The Story of Grettir the Strong, by William Morris

Chap. xxx.

Of Thorbiorn Oxmain and Thorbiorn Tardy, and of Grettir's meeting with Kormak on Ramfirth-neck.

Thorbiorn was the name of a man who dwelt at Thorodstead in Ramfirth; he was the son of Arnor Hay-nose,13 the son of Thorod, who had settled Ramfirth on that side out as far as Bank was on the other.

Thorbiorn was the strongest of all men; he was called Oxmain. Thorod was the name of his brother, he was called Drapa-Stump; their mother was Gerd, daughter of Bodvar, from Bodvars-knolls. Thorbiorn was a great and hardy warrior, and had many men with him; he was noted as being worse at getting servants than other men, and barely gave he wages to any man, nor was he thought a good man to deal with. There was a kinsman of his hight Thorbiorn, and bynamed Tardy; he was a sailor, and the namesakes were partners. He was ever at Thorodstead, and was thought to better Thorbiorn but little. He was a fault-finding fellow, and went about jeering at most men.

There was a man hight Thorir, the son of Thorkel of Boardere. He farmed first at Meals in Ramfirth; his daughter was Helga, whom Sleita-Helgi had to wife, but after the man-slaying in Fairslope Thorir set up for himself his abode south in Hawkdale, and farmed at the Pass, and sold the land at Meals to Thorhall, son of Gamli the Vendlander.14 His son was Gamli, who had to wife Ranveig, daughter of Asmund the Greyhaired, and Grettir's sister. They dwelt at that time at Meals, and had good hap. Thorir of the Pass had two sons, one hight Gunnar, the other Thorgeir; they were both hopeful men, and had then taken the farm after their father, yet were for ever with Thorbiorn Oxmain, and were growing exceeding unruly.

The summer after that just told, Kormak and Thorgils and Narfi their kinsman rode south to Northriverdale, on some errand of theirs. Odd the Foundling-skald fared also with them, and by then was gotten healed of the stiffness he gained at the horse-fight. But while they were south of the heath, Grettir fared from Biarg, and with him two house-carles of Atli's. They rode over to Bowerfell, and thence over the mountain neck to Ramfirth, and came to Meals in the evening.

They were there three nights; Ranveig and Gamli welcomed Grettir well, and bade him abide with them, but he had will to ride home.

Then Grettir heard that Kormak and his fellows were come from the south, and had guested at Tongue through the night. Grettir got ready early to leave Meals; Gamli offered him men to go with him. Now Grim was the name of Gamli's brother; he was of all men the swiftest; he rode with Grettir with another man; they were five in all. Thus they rode on till they came to Ramfirth-neck, west of Bowerfell. There stands a huge stone that is called Grettir's heave; for he tried long that day to lift that stone, and thus they delayed till Kormak and his fellows were come. Grettir rode to meet them, and both sides jumped off their horses. Grettir said it was more like free men now to deal blows of the biggest, than to fight with staves like wandering churles. Then Kormak bade them take the challenge in manly wise, and do their best. Thereafter they ran at one another and fought. Grettir went before his men, and bade them take heed, that none came at his back. Thus they fought a while, and men were wounded on both sides.

Now Thorbiorn Oxmain had ridden that day over the neck to Bowerfell, and when he rode back he saw their meeting. There were with him then Thorbiorn the Tardy, and Gunnar and Thorgeir, Thorir's sons, and Thorod Drapa-Stump. Now when they came thereto, Thorbiorn called on his men to go between them. But the others were by then so eager that they could do nought. Grettir broke forth fiercely, and before him were the sons of Thorir, and they both fell as he thrust them from him; they waxed exceeding furious thereat, insomuch that Gunnar dealt a death-blow at a house-carle of Atli; and when Thorbiorn saw that, he bade them part, saying withal that he would aid which side soever should pay heed to his words. By then were fallen two house-carles of Kormak, but Grettir saw, that it would hardly do if Thorbiorn should bring aid to them against him, wherefore now he gave up the battle, and all were wounded who had been at that meeting. But much it misliked Grettir that they had been parted.

Thereafter either side rode home, nor did they settle peace after these slayings. Thorbiorn the Tardy made much mocking at all this, therefore things began to worsen betwixt the men of Biarg and Thorbiorn Oxmain, so that therefrom fell much ill-will as came to be known after. No boot was bidden to Atli for his house-carle, but he made as if he knew it not. Grettir sat at home at Biarg until Twainmonth.15 Nor is it said in story that he and Kormak met ever again after these things betid.

13 In the Landnáma he is called 'Hy-nef;' the meaning is doubtful, but it seems that the author of this history means to call him Hay-nose.

14 Ed. 1853 has the "Wide-landed, Viðlendings," which here is altered agreeably to the correction in ch. 14, p. 29.

15 The second month in the year, corresponding to our September.

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