The Story of the Men of Weaponfirth (unpublished fragment)
Transcription by Marjorie Burns
Chap I: Broddhelgi slayeth Swart.
A MAN dwelt at Hof in Weaponfirth who was called Helgi: he was the son of Thorgils the son of Thorstein, the son of the son of Olvir the son of Asvald the son of Oxen-Thorir Olvir was a Lord of Land in Norway in the days of Earl Hakon Griotgardson. Thorstein the White was the first of that kin who came out to Iceland; he dwelt at Toft-meads out from Eric-stead, while Steinbiorn son of Ref the Red dwelt at Hof; who failing in money because of his openhandedness, Thorstein bought the lands of the Hof from him, and dwelt there sixty winters: he had to wife Ingibiorg, daughter of Hrodgeir the White.
Then Thorgils the son of Thorstein and father of Brodd-Helgi took the house of Thorstein. Thorkel and Hedin slew Thorgils the father of Brodd-Helgi, whereon Thorstein the White took the house again, and fostered Brodd-helgi his son’s son. Helgi was big, strong and hardy, fair and manly. He was of few words in his young days, self-willed and unsparing from his youth up, ready-witted and wily.
It is told of him, that on a day at Hof the neat were at the milking-place, and with them was a certain bull of those kinsmen, and thereto came another bull and gored this bull: but the lad Helgi was without and saw that their bull was put to the worse, and gave place: so he took a sole-spike, and bound it to the brow of the bull, who thereafter discomforted the other. From this hap was he called Brodd-helgi,* and was peerless of prowess among all such as were growing up in that country-side
There was one Swart, who came out hither, and set up house in Weaponfirth; next to whom dwelt a man named Skidi, a lackpenny: Swart was a big man, and mighty of strength, a good man at arms and a most masterful man. Swart and Skidi wrangled over certain pasturage, the end of which was that Swart slew Skidi: Brodd-helgi followed up the blood-suit, and made Swart guilty therefor, and Brodd-helgi was then twelve winters old. Thereafter Swart lay out on the heath called Butter-mere heath a little way from Sunnudale, and plundered the beasts of the Hof-folk, and did them more damage than he needed.
So the shepherd at Hof came home one even, and went to the shut-bed room of old Thorstein whereas he lay sightless, and Thorstein asked: How has it gone today fellow?
As bad as may be, said the other, the best of the wethers is gone and three others.
They will have gone to other folks’ sheep, and will come back, said Thorstein.
Nay nay, said the shepherd, they will never come back.
Well, say what thou wilt to me, said Thorstein, but speak nought of it before Brodd-helgi
Now Brodd-helgi asked the shepherd, what had betid that day: and he had even the same answer from him as Thorstein had had. Brodd-helgi made as if he heard it not, and went to this bed that night: but when other men were asleep he arose and took his shield and went out: they say of him that he took a flag-stone broad and thin and set the one end on his breeches, and the other on to his breast; he had in his hand a great pole-axe, long-shafted.
So he fared till he came to the sheep-house, and tracked the slot thence, for the snow was on the ground: so came he on to Butter-mere-heath up from Sunnudale. Swart came forth, and saw a man drawing nigh him, and asked who he was, and Brodd-helgi told of himself.
So, quoth Swart, Thou hadst a mind to go find me, and thou shalt not be baulked of my thine errand: and therewith he ran at him, and thrust at him with a great halberd; but Brodd-helgi gave a turn of his shield, and the stroke came on to the outermost of the shield, and on to the flag-stone, and turned from it so sharply, that Swart fell forward with the stroke, and Brodd-helgi smote the leg from off him
Then said Swart: Now is proven the odds betwixt the good hap of thee, and of me, and thou wilt be my banesman: but a curse shall be upon thy race henceforward, that shall endure ever while the land is peopled.
So then Brodd-helgi smote him his death-blow
Now wakenneth old Thorstein at home at Hof, and goeth from his own bed and cometh to Brodd-helgi’s, and lo, it was cold: so he waketh up the house-carles, and biddeth them go seek Brodd-helgi. So
they, when they came out, tracked him all the way, and found him where Swart lay dead: so they covered up Swart’s body, and had away with them all that was worth taking.
Broddhelgi was wide-famed, and much praised of all folk for this deed that he had wrought, so young of years as he yet was.
*the spike of a shoe-sole to go on the ice with is called, ‘mannbrodd’
Chap: II: Broddhelgi weddeth Halla.
In those days whenas Thorstein dwelt at Hof, and Broddhelgi grew up with him, there dwelt a man at Crosswick the Outer a man named Lyting, who was the son of Asbiorn the son of Olaf Longneck; he was a wise man, and wealthy enough: he had to wife Thordis, daughter of Herlubiorn son of Arnfin : they had two sons who come into this story, one named Geitir, and the other Blængr; Lyting had daughers also Halla, and Rannveig, who was wedded in Klifshagi of Axefirth to a man named Olaf.
Now these brethren, the sons of Lyting were much of an age with Broddhelgi, and there was great friendship between them, and Broddhelgi wedded Halla the sister of those brethren: their daughter was Thordis Todd, whom Helgi Asbiornson wedded: Biarni was the younger of their sons and Lyting the elder: Biarni was fostered by Geitir at Crosswick. Blængr was mighty of strength, but halted somewhat in his gait. Geitir wedded Hallkatla daughter of Thidrandi, a kinswoman of the sons of Drauplaug
Such good friendship there was between Broddhelgi and Geitir, that they met nigh every day, and men talked much of how great their friendship was.
In those days dwelt a man in Sunnudale Thormod by name who was called Stick-bleak: he was son of Steinbiorn Kartar, and brother of Ref of Ref-stead, and Egil of Egil-stead: the children of Egil were: Thorarin, Hallbiorn Thrush, and Hallfrid, whom Thorkel son of Geitir had to wife. The sons of Thormod were Thorstein, and Eyvind, and the sons of Ref Stein and Hreidar : all these were Thingmen of Geitir : he was a very wise man.
Broddhelgi and Halla were of good accord together. Lyting was fostered in Axefirth with Thorgils Skin.
Broddhelgi was a wealthy man.
Chap III. Of Broddhelgi and Geitir and the Eastmen.
ON a summer, saith the tale, came a ship out to Weaponfirth; the skipper thereof was a man named Thorleif, and bynamed the Christened; he had a house at Crosswick in Reydarfirth, and was stepson of Asbiorn Shockhead another skipper there was, named Hrafn, Norse of kin, wealthy, and well furnished of good things, a niggard, a man of few words and well-ruled. It is told that he had a gold ring, which he bore ever on his arm, and a chest, that he kept oftest under his bed, and which men deemed full of gold and silver.
Thorleif fared home to his house at Crosswick, but the Eastmen guested about: Brodd-helgi rode to the ship and bade the skipper abide with him; but the Eastman said he would not go thither: For I am told of thee that thou art proud and grasping, whereas I am lowly and of measure, so that we shall not go well together.
Brodd-helgi would buy good things of him, for he was a very showy man; but Hrafn said he would not sell his goods on credit.
Broddhelgi answered: Thou hast brought my journey to a seemly end forsooth, refused my bidding, and gain sayed my market.
Geitir also came to the ship, and found the skipper, and said that he had done unwisely in mocking the noblest man of the country-side.
The Eastman answered: Well, I was minded to guest at some bonder’s or other: wilt thou take me, saith he.
Geitir was slow to answer, but at last it came about that he took the skipper home; the crew guested otherwhere, and the ship was laid up A storehouse was gotten for the Eastman to store up his goods in, and he sold, some small wares But when Winternights were come, Egil’s sons had an autumn feast, and both Broddhelgi and Geitir were there; Broddhelgi went first and sat innermost, for he was a
very proud man. It was no little talked of, that Broddhelgi and Geitir would talk together so thick and fast that none other gat speech or pleasure of them. So the feast came to an end and each went to his own home
In the winter was therher there holden a play of many men at a stead called Hagi a little way from Hof, and Broddhelgi was there. Geitir pressed the Eastman much to go to this meeting, saying that he would find many of his debtors there, so they went thither, and he babbled much about his debts.
But when the play was done, and men were arrayed to depart Broddhelgi sat in the hall, talking to his Thingmen. Therewith came a man into the hall who told them that Hrafn the Eastman was slain, and of the slayer none knew So Broddhelgi went out, and spake as deeming ill of the deed that had been done.
The burial of Hrafns was seemly done after the manner of those days.
There was a man named Torfi, who dwelt at Gudmundstead, a big man and mighty of strength, who was a friend of Brodd-helgi and Geitir: he was missing all that day whereon the Eastman was slain; and it was some men’s talk about the death of Hrafn, that he had been led into a pitfall, and destroyed there.
The word passed between Broddhelgi and Geitir that either of them should have half of Hrafn’s goods, and that they should not divide them before the spring-thing was over: so Geitir took the wares to him in the spring, and stored them in his outbower.
Thorleif the Christened arrayed his ship in the spring for the outward voyage, and was all ready by the Spring-Thing. But when the time thereof was come then fared men to the Thing in Sunnudale, and both Broddhelgi and Geitir went, and at many steads were there but few men at home. So when the Thing was far spent, on a morning early Thorleif wakes up his shipmates, and they leap into their boat, and row to Crosswick; thither go they up, and unto Geitir’s bower, and unlock it and bear away all the goods that were Hrafn’s, and flit them to their ship. Halla Lyting’s daughter was there, and meddled nought with them.
Now fareth Broddhelgi home from the Thing with Geitir; but before they came home it was told them that Thorleif had taken away all Hrafn’s goods, and would flit them away out of the land.
Broddhelgi looked thus at it, that Thorleif had done unlawfully and would have to give the goods up if they came on him. So they fare out to the cheaping-ship in many craft and small; and when they had made their greeting, Broddhelgi bade Thorleif give up the goods. Thorleif said he knew but little of law, but that he deemed the fellow of the dead man had to bring his goods home to his heirs.
Broddhelgi answered: We are not minded to have come on a bootless errand
Answereth Thorleif: We will all fight about it before thou shalt have a penny
Hear ye, said Broddhelgi, what this man of no worth is saying; we shall surely find a time to make you smart for it.
Then Geitir took up the word and spake: I deem it ill-counselled to fall on them in our small craft: and we wot not but there may come foul weather, and they may drive ashore; and then may we do with them as seemeth us good.
This was well thought of by all, and that counsel they took: the Eastmen they put back to land, and Broddhelgi fared home with Geitir and abode with him certain nights. Thorleif gat a wind straightway, and had a fair voyage, and brought the heirs the goods that Hrafn had owned; and they thanked him much therefor, and gave him their share of the ship: and so they parted good friends.
Chap: IV Of illwill between Broddhelgi and Geitir.
BRODDHELGI was somewhat heavy of heart that summer, and longed much for the coming of Thorleifs.
At every assembly of folk Broddhelgi and Geitir met, and talked over the losing of the money: and Broddhelgi asked what was become of the chest which Hrafn had owned. But Geitir said he knew not whether Thorleif had taken it out with the other money; or that perchance the Eastman had had it with him.
I deem rather, said Broddhelgi, that thou knowest all about it.
Said Geitir; Where is that ring which he had on his arm when he was slain?
I wot not, said Broddhelgi; but this I wot, that he had it not in the grave with him.
And so at every meeting of men when they came together, Helgi asked after the chest, and Geitir after the ring, and they fell out about it: and so it came to pass that each thought the other stood somewhat in his way, and they began to be cold one to another.
But the next summer came a ship out to Reydarfirth owned of Thorleif the Christened, and