Grettir the Strong, Icelandic Saga

Author: Unknown

Chapter XVI Grettir Kills Skeggi and Is Outlawed for Three Years

Thorkell Krafla now began to grow very old. He was a great chieftain and held the Vatnsdal Godord. He was a close friend of Asmund Longhair, as befitted the near relations in which they stood to each other. He had, therefore, been in the habit of riding every year in the spring to Bjarg to visit his kinsmen there, and he did so in the spring which followed the events just related. Asmund and Asdis received him with both hands. He stayed there three nights and many a matter did the kinsmen discuss together. Thorkell asked Asmund what his heart told him about his sons, and what professions they were likely to follow. Asmund said that Atli would probably be a great landowner, very careful and wealthy.

"A useful man, like yourself," said Thorkell. "But what can you tell me of Grettir? "

"I can only say," he replied, "that he will be a strong man; but headstrong and quarrelsome. A heavy trial has he been to me."

"That does not look very promising, kinsman!" said Thorkell. "But how are we to arrange our journey to the Thing in the summer? "

"I am getting difficult to move," he said. "I would rather stay at home."

"Would you like Atli to go for you?"

"I don’t think I can spare him," Asmund said, "because of the work and the provisioning. Grettir will not do anything. But he has quite wit enough to carry out the duties at the Thing on my behalf under your guidance."

"It shall be as you please," said Thorkell.

Then Thorkell made himself ready and rode home; Asmund dismissed him with presents.

A little later Thorkell journeyed to the Thing with sixty men. All the men of his godord went with him. They passed through Bjarg, where Grettir joined them. They rode South through the heath called Tvidaegra. There was very little grazing to be had in the hills, so they rode quickly past them into the cultivated land. When they reached Fljotstunga they thought it was time to sleep, so they took the bits from their horses and turned them loose with their saddles. They lay there well on into the day, and when they woke began to look for their horses. Every horse had gone off in a different direction and some had been rolling. Grettir could not find his horse at all. The custom was at that time that men should find their own provisions at the Thing, and most of them carried their sacks over their saddles. When Grettir found his horse its saddle was under its belly, and the sack of provisions gone. He searched about but could not find it. Then he saw a man running very fast and asked him who he was. He said his name was Skeggi and that he was a man from Ass in Vatnsdal in the North.

"I am travelling with Thorkell," he said. "I have been careless and lost my provision-bag."

"Alone in misfortune is worst. I also have lost my stock of provisions; so we can look for them together. "

Skeggi was well pleased with this proposal, and so they went about seeking for a time. Suddenly, when Grettir least expected it, Skeggi started running with all his might along the moor and picked up the sack. Grettir saw him bend and asked what it was that he had picked up.

"My sack," he said.

"Who says so besides yourself?" Grettir asked. "Let me see it! Many a thing is like another."

Skeggi said no one should take from him what was his own. Grettir seized hold of the sack and they both pulled at it for a time, each trying to get his own way.

"You Midfjord men have strange notions," said Skeggi, "if you think that because a man is not so wealthy as you are, he is not to dare to hold to his own before you."

Grettir said it had nothing to do with a man’s degree, and that each should have that which was his own.

Skeggi replied: "Audun is now too far away to strangle you as he did at the ball-play."

"That is well," said Grettir; "but however that may have been you shall not strangle me."

Skeggi then seized his axe and struck at Grettir, who on seeing it seized the handle of the axe with his left hand and pulled it forward with such force that Skeggi at once let go. The next moment it stood in his brain and he fell dead to the earth. Grettir took the sack, threw it across his saddle and rode back to his companions.

Thorkell rode on, knowing nothing of what had happened. Soon Skeggi was missed in the company, and when Grettir came up they asked him what news he had of Skeggi. He answered in a verse:

"Hammer-troll ogress has done him to death.
Thirsting for blood the war-fiend came.
With hard-edged blade she gaped, o’er his head,
nor spared she his teeth. I saw it myself."

Then Thorkell’s men sprang up and said it was impossible that a troll should have taken the man in full daylight. Thorkell was silent for a moment. Then he said: "There must be something more in it. Grettir must have killed him. What was it that really happened, Grettir?"

Grettir then told him all about their fight. Thorkell said: "It is a most unfortunate occurrence, because Skeggi was entrusted to my service, and was a man of good family. I will take the matter upon myself and pay whatever compensation is adjudged. But a question of banishment does not lie with me. Now, Grettir, there are two things for you to choose between. Either you can go on to the Thing with us and take the chance of what may happen there, or you can turn back and go home."

Grettir decided to go on to the Thing, and to the Thing he went. The matter was taken up by the heirs of the man slain. Thorkell gave his hand to pay the compensation and Grettir was to be banished for three years.

On their way back from the Thing all the chiefs halted at Sledaass before they parted company. It was then that Grettir lifted a stone lying in the grass, which is still known as Grettishaf. Many went afterwards to see this stone and were astounded that so young a man should have lifted such a mountain.

Grettir rode home to Bjarg and told his father about his adventures. Asmund was much put out and said he would be a trouble to everybody.


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Chicago: Unknown, "Chapter XVI Grettir Kills Skeggi and Is Outlawed for Three Years," Grettir the Strong, Icelandic Saga, trans. Armour, M. A. (Margaret-Ann) in Grettir the Strong, Icelandic Saga Original Sources, accessed July 24, 2024,

MLA: Unknown. "Chapter XVI Grettir Kills Skeggi and Is Outlawed for Three Years." Grettir the Strong, Icelandic Saga, translted by Armour, M. A. (Margaret-Ann), in Grettir the Strong, Icelandic Saga, Original Sources. 24 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Unknown, 'Chapter XVI Grettir Kills Skeggi and Is Outlawed for Three Years' in Grettir the Strong, Icelandic Saga, trans. . cited in , Grettir the Strong, Icelandic Saga. Original Sources, retrieved 24 July 2024, from