The Story of Grettir the Strong, by William Morris

Chap. xl.

Of Grettir and Snoekoll.

At yule came Grettir to a bonder who was called Einar, he was a rich man, and was married and had one daughter of marriageable age, who was called Gyrid; she was a fair woman, and was deemed a right good match; Einar bade Grettir abide with him through Yule, and that proffer he took.

Then was it the wont far and wide in Norway that woodmen and misdoers would break out of the woods and challenge men for their women, or they took away men's goods with violence, whereas they had not much help of men.

Now it so befell here, that one day in Yule there came to Einar the bonder many ill-doers together, and he was called Snoekoll who was the head of them, and a great bearserk he was. He challenged goodman Einar to give up his daughter, or to defend her, if he thought himself man enough thereto; but the bonder was then past his youth, and was no man for fighting; he deemed he had a great trouble on his hands, and asked Grettir, in a whisper, what rede he would give thereto: "Since thou art called a famous man." Grettir bade him say yea to those things alone, which he thought of no shame to him.

The bearserk sat on his horse, and had a helm on his head, but the cheek-pieces were not made fast; he had an iron-rimmed shield before him, and went on in the most monstrous wise.

Now he said to the bonder, "Make one or other choice speedily, or what counsel is that big churl giving thee who stands there before thee; is it not so that he will play with me?"

Grettir said, "We are about equal herein, the bonder and I, for neither of us is skilled in arms."

Snoekoll said, "Ye will both of you be somewhat afraid to deal with me, if I grow wroth."

"That is known when it is tried," said Grettir.

Now the bearserk saw that there was some edging out of the matter going on, and he began to roar aloud, and bit the rim of his shield, and thrust it up into his mouth, and gaped over the corner of the shield, and went on very madly. Grettir took a sweep along over the field, and when he came alongside of the bearserk's horse, sent up his foot under the tail of the shield so hard, that the shield went up into the mouth of him, and his throat was riven asunder, and his jaws fell down on his breast. Then he wrought so that, all in one rush, he caught hold of the helmet with his left hand, and swept the viking off his horse; and with the other hand drew the short-sword that he was girt withal, and drave it at his neck, so that off the head flew. But when Snoekoll's fellows saw that, they fled, each his own way, and Grettir had no mind to follow, for he saw there was no heart in them.

The bonder thanked him well for his work and many other men too; and that deed was deemed to have been wrought both swiftly and hardily.

Grettir was there through Yule, and the farmer saw him off handsomely: then he went east to Tunsberg, and met his brother Thorstein; he received Grettir fondly, and asked of his travels and how he won the bearserk. Then Grettir sang a stave —

"There the shield that men doth save
Mighty spurn with foot I gave.
Snoekoll's throat it smote aright,
The fierce follower of the fight,
And by mighty dint of it
Were the tofts of tooth-hedge split;
The strong spear-walk's iron rim,
Tore adown the jaws of him."

Thorstein said, "Deft wouldst thou be at many things, kinsman, if mishaps went not therewith."

Grettir answered, "Deeds done will be told of."

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