William Morris Archive

Marjorie Burns

Vápnfirðinga saga is the middle of three stories linked to an East Iceland family living on Weaponfirth at Hof during the tenth century.  Before Vápnfirðinga saga comes Þorsteins saga hvíta (Thorstein the White), and after it comes Þorsteins þáttr stangarhoggs (“Thorstein Staff-smitten”).  Morris and Magnússon’s translation of “Thorstein Staff-smitten” appears in Three Northern Love Tales.

In its entirety, the Weaponfirth story could easily serve as a model for the Icelandic family saga.  All the usual features are present: fostering and friendship, law breaking and judgments, seafaring and  merchandising, matchmaking, marriages, an escalating feud, the burial of the dead, and a curse that furthers the drama.  But all that exists of the 1873 Morris-and-Magnússon translation are the first three chapters and the start of a fourth.  This, however, is enough to introduce the key players and establish the early stages of the growing feud between Helgi (called Broddhelgi) of Hof and his friend Geiter of Crosswick.  The manuscript ends at the point where Geiter and Helgi begin to distrust each other, Greiter suspecting Helgi of taking a gold arm ring, and Helgi suspecting Geiter of hiding away a chest.

This is the first publication of Morris and Magnússon’s translation, and efforts have been taken to follow the manuscript in all details.  Inconsistencies in spelling and capitalization have been maintained; peculiarities in punctuation (or lack of punctuation) have been kept; crossed out words remain where they appear in the manuscript, and errors such as the accidental “s” added to Thorlief’s name in Chapter IV have been left where they appear.  Even the inconsistent use of colons and periods introducing chapters is the same as in the manuscript.

In most cases, paragraph division is clear; but where Morris’s intentions are uncertain, preferences and patterns from other Morris translations have been used as a guide.


Bremner, Robert L.  Introduction to The Saga of the Wapenfirthers.  Translated by Robert L. Bremner.  Proceedings of the Royal Philological Society of Glascow, Vol, 49 (1917): 99-101.

Byock, Jesse L.  “Disputed Property in the East Fjords: The Saga of the People of Weapon’s Fjord.”  In Viking Age Iceland, 275-78.  London: Penguin Books, 2001.

Jones, Gwyn.  Introduction to Four Icelandic Sagas.  Translated by Gwyn Jones.  Princeton: Princeton University Press; the American Scandinavian Foundation, New York, 1935.