The Story of Grettir the Strong, by William Morris

Chap. lxxiv.

Of Grettir's Wrestling: and how Thorbiorn Angle now bought the more part of Drangey.

Then many fell to saying that many and great words had been spoken hereon; but now Guest said,

"Good is thy say and well hast thou spoken it; if ye spill not things hereafter, I shall not withhold that which I have to show forth."

So he cast off his hood, and therewith all his outer clothes.

Then they gazed one on the other, and awe spread over their faces, for they deemed they knew surely that this was Grettir Asmundson, for that he was unlike other men for his growth and prowess' sake: and all stood silent, but Hafr deemed he had made himself a fool. Now the men of the country-side fell into twos and twos together, and one upbraided the other, but him the most of all, who had given forth the words of peace.

Then said Grettir; "Make clear to me what ye have in your minds, because for no long time will I sit thus unclad; it is more your matter than mine, whether ye will hold the peace, or hold it not."

They answered few words and then sat down: and now the sons of Thord, and Halldor their brother-in-law, talked the matter over together; and some would hold the peace, and some not; so as they elbowed one another, and laid their heads together. Grettir sang a stave —

"I, well known to men, have been

On this morn both hid and seen;

Double face my fortune wears,

Evil now, now good it bears;

Doubtful play-board have I shown

Unto these men, who have grown

Doubtful of their given word;

Hafr's big noise goes overboard."

Then said Tongue-stein, "Thinkest thou that, Grettir? Knowest thou then what the chiefs will make their minds up to? but true it is thou art a man above all others for thy great heart's sake: yea, but dost thou not see how they rub their noses one against the other?"

Then Grettir sang a stave —

"Raisers-up of roof of war,

Nose to nose in counsel are;

Wakeners of the shield-rain sit

Wagging beard to talk of it:

Scatterers of the serpent's bed

Round about lay head to head.

For belike they heard my name;

And must balance peace and shame."

Then spake Hialti the son of Thord; "So shall it not be," says he; "we shall hold to our peace and troth given, though we have been beguiled, for I will not that men should have such a deed to follow after, if we depart from that peace, that we ourselves have settled and handselled: Grettir shall go whither he will, and have peace until such time as he comes back from this journey; and then and not till then shall this word of truce be void, whatsoever may befall betwixt us meanwhile."

All thanked him therefor, and deemed that he had done as a great chief, such blood-guilt as there was on the other side: but the speech of Thorbiorn Angle was little and low thereupon.

Now men said that both the Thords should lay hand to Grettir, and he bade them have it as they would: so one of the brothers stood forth; and Grettir stood up stiff before him, and he ran at Grettir at his briskest, but Grettir moved no whit from his place: then Grettir stretched out his hand down Thord's back, over the head of him, and caught hold of him by the breeches, and tripped up his feet, and cast him backward over his head in such wise that he fell on his shoulder, and a mighty fall was that.

Then men said that both those brothers should go against Grettir at once; and thus was it done, and great swinging and pulling about there was, now one side, now the other getting the best of it, though one or other of the brothers Grettir ever had under him; but each in turn must fall on his knee, or have some slip one of the other; and so hard they griped each at each, that they were all blue and bruised.

All men thought this the best of sport, and when they had made an end of it, thanked them for the wrestling; and it was the deeming of those who sat thereby, that the two brothers together were no stronger than Grettir alone, though each of them had the strength of two men of the strongest: so evenly matched they were withal, that neither might get the better of the other if they tried it between them.

Grettir abode no long time at the Thing; the bonders bade him give up the island, but he said nay to this, nor might they do aught herein.

So Grettir fared back to Drangey, and Illugi was as fain of him as might be; and there they abode peacefully, and Grettir told them the story of his doings and his journeys; and thus the summer wore away.

All men deemed that those of Skagafirth had shown great manliness herein, that they held to their peace given; and folk may well mark how trusty men were in those days, whereas Grettir had done such deeds against them.

Now the less rich men of the bonders spake together, that there was little gain to them in holding small shares in Drangey; so they offered to sell their part to the sons of Thord; Hialti said that he would not deal with them herein, for the bonders made it part of the bargain, that he who bought of them should either slay Grettir or get him away. But Thorbiorn Angle said, that he would not spare to take the lead of an onset against Grettir if they would give him wealth therefor. So his brother Hialti gave up to him his share in the island, for that he was the hardest man, and the least befriended of the twain; and in likewise too did other bonders; so Thorbiorn Angle got the more part of the island for little worth, but bound himself withal to get Grettir away.

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