The Story of Grettir the Strong, by William Morris

Chap. xxxii.

Of the Haunting at Thorhall-stead; and how Thorhall took a Shepherd by the rede of Skapti the Lawman, and of what befell thereafter.

There was a man hight Thorhall, who dwelt at Thorhall-stead, in Shady-vale, which runs up from Waterdale. Thorhall was the son of Grim, son of Thorhall, the son of Fridmund, who settled Shady-vale. Thorhall had a wife hight Gudrun. Grim was their son, and Thurid their daughter; they were well-nigh grown up.

Thorhall was a rich man, but mostly in cattle, so that no man had so much of live-stock as he. He was no chief, but an honest bonder he was. Much was that place haunted, and hardly could he get a shepherd that he deemed should serve his turn. He sought counsel of many men as to what he might do therewith, but none gave him a rede that might serve him. Thorhall rode each summer to the Thing, and good horses he had. But one summer at the Althing, Thorhall went to the booth of Skapti Thorodson the Lawman. Skapti was the wisest of men, and wholesome were his redes when folk prayed him for them. But he and his father differed thus much, that Thorod was foretelling, and yet was called under-handed of some folk; but Skapti showed forth to every man what he deemed would avail most, if it were not departed from, therefore was he called "Father-betterer."

Now Thorhall went into Skapti's booth, and Skapti greeted him well, for he knew that he was a man rich in cattle, and he asked him what were the tidings.

Thorhall answered, "A wholesome counsel would I have from thee."

"Little am I meet for that," said Skapti; "but what dost thou stand in need of?"

Thorhall said, "So is the matter grown to be, that but a little while do my shepherds avail me; for ever will they get badly hurt; but others will not serve to the end, and now no one will take the job when he knows what bides in the way."

Skapti answered, "Some evil things shall be there then, since men are more unwilling to watch thy sheep than those of other men. Now, therefore, as thou hast sought rede of me, I shall get thee a shepherd who is hight Glam, a Swede, from Sylgsdale, who came out last summer, a big man and a strong, though he is not much to the mind of most folk."

Thorhall said he heeded that little if he watched the sheep well.

Skapti said that little would be the look out for others, if he could not watch them, despite his strength and daring.

Then Thorhall went out from him, and this was towards the breaking up of the Thing. Thorhall missed two dun horses, and fared himself to seek for them; wherefore folk deem that he was no great man. He went up to Sledgehill, and south along the fell which is called Armansfell; then he saw how a man fared down from Godi's-wood, and bore faggots on a horse. Soon they met together, and Thorhall asked him of his name. He said that he was called Glam. This man was great of growth, uncouth to look on; his eyes were grey and glaring, and his hair was wolf-grey.

Thorhall stared at him somewhat when he saw this man, till he saw that this was he to whom he had been sent.

"What work hast thou best will to do?" said Thorhall.

Glam said, "That he was of good mind to watch sheep in winter."

"Wilt thou watch my sheep?" said Thorhall. "Skapti has given thee to my will."

"So only shall my service avail thee, if I go of my own will, for I am evil of mood if matters mislike me," quoth Glam.

"I fear no hurt thereof," said Thorhall, "and I will that thou fare to my house."

"That may I do," said Glam, "perchance there are some troubles there?"

"Folk deem the place haunted," said Thorhall.

"Such bugs will not scare me," quoth Glam; "life seems to me less irksome thereby."

"It must needs seem so," said Thorhall, "and truly it is better that a mannikin be not there."

Thereafter they struck bargain together, and Glam is to come at winter nights: then they parted, and Thorhall found his horses even where he had just been searching. Thorhall rode home, and thanked Skapti for his good deed.

Summer slipped away, and Thorhall heard nought of his shepherd, nor did any man know aught about him; but at the appointed time he came to Thorhall-stead. The bonder greeted him well, but none of the other folk could abide him, and the good wife least of all.

Now he took to the sheep-watching, and little trouble it seemed to give him; he was big-voiced and husky, and all the beasts would run together when he whooped. There was a church at Thorhall-stead, but nowise would Glam come therein; he was a loather of church-song, and godless, foul-tempered, and surly, and no man might abide him.

Now passed the time till it came to Yule-eve; then Glam got up and straightway called for his meat. The good wife said —

"No Christian man is wont to eat meat this day, be-. cause that on the morrow is the first day of Yule," says she, "wherefore must men first fast to-day."

He answers, "Many follies have ye, whereof I see no good come, nor know I that men fare better now than when they paid no heed to such things; and methinks the ways of men were better when they were called heathens; and now will I have my meat, and none of this fooling."

Then said the housewife, "I know for sure that thou shall fare ill to-day, if thou takest up this evil turn."

Glam bade her bring food straightway, and said that she should fare the worse else. She durst do but as he would, and so when he was full, he went out, growling and grumbling.

Now the weather was such, that mirk was over all, and the snow-flakes drave down, and great din there was, and still all grew much the worse, as the day slipped away.

Men heard the shepherd through the early morning, but less of him as the day wore; then it took to snowing, and by evening there was a great storm; then men went to church, and thus time drew on to nightfall; and Glam came not home; then folk held talk, as to whether search should not be made for him, but, because of the snow-storm and pitch darkness, that came to nought.

Now he came not home on the night of Yule-eve; and thus men abide till after the time of worship; but further on in the day men fared out to the search, and found the sheep scattered wide about in fens, beaten down by the storm, or strayed up into the mountains. Thereafter they came on a great beaten place high up in the valley, and they thought it was as if strong wrestling had gone on there; for that all about the stones had been uptorn and the earth withal; now they looked closely and saw where Glam lay a little way therefrom; he was dead, and as blue as hell, and as great as a neat.

Huge loathing took them, at the sight of him, and they shuddered in their souls at him, yet they strove to bring him to church, but could get him only as far as a certain gil-edge a little way below.

Then they fared home to the farm, and told the bonder what had happed. He asked what was like to have been Glam's bane. They said they had tracked steps as great as if a cask-bottom had been stamped down, from there where the beaten place was, up to beneath sheer rocks which were high up the valley, and there along went great stains of blood. Now men drew from this, that the evil wight which had been there before had killed Glam, but had got such wounds as had been full enough for him, for of him none has since been ware.

The second day of Yule men went afresh to try to bring Glam to church; drag horses were put to him, but could move him nowhere where they had to go on even ground and not down hill; then folk had to go away therefrom leaving things done so far.

The third day the priest fared with them, and they sought all day, but found not Glam. The priest would go no more on such search, but the herdsman was found whenso the priest was not in their company. Then they let alone striving to bring him to church, and buried him there whereto he had been brought.

A little time after men were ware that Glam lay not quiet. Folk got great hurt therefrom, so that many fell into swoons when they saw him, but others lost their wits thereby. But just after Yule men thought they saw him home at the farm. Folk became exceeding afeard thereat, and many fled there and then. Next Glam took to riding the house-roofs at night, so that he went nigh to breaking them in. Now he walked well-nigh night and day. Hardly durst men fare up into the dale, though they had errands enough there. And much scathe the men of the country-side deemed all this.

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