's brother, was growing into a ripe man at that time; the
gentlest of men he was, and well beloved of all. Now these men
settled to have ball-play together on Midfirth Water; thither came the
Midfirthers, and Willowdale men, and men from Westhope, and Waterness,
and Ramfirth, but those who came from far abode at the play-stead.

Now those who were most even in strength were paired together, and
thereat was always the greatest sport in autumn-tide. But when he was
fourteen years old Grettir went to the plays, because he was prayed
thereto by his brother Atli.

Now were all paired off for the plays, and Grettir was allotted to
play against Audun, the aforenamed, who was some winters the eldest of
the two; Audun struck the ball over Grettir's head, so that he could
not catch it, and it bounded far away along the ice; Grettir got angry
thereat, deeming that Audun would outplay him; but he fetches the ball
and brings it back, and, when he was within reach of Audun, hurls
it right against his forehead, and smites him so that the skin was
broken; then Audun struck at Grettir with the bat he held in his hand,
but smote him no hard blow, for Grettir ran in under the stroke; and
thereat they seized one another with arms clasped, and wrestled. Then
all saw that Grettir was stronger than he had been taken to be, for
Audun was a man full of strength.

A long tug they had of it, but the end was that Grettir fell, and
Audun thrust his knees against his belly and breast, and dealt hardly
with him.

Then Atli and Bessi and many others ran up and parted them; but
Grettir said there was no need to hold him like a mad dog, "For," said
he, "thralls wreak themselves at once, dastards never."

This men suffered not to grow into open strife, for the brothers, Kalf
and Thorvald, were fain that all should be at one again, and Audun and
Grettir were somewhat akin withal; so the play went on as before, nor
did anything else befall to bring about strife.


Of the slaying of Skeggi.

Now Thorkel Krafla got very old; he had the rule of Waterdale and
was a great man. He was bosom friend of Asmund the Greyhaired, as was
beseeming for the sake of their kinship; he was wont to ride to Biarg
every year and see his kin there, nor did he fail herein the spring
following these matters just told. Asmund and Asdis welcomed him most
heartily, he was there three nights, and many things did the kinsmen
speak of between them. Now Thorkel asked Asmund what his mind
foreboded him about his sons, as to what kind of craft they would be
likely to take to. Asmund said that he thought Atli would be a great
man at farming, foreseeing, and money-making. Thorkel answered, "A
useful man and like unto thyself: but what dost thou say of Grettir?"

Asmund said, "Of him I say, that he will be a strong man and an
unruly, and, certes, of wrathful mood, and heavy enough he has been to

Thorkel answered, "That bodes no good, friend; but how shall we settle
about our riding to the Thing next summer?"

Asmund answered, "I am growing heavy for wayfaring, and would fain sit
at home."

"Wouldst thou that Atli go in thy stead?" said Thorkel.

"I do not see how I could spare him," says Asmund, "because of the
farm-work and ingathering of household stores; but now Grettir will
not work, yet he bears about that wit with him that I deem he will
know how to keep up the showing forth of the law for me through thy

"Well, thou shall have thy will," said Thorkel, and withal he rode
home when he was ready, and Asmund let him go with good gifts.

Some time after this Thorkel made him ready to ride to the Thing, he
rode with sixty men, for all went with him who were in his rule: thus
he came to Biarg, and therefrom rode Grettir with him.

Now they rode south over the heath that is called Two-days'-ride; but
on this mountain the baiting grounds were poor, therefore they rode
fast across it down to the settled lands, and when they came down
to Fleet-tongue they thought it was time to sleep, so they took the
bridles off their horses and let them graze with the saddles on. They
lay sleeping till far on in the day, and when they woke, the men went
about looking for their horses; but they had gone each his own way,
and some of them had been rolling; but Grettir was the last to find
his horse.

Now it was the wont in those days that men should carry their own
victuals when they rode to the Althing, and most bore meal-bags
athwart their saddles; and the saddle was turned under the belly of
Grettir's horse, and the meal-bag was gone, so he goes and searches,
and finds nought.

Just then he sees a man running fast, Grettir asks who it is who is
running there; the man answered that his name was Skeggi, and that
he was a house-carle from the Ridge in Waterdale. "I am one of the
following of goodman Thorkel," he says, "but, faring heedlessly, I
have lost my meal-bag."

Grettir said, "Odd haps are worst haps, for I, also, have lost
the meal-sack which I owned, and now let us search both together."

This Skeggi liked well, and a while they go thus together; but all
of a sudden Skeggi bounded off up along the moors and caught up a
meal-sack. Grettir saw him stoop, and asked what he took up there.

"My meal-sack," says Skeggi.

"Who speaks to that besides thyself?" says Grettir; "let me see it,
for many a thing has its like."

Skeggi said that no man should take from him what was his own; but
Grettir caught at the meal-bag, and now they tug one another along
with the meal-sack between them, both trying hard to get the best of

"It is to be wondered at," says the house-carle, "that ye Waterdale
men should deem, that because other men are not as wealthy as ye,
that they should not therefore dare to hold aught of their own in your

Grettir said, that it had nought to do with the worth of men that each
should have his own.

Skeggi answers, "Too far off is Audun now to throttle thee as at that

"Good," said Grettir; "but, howsoever that went, thou at least shall
never throttle me."

Then Skeggi got at his axe and hewed at Grettir; when Grettir saw
that, he caught the axe-handle with the left hand bladeward of
Skeggi's hand, so hard that straightway was the axe loosed from his
hold. Then Grettir drave that same axe into his head so that it stood
in the brain, and the house-carle fell dead to earth. Then Grettir
seized the meal-bag and threw it across his saddle, and thereon rode
after his fellows.

Now Thorkel rode ahead of all, for he had no misgiving of such things
befalling: but men missed Skeggi from the company, and when Grettir
came up they asked him what he knew of Skeggi; then he sang -

"A rock-troll her weight did throw
At Skeggi's throat a while ago:
Over the battle ogress ran
The red blood of the serving-man;
Her deadly iron mouth did gape
Above him, till clean out of shape
She tore his head and let out life:
And certainly I saw their strife."

Then Thorkel's men sprung up and said that surely trolls had not taken
the man in broad daylight. Thorkel grew silent, but said presently,
"The matter is likely to be quite other than this; methinks Grettir
has in all likelihood killed him, or what could befall?"

Then Grettir told all their strife. Thorkel says, "This has come to
pass most unluckily, for Skeggi was given to my following, and was,
nathless, a man of good kin; but I shall deal thus with the matter: I
shall give boot for the man as the doom goes, but the outlawry I may
not settle. Now, two things thou hast to choose between, Grettir;
whether thou wilt rather go to the Thing and risk the turn of matters,
or go back home."

Grettir chose to go to the Thing, and thither he went. But a lawsuit
was set on foot by the heirs of the slain man: Thorkel gave handsel,
and paid up all fines, but Grettir must needs be outlawed, and keep
abroad three winters.

Now when the chiefs rode from the Thing, they baited under Sledgehill
before they parted: then Grettir lifted a stone which now lies there
in the grass and is called Grettir's-heave; but many men came up to
see the stone, and found it a great wonder that so young a man should
heave aloft such a huge rock.

Now Grettir rode home to Biarg and tells the tale of his journey;
Asmund let out little thereon, but said that he would turn out an
unruly man.


Of Grettir's voyage out.

There was a man called Haflidi, who dwelt at Reydarfell in
Whiteriverside, he was a seafaring man and had a sailing ship, which
lay up Whiteriver: there was a man on board his ship, hight Bard,
who had a wife with him young and fair. Asmund sent a man to Haflidi,
praying him to take Grettir and look after him; Haflidi said that he
had heard that the man was ill ruled of mood; yet for the sake of the
friendship between him and Asmund he took Grettir to himself, and made
ready for sailing abroad.

Asmund would give to his son no faring-goods but victuals for the
voyage and a little wadmall. Grettir prayed him for some weapon, but
Asmund answered, "Thou hast not been obedient to me, nor do I know
how far thou art likely to work with weapons things that may be of any
gain; and no weapon shalt thou have of me."

"No deed no reward," says Grettir. Then father and son parted
with little love. Many there were who bade Grettir farewell, but few
bade him come back.

But his mother brought him on his road, and before they parted she
spoke thus, "Thou art not fitted out from home, son, as I fain would
thou wert, a man so well born as thou; but, meseems, the greatest
shortcoming herein is that thou hast no weapons of any avail, and my
mind misgives me that thou wilt perchance need them sorely."

With that she took out from under her cloak a sword well wrought,
and a fair thing it was, and then she said, "This sword was owned
by Jokul, my father's father, and the earlier Waterdale men, and it
gained them many a day; now I give thee the sword, and may it stand
thee in good stead."

Grettir thanked her well for this gift, and said he deemed it better
than things of more worth; then he went on his way, and Asdis wished
him all good hap.

Now Grettir rode south over the heath, and made no stay till he came
to the ship. Haflidi gave him a good welcome and asked him for his
faring-goods, then Grettir sang -

"Rider of wind-driven steed,
Little gat I to my need,
When I left my fair birth-stead,
From the snatchers of worm's bed;
But this man's-bane hanging here,
Gift of woman good of cheer,
Proves the old saw said not ill,
Best to bairn is mother still."

Haflidi said it was easily seen that she thought the most of him. But
now they put to sea when they were ready, and had wind at will; but
when they had got out over all shallows they hoisted sail.

Now Grettir made a den for himself under the boat, from whence he
would move for nought, neither for baling, nor to do aught at the
sail, nor to work at what he was bound to work at in the ship in even
shares with the other men, neither would he buy himself off from the

Now they sailed south by Reekness and then south from the land; and
when they lost land they got much heavy sea; the ship was somewhat
leaky, and scarce seaworthy in heavy weather, therefore they had it
wet enough. Now Grettir let fly his biting rhymes, whereat the men
got sore wroth. One day, when it so happened that the weather was both
squally and cold, the men called out to Grettir, and bade him now do
manfully, "For," said they, "now our claws grow right cold." Grettir
looked up and said -

"Good luck, scurvy starvelings, if I should behold
Each finger ye have doubled up with the cold."

And no work they got out of him, and now it misliked them of their
lot as much again as before, and they said that he should pay with his
skin for his rhymes and the lawlessness which he did. "Thou art more
fain," said they, "of playing with Bard the mate's wife than doing thy
duty on board ship, and this is a thing not to be borne at all."

The gale grew greater steadily, and now they stood baling for days and
nights together, and all swore to kill Grettir. But when Haflidi heard
this, he went up to where Grettir lay, and said, "Methinks the bargain
between thee and the chapmen is scarcely fair; first thou dost by them
unlawfully, and thereafter thou castest thy rhymes at them; and now
they swear that they will throw thee overboard, and this is unseemly
work to go on."

"Why should they not be free to do as they will?" says Grettir; "but I
well would that one or two of them tarry here behind with me, or ever
I go overboard."

Haflidi says, "Such deeds are not to be done, and we shall never
thrive if ye rush into such madness; but I shall give thee good rede."

"What is that?" says Grettir.

"They blame thee for singing ill things of them; now, therefore, I
would that thou sing some scurvy rhyme to me, for then it might be
that they would bear with thee the easier."

"To thee I never sing but good," says Grettir: "I am not going to make
thee like these starvelings."

"One may sing so," says Haflidi, "that the lampoon be not so foul when
it is searched into, though at first sight it be not over fair."

"I have ever plenty of that skill in me," says Grettir.

Then Haflidi went to the men where they were baling, and said, "Great
is your toil, and no wonder that ye have taken ill liking to Grettir."

"But his lampoons we deem worse than all the rest together," they

Haflidi said in a loud voice, "He will surely fare ill for it in the

But when Grettir heard Haflidi speak blamefully of him, he sang -

"Otherwise would matters be,
When this shouting Haflidi
Ate in house at Reydarfell
Curdled milk, and deemed it well;
He who decks the reindeer's side
That 'twixt ness and ness doth glide,
Twice in one day had his fill
Of the feast of dart shower shrill."[8]

[Footnote 8: This is about as obscure as the original, which seems to
allude to some event not mentioned in the Saga.]

The shipmen thought this foul enough, and said he should not put shame
on Skipper Haflidi for nought.

Then said Haflidi, "Grettir is plentifully worthy that ye should
do him some shame, but I will not have my honour staked against his
ill-will and recklessness; nor is it good for us to wreak vengeance
for this forthwith while we have this danger hanging over us; but be
ye mindful of it when ye land, if so it seem good to you."

"Well," they said, "why should we not fare even as thou farest? for
why should his vile word bite us more than thee?"

And in that mind Haflidi bade them abide; and thence-forward the
chapmen made far less noise about Grettir's rhymes than before.

Now a long and a hard voyage they had, and the leak gained on the
ship, and men began to be exceeding worn with toil. The young wife of
the mate was wont to sew from Grettir's hands, and much would the crew
mock him therefor; but Haflidi went up to where Grettir lay and sang -

"Grettir, stand up from thy grave,
In the trough of the grey wave
The keel labours, tell my say
Now unto thy merry may;
From thy hands the linen-clad
Fill of sewing now has had,
Till we make the land will she
Deem that labour fitteth thee."

Then Grettir stood up and sang -

"Stand we up, for neath us now
Rides the black ship high enow;
This fair wife will like it ill
If my limbs are laid here still;
Certes, the white trothful one
Will not deem the deed well done,
If the work that I should share
Other folk must ever bear."

Then he ran aft to where they were baling, and asked what they would
he should do; they said he would do mighty little good.

"Well," said he, "ye may yet be apaid of a man's aid."

Haflidi bade them not set aside his help, "For it may be he shall deem
his hands freed if he offers his aid."

At that time pumping was not used in ships that fared over the main;
the manner of baling they used men called tub or cask baling, and a
wet work it was and a wearisome; two balers were used, and one went
down while the other came up. Now the chapmen bade Grettir have the
job of sinking the balers, and said that now it should be tried what
he could do; he said that the less it was tried the better it would
be. But he goes down and sinks the balers, and now two were got to
bale against him; they held out but a little while before they were
overcome with weariness, and then four came forward and soon fared in
likewise, and, so say some, that eight baled against him before the
baling was done and the ship was made dry. Thenceforth the manner of
the chapmen's words to Grettir was much changed, for they saw what
strength he had to fall back upon; and from that time he was the
stoutest and readiest to help, wheresoever need was.

Now they bore off east into the main, and much thick weather they had,
and one night unawares they ran suddenly on a rock, so that the nether
part of the ship went from under her; then the boat was run down, and
women and all the loose goods were brought off: nearby was a little
holm whither they brought their matters as they best could in the
night; but when it began to dawn they had a talk as to where they were
come; then they who had fared between lands before knew the land for
Southmere in Norway; there was an island hardby called Haramsey; many
folk dwelt there, and therein too was the manor of a lord.


Of Grettir at Haramsey and his dealings with Karr the Old.

Now the lord who dwelt in the island was called Thorfinn; he was the
son of Karr the Old, who had dwelt there long; and Thorfinn was a

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