The Story of Grettir the Strong, by William Morris

Chap. xxviii.

Grettir comes out to Iceland again.

This summer Grettir Asmundson came out to Skagafirth: he was in those days so famed a man for strength and prowess, that none was deemed his like among young men. He rode home to Biarg forthwith, and Asmund welcomed him meetly. At that time Atli managed the farming matters, and well things befell betwixt the brothers.

But now Grettir waxed so overbearing, that he deemed that nought was too much for him to do. At that time had many men grown into full manhood who were young in the days when Grettir was wont to play with them on Midfirth-water before he went abroad; one of these was Audun, who then dwelt at Audunstead, in Willowdale; he was the son of Asgeir, the son of Audun, the son of Asgeir Madpate; of all men he was the strongest north there; but he was thought to be the gentlest of neighbours. Now it came into Grettir's mind that he had had the worst of Audun in that ball-play whereof is told before; and now he would fain try which of the twain had ripened the most since then. For this cause Grettir took his way from home, and fared unto Audunstead. This was in early mowing tide; Grettir was well dight, and rode in a fair-stained saddle of very excellent workmanship, which Thorfinn had given him; a good horse he had withal, and all weapons of the best. Grettir came early in the day to Audunstead, and knocked at the door. Few folk were within; Grettir asked if Audun was at home. Men said that he had gone to fetch victuals from the hill-dairy. Then Grettir took the bridle off his horse; the field was unmowed, and the horse went whereas the grass was the highest. Grettir went into the hall, sat down on the seat-beam, and thereon fell asleep. Soon after Audun came home, and sees a horse grazing in the field with a fair-stained saddle on; Audun was bringing victuals on two horses, and carried curds on one of them, in drawn-up hides, tied round about: this fashion men called curd-bags. Audun took the loads off the horses and carried the curd-bags in his arms into the house.

Now it was dark before his eyes, and Grettir stretched his foot from out the beam so that Audun fell flat down head-foremost on to the curd-bag, whereby the bonds of the bag brake; Audun leaped up and asked who was that rascal in the way. Grettir named himself.

Then said Audun, "Rashly hast thou done herein; what is thine errand then?"

Grettir said, "I will fight with thee."

"First I will see about my victuals," said Audun.

"That thou mayst well do," said Grettir, "if thou canst not charge other folk therewith."

Then Audun stooped down and caught up the curd-bag and dashed it against Grettir's bosom, and bade him first take what was sent him; and therewith was Grettir all smothered in the curds; and a greater shame he deemed that than if Audun had given him a great wound.

Now thereon they rushed at one another and wrestled fiercely; Grettir set on with great eagerness, but Audun gave back before him. Yet he feels that Grettir has outgrown him in strength. Now all things in their way were kicked out of place, and they were borne on wrestling to and fro throughout all the hall; neither spared his might, but still Grettir was the toughest of the twain, and at last Audun fell, having torn all weapons from Grettir.

Now they grapple hard with one another, and huge cracking was all around them. Withal a great din was heard coming through the earth underneath the farmstead, and Grettir heard some one ride up to the houses, get off his horse, and stride in with great strides; he sees a man come up, of goodly growth, in a red kirtle and with a helmet on his head. He took his way into the hall, for he had heard clamorous doings there as they were struggling together; he asked what was in the hall.

Grettir named himself, "But who asks thereof?" quoth he.

"Bardi am I hight," said the new comer.

"Art thou Bardi, the son of Gudmund, from Asbiornsness?"

"That very man am I," said Bardi; "but what art thou doing?"

Grettir said, "We, Audun and I, are playing here in sport."

"I know not as to the sport thereof," said Bardi, "nor are ye even men either; thou art full of unfairness and overbearing, and he is easy and good to deal with; so let him stand up forthwith."

Grettir said, "Many a man stretches round the door to the lock; and meseems it lies more in thy way to avenge thy brother Hall12 than to meddle in the dealings betwixt me and Audun."

"At all times I hear this," said Bardi, "nor know I if that will be avenged, but none the less I will that thou let Audun be at peace, for he is a quiet man."

Grettir did so at Bardi's bidding, nathless, little did it please him. Bardi asked for what cause they strove.

Grettir sang —

"Prithee, Audun, who can tell,

But that now thy throat shall swell;

That from rough hands thou shalt gain

By our strife a certain pain.

E'en such wrong as I have done,

I of yore from Audun won,

When the young, fell-creeping lad

At his hands a choking had."

Bardi said that certes it was a matter to be borne with, if he had had to avenge himself.

"Now I will settle matters between you," quoth Bardi; "I will that ye part, leaving things as they are, that thereby there may be an end of all between you."

This they let hold good, but Grettir took ill liking to Bardi and his brothers.

Now they all rode off, and when they were somewhat on their way, Grettir spake —

"I have heard that thou hast will to go to Burgfirth this summer, and I now offer to go south with thee; and methinks that herein I do for thee more than thou art worthy of."

Hereat was Bardi glad, and speedily said yea thereto, and bade him have thanks for this; and thereupon they parted. But a little after Bardi came back and said —

"I will have it known that thou goest not unless my foster-father Thorarin will have it so, for he shall have all the rule of the faring."

"Well mightest thou, methinks, have full freedom as to thine own redes," said Grettir, "and my faring I will not have laid under the choice of other folk; and I shall mislike it if thou easiest me aside from thy fellowship."

Now either went their way, and Bardi said he should let Grettir know for sure if Thorarin would that he should fare with him, but that otherwise he might sit quiet at home. Grettir rode home to Biarg, but Bardi to his own house.

12 Who was killed in Norway by the sons of Harek, and whose revenge is told of in the Saga of the Heath slayings (existing in fragment).

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 22:07