Laxdæla SagaA Fragment, from B. L. MS. 45,317
Introduction and transcription by Marjorie Burns
Laxdæla saga, one of the longest, most popular, and most female-centered of the Iceland family sagas, begins—as so many sagas do—with an exodus from Norway during King Harald’s period of unification. Nearly one third of this thirteenth-century saga is given over to the Laxdæla cast of characters, with its friendly or unfriendly links among family members and their connections to others who enter into the story.
In the section that appears in William Morris’s translation (chapters 28-33), the cousins, Bolli and Kiartan, are reared as foster brothers. Soon a series of omens occurs. A favored sword is stolen and cursed by its owner. Olaf Peacock, father of Kiartan, learns in a dream that someone he loves will be slaughtered the way he has slaughtered an ox. Gudrun Osvif’s-daughter, has four dreams; and these dreams are interpreted as the four marriages in her future. Finally comes the prediction that Bolli will kill his cousin.
This is the point where the translation ends. The fragment we have in Morris’s hand does not go on to describe Gudrun’s marriages or the revenge and counter revenge that fill out the story. Though Morris and Eiríkr Magnússon read through the saga together, what we have instead of a finished Laxdæla translation is Morris’s retelling of the final two thirds of the saga in his 1869 poem The Lovers of Gudrun.1
Magnússon’s memorial essay from The Cambridge Review (1896) describes how the poem came to be written:
When we had done the “Story of the men of Salmon-river-dale” (Laxdœla), and when the lays on the Volsungs and Gjukungs were finished [late 1868 to early 1869], I gave it him as my impression, that the life of Gudrun Osvifr’s daughter, and the life of Sigurd Fafner’s slayer were dealt with, in the old records, so fragmentarily and, at the same time, so suggestively, as to leave a poet like himself, steeped in the lore of the Middle Ages and possessed, at first hand, of full mastery of these subjects, a wide field open for poetical treatment after the manner of the tales of the Earthly Paradise. He was then too full of first impressions to entertain the idea. He even went so far as to say that these matters were too sacred, too venerable, to be touched by a modern hand. The matter dropped in each case, after some argument on either side, by my suggestion that he might think it over. After a month, or perhaps more, in either case, I had the pleasure of finding the poet, one day, unexpectedly, in a state of fervid enthusiasm, declaring that he had made up his mind to write a new poem. (110)2
Morris’s account is not quite the same. His 1870 letter to William Bell Scott discusses The Lovers of Gudrun, but no mention is made of Magnússon’s involvement and nothing suggests Morris was slow to commit. “I began a translation of that part of Laxdaela wh: bears reference to my story,” Morris writes, “however” (he goes on),
I soon discontinued, finding that it was not necessary for my work: it happens to be the part most close to my poem, Gudrun’s dream viz. . . . The saga itself is full of interesting incident, but has no pretensions to artistic unity, being indeed what it calls itself, a chronicle of the dwellers in Laxdale: it is disjointed even for that withal, and in some important places very bald, much more so than in any of the good translated sagas: with that too were coarsenesses both of manners and characters that seemed alien to other parts of the characters therein, and wh: I thought I had a right to soften or disregard: All these things, to my mind, joining with the magnificent story made it the better subject for a poem as one could fairly say that that story had never been properly told. (Letters, I, 109-110)
Since Laxdæla saga is no more “disjointed” or marred by “coarseness” than other sagas Morris and Magnússon worked on together, there is something a little surprising in Morris’s claim that the story is in need of improvement and has never before “been properly told”—quite a shift from his earlier insistence that the sagas were “too sacred, too venerable, to be touched by a modern hand”!
Once The Lovers of Gudrun appeared in print, Morris moved on to other matters, leaving his Laxdæla translation unfinished. Though a full translation would have been a welcome addition to Morris’s collected works, this was not to be; and the honor of first publication in English went instead to Mrs. Muriel Press in 1899—thirty years after Morris abandoned his own short-lived effort.
Morris’s translation contains certain small variations found in the Copenhagen edition of 1826 (though differences among Laxdæla manuscripts and their printed editions are slight). In the following transcription, oddities in verbs, punctuation, or capitalization remain the same, and inconsistencies in spelling have been left as they appear (Thorgerda/Thorgerd; Horðaland/ Hordaland; Guest/Gest, or ready/reddy, for example). Where Morris had not yet decided between two possible phrases or words, both have been kept. Corrections and explanations appear in brackets or footnotes, and paragraph breaks have been inserted for clarity.
Arent, A. Margaret. Introduction to The Laxdoela Saga. Translated by A. Margaret Arent. Seattle: University of Washington Press; New York: The American- Scandinavian Foundation, 1964.
Drever, James. “The Psychology of Laxdæla.” Saga Book of the Viking Society for Northern Research, 12 (1940): 107-118.
Dronke, Ursula. “Narrative Insight in Laxdæla saga.” In Sagas of the Icelanders: A Book of Essays, edited by John Tucker, 206-225. New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1989.
Foote, Peter. Introduction to The Laxdale Saga. Translated by Muriel Press (1899). London: Dent; New York: Dutton, 1964.
Magnússon, Eiríkr. “William Morris.” The Cambridge Review 26 (November 1896): 109-110.
Magnusson, Magnus and Hermann Pálsson. Introduction to Laxdæla Saga. Translated by Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Pálsson. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1969-1981.
Maurer, Oscar. “William Morris and Laxdæla Saga.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language, V, no. 3 (Autumn 1963): 422-37.
Olaf and Thorgerda had a son, and the lad was sprinkled with water, and a name was given him, and he was called after Myrkiartan his fathers grandfather, and Bolli and Kiartan were well-nigh of an age: but yet more children had Olaf and Thorgerda, their sons were named Steinthor, and Haldor, and Helgi, and Hoskuld who was the youngest son; but one of their daughters was called Bergthor and another Thorbiorg; and all these children were of good hope when they grew up.
In those days dwelt Holmgang Bersi at Muckly,1 at the stead called Tongue, he went to Olaf and prayed him to have the fostering of Haldor his son; and Olaf took the offer so Haldor went with him a child of one winter old. Now that summer Bersi fell sick and lay abed long in the summer-tide, and on a day while men were a-haymaking at Tongue and the twain Bersi and Haldor were within alone together, and Haldor lay in his cradle, the cradle fell from under the boy and he out of the cradle on to the floor, nor might Bersi go to him; so Bersi sang;
“Haldor and I
Here do we lie
In feeble plight
Without help or might;
So eld rules me
And babehood thee;
Hale and strong shalt thou grow
But I worser than now.”
Then men came in and took up Haldor from the floor; but Bersi got better, Haldor grew up there and was a big man and a mighty.
Kiartan Olaf’s son grew up at home in Herdholt, he was of all men of Iceland the fairest; grand of countenance and well wrought of face, the best eyed of all men and fair-skinned; plenteous was his hair and as fair as silk, and fell adown in locks; a big man and a strong was he, even as Egil his mothers-father, or Thorolf had been. Kiartan was better shaped than any man, in so much that all who beheld him wondered thereat, and more skilled he was in weapons than the most of men; a deft craftsman, and the best of swimmers, and in all deeds of skill was he far before other men; humble of heart was he withal more than any man, and so well-loved that there was no child that loved him not, merry of mood he was and open-handed. Olaf loved Kiartan the best of all his children.
Bolli his fosterbrother was a big man, and came next to Kiartan in all deeds of skill and prowess; strong was he and fair to look on, courteous and most warrior like, and showy of attire; Great love the fosterbrothers had one for the other.
So Olaf sits at his homestead through the course of years.
One spring Olaf gave Thorgerd to know that he was minded for the outlands, “And I will that thou have good keep of homestead and children meanwhile.” Thorgerd said that she was ill content therewith, but Olaf said he would rule the matter; so he buys a ship that stood up west in Vadli, and fares out that summer and makes Horðaland. There a little way from the shore dwelt a man called Geirmund Howl a mighty man and rich, and a
great Viking; a quarrelsome man was he, but had now set himself down in peace, and was a courtman of Hakon the Mighty.
Geirmund went to the ship, and soon knew Olaf what he was, because he had erst heard tell of him; so he bade Olaf to him with as many men as he would. That bidding Olaf took and went to guest there with 5 men; his crew were housed in Hordaland about there. Geirmund did well to Olaf, and his housekeeping was stately with many men, and great glee there was there the winter through; but as the winter wore Olaf laid his errand before Geirmund that he would fain gather together building-timber, and said that [he] set much store by the getting of it good; then said Geirmund; “Earl Hakon has the best woods, and I know for sure that if thou goest to meet him they will all lie in thine hands; for the Earl gives good to men in nowise so well mannered as thou art, Olaf, if they go seek him.”
So in the spring Olaf went his ways to meet Earl Hakon, and the Earl gave him wondrous good welcome, and bade Olaf abide with him and be there as long as he would. Olaf told the Earl how it stood with his journey, “and this will I pray thee, lord, to give us the cutting of building timber in thy woods.”
Then said the Earl, “Nought shall be spared to thee though thou lade thy ship with such wood as we give thee; for meseems it is not every day that such men as thou come to us from Iceland.” Moreover at parting the Earl gave him an axe gold-inlaid, a thing of the greatest price, and they parted with the greatest goodwill.
Now Geirmund sold his lands secretly, being mind to sail out to Iceland in Olafs ship that summer; this he kept hidden from all men, nor did Olaf know thereof, till before Geirmund brought his goods down to the ship, and great was that wealth.
Then Olaf said; “Never shouldest thou have sailed in my ship, if I had known thereof before, because I wot well that there are some in Iceland, for whom it had been better never to have seen thee; but now since thou art come hither with all these goods, I am loth to drive thee back like a strayed cur.”
Said Geirmund “Nay I shall never get me back again2 though thy words be somewhat big, because I am fully minded to get passage with thee.”
So Olaf and he went aboard, and they sailed out into the main, and had a fair wind, and made Broadfrith; now they cast the gangways aland in Laxrivermouth, and Olaf let bear the timber a land and laid up the ship in the shed his father had had made; and withal he bad Geirmund to his house.
That summer Olaf let build a fire-house at Herdholt bigger and fairer than men had yet seen, and therein on the panelling and the roof were famous stories wrought3; and so well was that wrought, that much gayer was the hall deemed when the hangings were not up.
Geirmund meddled little with folk in his daily ways, and was crossgrained to most men; but he was ever so clad, that he had on a kirtle of scarlet red, and a cloak of grey fell thereover, and a bearskin hood on his head, and his sword in his hand; a mighty weapon was that, no silver was thereon, but sharp was the brand and broad, and right free from rust; that sword he called Leg-biter, and let it never go out of his hand.
Now he had been there but a little, before he cast his mind on Thurid the daughter of Olaf, and set forth his wooing to Olaf who gave him a flat denial thereto. Then Geirmund gave money to Thorgerd to the end to advance his wooing; she took the money
for it was no small sum, and then fell a talking on the matter with Olaf, and said that she deemed their daughter might not be better given, for that he was a mighty man, rich and high minded.
Then said Olaf, “I will not cross thee in this more than in other matters, though I would be fainer to give Thurid to another man.”
Thorgerd went away and deemed that her business had gone forward well, and so she told Geirmund what had been done; he thanked her for her words, and help and the pushing mind;4 and then again but5 forth his wooing to Olaf, and now things went easily. Thereafter Thurid was betrothed to Geirmund and the wedding was to be held at Herdholt at the end of winter; thronged enow was the wedding because now the fire-hall was clean done.
At that feast was Ulf Uggison who had made a song on Olaf Hauskuldson, and the stories which were painted in the fire hall, and that song he set forth at the feast; [this is called the HúsDrápa6] and well is it done: Olaf rewarded him well therefor, and gave good gifts to all the great men, who had come to his house. And Olaf was deemed to have grown the greater because of this feast.
Little concord there was betwixt Geirmund and Thurid, and on both sides it was so. Now Geirmund had been but three winters with Olaf before he yearned to go abroad, and gave it forth that Thurid should abide behind with their daughter Groa by name, who was a year-old maiden; but the money would Geirmund not leave behind. Thereat the mother and daughter were exceeding ill content, and tell Olaf thereof, but he said “What is now, Thorgerd? is the Eastman less openhanded now than he was in the autumn when he prayed thee for the maiden?”
So they got nought done with Olaf, for in all matters was he a man to hold to his word; but he said the may should abide behind till something of avail was found for her; but at the parting betwixt him and Geirmund, Olaf gave him a merchant ship; and so then Geirmund got her ready, and thanked him well, and said it was given in noble wise : afterwards he sailed out of Laxrivermouth with a light nor-easter, but the wind fell when they came out to the isles. So they lay out by Oxisle half a month, in such wise as that they might not get away.
At that time had Olaf gone from home to see to his drifts; so Thurid called to her father’s house carles and bade them go with her, and she took with her the little maiden; and they were ten in all; she let launch the craft which Olaf owned, and then bade them row or sail down along Hvamfirth; and when they came to the isles she bade them put forth the small boat which was on the keel; so Thurid jumped into that boat with two men, and bade those who were left behind see to the ship until she came back; she took the little maiden in her lap and then bade row with the tide till they met the big-ship; she caught up an auger from the ship and and7 gave it into the hands of one of her fellows, and bade him go to the big-ship’s boat, and scuttle her in such wise that she would be unseaworthy, if the folk had need to take to her. Afterwards she made them bring her aland, and she had the little maiden in her bosom, and that was about sunrise. Now she went out to the ship over the gangway, and all men were asleep. She went to the hide-bed whereon Geirmund lay asleep, and the sword Leg-biter hung at his bed head: then Thurid laid the maiden Groa on the bed, and caught up Leg-biter and took it with her, and then went from the ship to her fellows.
Now the little maiden fell a greeting,8 and therewith Geirmund awoke and sat up and straightway knew the child, and deemed he wotted from betwixt whose ribs this had come. He springs up, and would take his sword, but misses it as was like, and then he goes up on deck and sees how they are rowing from the ship. Then Geirmund called to his men and bade them leap into the boat and follow after them: this they did, but when they were come but a little way from the ship, lo and behold in rushes on them the sea coal-blue, and now they turn back to the ship.
Then Geirmund cried out to Thurid and bade her turn back and give him Legbiter his sword, “And take thy little maid, and have with her from hence money as much as thou wilt.”
Then said Thurid, “Deemest thou that thou wouldst fainer have the sword than lose it?
Says Geirmund “Much wealth would I lay down rather then lose the sword.”
Then she said, “Never shall thou get it; exceedingly unmanly hast thou done to us, and now shall we part thus.”
Then said Geirmund, “No good hap will it bring thee to have the sword.”
She said she would take the risk of that.
“Then this I declare over it,” said Geirmund, “that that sword shall be the bane of him amongst your kin of whom is most skathe, and in the unhappiest of ways shall that be brought about.”
Thereafter Thurid goes back home to Herdholt; Olaf was come home by then, and praised that deed of hers but little; but all was quiet. Thurid gave the sword Legbiter to her kinsman Bolli, because she loved him no less than her own brethren; and Bolli bare that sword long after.
After these things Geirmund and his folk had wind at will, and sailed out to sea, and made Norway in autumn-tide; but one night they ran on to a rock off Stead, and Geirmund and his shipmates were all lost. and henceforth nought has the tale to tell of Geirmund.
Olaf Hoskuldson abode at his house in great honour as is written afore. Now there was a man called Gudmund the son of Solmund, who dwelt at Asbiornsness in Willowdale and was a wealthy man; he prayed for Thurid and gat her and much fee withal: Thurid was a wise woman, high minded and stirring; the names of the sons of these twain were Hall, Bardi, Stein and Steingrim; and Gudrun and Olof were their daughters.
Thorbiorg the daughter of Olaf was the fairest and strongest of women; she was called Thorbiorg the Thick, and was wedded west in Waterfirth to Asgeir Svarts son, who was a noble man; their son was Kiartan the father of Thorvald, [the father of Thord], the father of Snorri, the father of Thorvald; thence is come the Waterfirth kin. Afterwards Vermund Thorgrimson had Thorbiorg to wife, and their daughter was Thorfinna whom Thorstein Kuggson wedded. Bergthora Olafs daughter was wedded west in Deepfirth to Thorhall the Godi; their son was Kiartan the father of Sturla the Smith, who fostered Thord Gilson.
Now Olaf the Peacock had many and excellent beasts; a good ox he had which was called Harri, dapple grey to behold, and greater than other neat. Four horns he had, whereof two were big and stood forth fairly, and three stood straight up, but the forth [fourth] from the brow and down betwixt the eyes of him, and that was his ice-breaker. [He scraped like a horse.]9 One great slaughtering winter he went from Herdholt and thither whereas it is now called Harristead in the Broadfirth dales; and there he went about through the winter with 16 neat, and brought them all to grass; but in the spring he brought them to the pasture which is called Harrislair in the lands of Herdholt.
When Harri was 18 years old, his ice-breaker fell from the head of him, and that same autumn Olaf let slay him. But the next night Olaf dreamed that there came to him a woman huge and wrathful, who took up the word and said, “Art thou heavy with sleep?” he said that he was awake; the woman said, “Nay thou sleepest, yet shall one thing go for the other; thou hast let slay my son and sent him in unseemly wise to my hands, therefore shall it befal thee to see thy son swimming in blood from things that I shall work; and him shall I chose whom I wot well is 10 Then she vanished away. Olaf woke up and thought he yet saw the semblance of the woman. A great portent he thought this dream and told his friends of it, yet was it not interpreted to his liking: they he deemed said the best of it, who said it was a guileful dream which had been borne before him.
There was a man named Osvif, the son of Helgi, the son of Ottar, the son of Biorn the Easterner, the son of Ketil Flatneb, the son of Biorn Bunu: the mother of Osvif was Midbiorg, her mother was Kadlin the daughter of Rolf the Walker, the son of Oxen Thorir, who was a mighty duke east in the Wick, and was so bynamed because he had 3 isles and eighty oxen on each of them; and he gave one isle and the oxen thereon to Harald the King, and that gift became exceeding famed. Osvif was a very wise man, he dwelt at the Baths in Sælingsdale, and that stead stands south of Sælingsdale river over against Tongue: Osvif’s wife was called Thordis, the daughter of Thiodolf the short; Ospak was the name of their first son, Helgi the second, Vandrad the third, Torrad the fourth, Thorolf the fifth, and they were all warlike men.
Gudrun was the name of their daughter, she was the fairest of all women who were growing up in Iceland both to look on, and because of her wise mind. Gudrun was a woman of such fair array that at that time all beside her was childs play that other women had to show of fair things. The wiliest of all women was she, and fair spoken, and bountiful withal.
That woman dwelt with Osvif who was called Thorhalla and by-named the Wordy, she was somewhat akin to Osvif; two sons she had, one called Odd, and the otther Stein, who were brisk men, and great props to Osvifs household.
bonder: Thorarin was a big man and a strong; he had good lands but little stock; so Osvif would fain deal with him for the lands, for that he had poor lands and plenteous live stock; and that went so far that Osvif bought of him all the land from Peakpass down along both sides of the dale to Stockgil; good land that is and of good price, and he ever had summer pasture thither; many servants he had, and his house keeping were worthy and great.
West in Muckly is a stead call Knoll, there dwelt three kinsmen-in-law; two brothers Thorir [orig., Thorkel the Whelp] and Knut, men of great kin, and their brother-in-law who dwelt with them and Thord by name; he was known by his mother’s name, and was called Ingunnarson. The father of Thord was Glum Geirison. Thord was a fair man, mighty of make, and had many cases at his hands; he had to wife the sister of the twain Thorkel11 and Knut, who was called Aud, and was neither fair nor shapely: Thord loved her little, he had pretty much looked to the money therein, because great wealth was gathered together there: and that household was mighty since Thord cast in his lot with them.
Guest Odleifson dwelt west at Bardistrand in the meads; he was a great chief and wise of wit, foreseeing in many matters, well befriended of all the mightier men, and many sought counsel of him. He rode every summer to the Thing, and would ever take up his quarters at Knoll; and on a time it befel that Guest rode to the Thing, and guested at
Knoll, he gat him ready early in the morning because the way was long, and he was minded to come that night to Armod at Thickwood, his brother-in-law, who had married Thorun his sister; their sons were Ornolf, and Haldor. Now Guest rides west that day from Muckly and comes to Sælingsdale-bath, and abides there a while. Gudrun came to the Bath, and gave Guest, her kinsman, good welcome, that Guest took, and they fell a talking together, and wise their talk was, and of many words: but as the day wore Gudrun said; “Kinsman, I will that thou ride to us tonight with all thy company, and that is my fathers will too, although he has given me honour of bearing this errand to thee; and his will it is withal that thou abide with us whensoever thou passest from or to the West.”
Guest took this well, and said that was a generous message; but that he must even ride as he had been minded.
Then Gudrun said; “I have dreamed many things in the winter, and the dreams are four, that have brought me the greatest care; nor has any man yet interpreted them to my liking; yet will I not pray thee to interpret them [favorably] for me.”12
Guest said, “Tell thy dreams, belike we may do somewhat herein.”
Then spake Gudrun. “Methought I stood abroad by a certain brookside, and that I had a twisted coif on my headd, which I deemed fitted me ill, therefore was I fain to change it; many spake words thereover that I should not do it, but I heeded them not, but pulled the coif from my head, and cast it forth into the brook nor did this dream last any longer.”
Then Gudrun spake yet again; “The beginning of the next dream, was this, that methought I stood by a certain water, and on my hand was a silver ring, and I thought that it was mine, and befitted me wondrous well; and the dearest of all good things it seemed to me, and I was minded to have it long; but when I looked the least therefor the ring slipped from my arm into the water, nor did I ever see it after; and far greater the harm seemed to me, than I might deem would have been from the loss of such a having. Then I awoke.”
Guest said this only; “Nothing less is this dream.”
But Gudrun spake again and said. “This is my third dream, that methought I had a gold ring and it seemed to atone for my loss, and in my mind it was, that I should enjoy this ring longer than the first; and yet I deemed not this ring so much better than the other, as gold is dearer than silver; then methought I was falling and would steady myself with my hand, but the gold ring smote on a stone, and flew asunder, and I thought blood came out of the pieces; and that seemed to me more like grief than bitter loss, when methought that it came into my mind that there had been a flaw in the ring; and when I looked after the pieces methought I saw more flaws therein, and yet I deemed it would have been whole, if I had paid better heed to it; and no longer was this dream.”
Guest said, “Three of thy dreams go not well”.
And once more Gudrun spake; “This was my fourth dream, that I thought I had on my head, a helm of gold all beset with gems, and methought I owned that precious thing; but that methought was the drawback to it, that it seemed to me somewhat heavy, so that I might scarcely bear it, and must carry my head awry; yet nought did I blame the helm therefore, nor was minded to cast it from me; nevertheless it slipped from my head, and out into Hvamfirth, and then I awoke: and now are all the dreams told.”
He says “A clear sight do I get of what these dreams are, and much alike wilt thoudeem them to be, because in well nigh one and the same wise must I interpret them all: Four husbands shalt thou have, and that do I look for of him to whom thou art first given, that no love-match it will be; for whereas thou didst dream that thou hadst a great coif on thine head, and that it befitted thee ill; thereby is it shown that thou shall love him little; and whereas thou thoughtest that thou didst take the coif from thine head, and cast it into the water, behold thou shalt depart from him; because men call a thing cast into the sea when a man loses it and gets nought therefor.”
Now yet again spake Guest; This was thy second dream that thou didst think that thou hadst a silver ring on thine arm; so thou wilt be given to another noble man, whom thou wilt love much, and enjoy but a short while, nor will it come upon me unawares, though though13 thou lose him by drowning; and no more do I make of this dream.
That was thy third, that thou hadst a gold ring on thine arm; lo then thou shalt have yet a third husband, nor will he seem so much more worth to thee, as the golden metal is harder to come by and dearer than silver; but that lies close to my heart that in those days shall there be a change of faith, and that this thy husband will take on him that faith which we think so much the better and more glorious. but whereas thou thoughtest that the ring flew asunder, somewhat from thy want of heed, and that thou sawest blood come from the pieces, then shall thy husband be slain, and then wilt thou see14 as clearly as may be the flaws that have been in that wedding.”
Once again he spoke and said; That was thy third [orig., fourth] dream, that thou hadst on thine head a helm of gold beset with gems, which was heavy to bear; so now shalt thou have a fourth husband yet, and he will be the greatest of chiefs, and shall hold the helm of awe over thine head; but whereas thou thoughtest that it slipped off into Hvamfirth, that betokens that he shall meet the waters of that same firth when his days are drawn to their latter end. nor more do I make of that dream.”
Gudrun sat by as red as blood, while the dreams were being interpreted, and no word she spake thereon till Guest had made an end of talking; then she says. “A fairer interpretation hadst thou made in this matter, if it had been so got reddy for thine hands by me; but have thou thank therefore, in that thou hast shown forth my dreams. But great care it is to me, if all these things shall follow after.”
Then Gudrun prayed Guest anew, that he would abide there that day, and said that he and Osvif would talk much wisdom together.
He said “Nay I shall ride as I have said, but thou shalt give thy father my greeting, and tell him this my word, that sometime it shall come to pass, that shorter will be the space betwixt the dwellings of us twain, and then will talk betwixt us be easy, if then we have leave to talk together.”
Then went Gudrun home, but Gest rode away and met a home-man of Olafs just outside the garth, he bade Guest to Herdholt according to Olafs message; Guest said he would go see Olaf by day, but must needs abide that night at Thickwood; so the housecarle straight turned away and told Olaf how things had gone. So Olaf let bring him his horse, and rode with certain men to meet Guest, and they met in by the seaside; Olaf welcomed him heartily, and bade him to him with all his company; Guest thanked him
for his bidding, and said that he would ride to his stead and look at his household, but that he must lie at Armods. So Guest abode there but a little while but saw wide through the homestead and made much of it, and said that no wealth had been spared about that house.
Now Olaf rode on the way with Gest to Laxriver: and those fosterbrothers had been a swimming that day, and the sons of Olaf were the leaders of that sport; many young men withal from other steads had been at the swimming. So Bolli and Kiartan jumped out of the river when that company rode thereto, and were pretty much clad by then Gest and Olaf rode anigh. Gest gazed at the young men a while, and asked Olaf where Kiartan sat and where Bolli; then Olaf stretched out the butt of his spear toward each of them and named them all who were there; but there were other growing youths there who were come to the swimming, and sat on the river bank beside Kiartan and his kin; and Guest said he deemed well there was no look of Olaf in the face of them.
Then said Olaf, “No man may say too much of thy wisdom, Guest, in that thou knowest unseen men; and now will I that thou tell me which of these young men shall be the mightiest.”
Guest says: “That will go along with thy dear love if Kiartan be deemed the worthiest, whiles he is above ground.”
Therewithal he smote his horse, and rode away, but somewhat afterwards Thord the short his son who was riding beside him said, “What has happed to thee, O my father, that the tears fall down from thee?”
Guest says: Idle to talk thereabout; yet may I not hold my peace concerning those things that shall come to pass in thy days, nor will it come on me unawares though Bolli stand over Kiartan’s *head-sward, and win death for his own head thereby; and ill is that to know of such great and noble men as they be.”
Thereafter they ride to the thing, and a peaceful thing it was.
* ‘head-sward’. When a man killed his foe it was his duty if he could not bring him to burial at once to cut a turf and lay it over his face as a sort of ‘jury-burial’, like the three handfuls of earth of the Classics.