The Story of Grettir the Strong, by William Morris

Chap. lxxxvi.

How Thorbiorn Angle brought Grettir's Head to Biarg.

The kin of Grettir and Illugi were exceeding ill-content when they heard of these slayings, and they so looked on matters as deeming that Angle had wrought a shameful deed in slaying a man at death's door; and that, besides that, he had become guilty of sorcery. They sought the counsel of the wisest men, and everywhere was Angle's work ill spoken of. As for him, he rode to Midfirth, when it lacked four weeks of summer; and when his ways were heard of, Asdis gathered men to her, and there came many of her friends: Gamli and Glum, her brothers-in-law, and their sons, Skeggi, who was called the Short-handed, and Uspak, who is aforesaid. Asdis was so well befriended, that all the Midfirthers came to aid her; yea, even those who were aforetime foes to Grettir; and the first man there was Thorod Drapa-Stump, and the more part of the Ramfirthers.

Now Angle came to Biarg with twenty men, and had Grettir's head with him; but not all those had come yet who had promised aid to Asdis; so Angle and his folk went into the chamber with the head, and set it down on the floor; the goodwife was there in the chamber, and many men with her; nor did it come to greetings on either side; but Angle sang this stave —

"A greedy head I bring with me

Up from the borders of the sea;

Now may the needle-pliers weep,

The red-haired outlaw lies asleep;

Gold-bearer, cast adown thine eyes,

And see how on the pavement lies,

The peace-destroying head brought low,

That but for salt had gone ere now."

The goodwife sat silent when he gave forth the stave, and thereafter she sang —

"O thou poor wretch, as sheep that flee

To treacherous ice when wolves they see,

So in the waves would ye have drowned

Your shame and fear, had ye but found

That steel-god hale upon the isle:

Now heavy shame, woe worth the while!

Hangs over the north country-side,

Nor I my loathing care to hide."

Then many said that it was nought wonderful, though she had brave sons, so brave as she herself was, amid such grief of heart as was brought on her.

Uspak was without, and held talk with such of Angle's folk as had not gone in, and asked concerning the slayings; and all men praised Illugi's defence; and they told withal how fast Grettir had held the short-sword after he was dead, and marvellous that seemed to men.

Amidst these things were seen many men riding from the west, and thither were coming many friends of the goodwife, with Gamli and Skeggi west from Meals.

Now Angle had been minded to take out execution after Illugi, for he and his men claimed all his goods; but when that crowd of men came up, Angle saw that he might do nought therein, but Gamli and Uspak were of the eagerest, and were fain to set on Angle; but those who were wisest bade them take the rede of Thorwald their kinsman, and the other chief men, and said that worse would be deemed of Angle's case the more wise men sat in judgment over it; then such truce there was that Angle rode away, having Grettir's head with him, because he was minded to bear it to the Althing.

So he rode home, and thought matters looked heavy enough, because well-nigh all the chief men of the land were either akin to Grettir and Illugi, or tied to them and theirs by marriage: that summer, moreover, Skeggi the Short-handed took to wife the daughter of Thorod Drapa-Stump, and therewithal Thorod joined Grettir's kin in these matters.

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