The Story of Grettir the Strong, by William Morris

Chap. lxii.

Of the Death of Hallmund, Grettir's Friend.

A little after Grettir had gone from Ernewaterheath, there came a man thither, Grim by name, the son of the widow at Kropp. He had slain the son of Eid Skeggison of the Ridge, and had been outlawed therefor; he abode whereas Grettir had dwelt afore, and got much fish from the water. Hallmund took it ill that he had come in Grettir's stead, and was minded that he should have little good hap how much fish soever he caught.

So it chanced on a day that Grim had caught a hundred fish, and he bore them to his hut and hung them up outside, but the next morning when he came thereto they were all gone; that he deemed marvellous, and went to the water; and now he caught two hundred fish, went home and stored them up; and all went the same way, for they were all gone in the morning; and now he thought it hard to trace all to one spring. But the third day he caught three hundred fish, brought them home and watched over them from his shed, looking out through a hole in the door to see if aught might come anigh. Thus wore the night somewhat, and when the third part of the night was gone by, he heard one going along outside with heavy footfalls; and when he was ware thereof, he took an axe that he had, the sharpest of weapons, for he was fain to know what this one was about; and he saw that the new-comer had a great basket on his back. Now he set it down, and peered about, and saw no man abroad; he gropes about to the fishes, and deems he has got a good handful, and into the basket he scoops them one and all; then is the basket full, but the fishes were so big that Grim thought that no horse might bear more. Now he takes them up and puts himself under the load, and at that very point of time, when he was about to stand upright, Grim ran out, and with both hands smote at his neck, so that the axe sank into the shoulder; thereat he turned off sharp, and set off running with the basket south over the mountain.

Grim turned off after him, and was fain to know if he had got enough. They went south all the way to Balljokul, and there this man went into a cave; a bright fire burnt in the cave, and thereby sat a woman, great of growth, but shapely withal. Grim heard how she welcomed her father, and called him Hallmund. He cast down his burden heavily, and groaned aloud; she asked him why he was all covered with blood, but he answered and sang —

"Now know I aright,

That in man's might,

And in man's bliss,

No trust there is;

On the day of bale

Shall all things fail;

Courage is o'er,

Luck mocks no more."

She asked him closely of their dealings, but he told her all even as it had befallen.

"Now shall thou hearken," said he, "for I shall tell of my deeds and sing a song thereon, and thou shall cut it on a staff as I give it out."

So she did, and he sung Hallmund's song withal, wherein is this —

"When I drew adown

The bridle brown

Grettir's hard hold,

Men deemed me bold;

Long while looked then

The brave of men

In his hollow hands,

The harm of lands.

"Then came the day

Of Thorir's play

On Ernelakeheath,

When we from death

Our life must gain;

Alone we twain

With eighty men

Must needs play then.

"Good craft enow

Did Grettir show

On many a shield

In that same field;

Natheless I hear

That my marks were

The deepest still;

The worst to fill.

"Those who were fain

His back to gain

Lost head and hand,

Till of the band,

From the Well-wharf-side,

Must there abide

Eighteen behind

That none can find.

"With the giant's kin

Have I oft raised din;

To the rock folk

Have I dealt out stroke;

Ill things could tell

That I smote full well;

The half-trolls know

My baneful blow.

"Small gain in me

Did the elf-folk see,

Or the evil wights

Who ride anights."

Many other deeds of his did Hallmund sing in that song, for he had fared through all the land.

Then spake his daughter, "A man of no slippery hand was that; nor was it unlike that this should hap, for in evil wise didst thou begin with him: and now what man will avenge thee?"

Hallmund answered, "It is not so sure to know how that may be; but, methinks, I know that Grettir would avenge me if he might come thereto; but no easy matter will it be to go against the luck of this man, for much greatness lies stored up for him."

Thereafter so much did Hallmund's might wane as the song wore, that well-nigh at one while it befell that the song was done and Hallmund dead; then she grew very sad and wept right sore. Then came Grim forth and bade her be of better cheer, "For all must fare when they are fetched. This has been brought about by his own deed, for I could scarce look on while he robbed me."

She said he had much to say for it, "For ill deed gains ill hap."

Now as they talked she grew of better cheer, and Grim abode many nights in the cave, and got the song by heart, and things went smoothly betwixt them.

Grim abode at Ernewaterheath all the winter after Hallmund's death, and thereafter came Thorkel Eyulfson to meet him on the Heath, and they fought together; but such was the end of their play that Grim might have his will of Thorkel's life, and slew him not. So Thorkel took him to him, and got him sent abroad and gave him many goods; and therein either was deemed to have done well to the other. Grim betook himself to seafaring, and a great tale is told of him.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:58