Njála, 047

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Chapter 47

There was a man named Otkell; he was the son of Skarf, the son of Hallkell, who fought with Grim of Grimsness, and felled him on the holm.

Otkell kept house at Kirkby; his wife's name was Thorgerda; she was a daughter of Mar, the son of Runolf, the son of Naddad of the Faroe Isles. Otkell was wealthy in goods. His son's name was Thorgeir; he was young in years, and a bold dashing man.

Skamkell was the name of another man; he kept house at another farm called Hof; he was well off for money, but he was a spiteful man and a liar; quarrelsome too, and ill to deal with. He was Otkell's friend. Hallkell was the name of Otkell's brother; he was a tall strong man, and lived there with Otkell; their brother's name was Hallbjorn the White; he brought out to Iceland a thrall, whose name was Malcolm; he was Irish, and had not many friends.

Hallbjorn went to stay with Otkell, and so did his thrall Malcolm. The thrall was always saying that he should think himself happy if Otkell owned him. Otkell was kind to him, and gave him a knife and belt, and a full suit of clothes, but the thrall turned his hand to any work that Otkell wished.

Otkell wanted to make a bargain with his brother for the thrall; he said he would give him the thrall, but said, too, that he was a worse treasure than he thought. But as soon as Otkell owned the thrall, then he did less and less work. Otkell often said outright to Hallbjorn, that he thought the thrall did little work; and he told Otkell that there was worse in him yet to come.

At that time came a great scarcity, so that men fell short both of meat and hay, and that spread over all parts of Iceland. Gunnar shared his hay and meat with many men; and all got them who came thither, so long as his stores lasted. At last it came about that Gunnar himself fell short both of hay and meat. Then Gunnar called on Kolskegg to go along with him; he called too on Thrain Sigfus' son, and Lambi Sigurd's son. They fared to Kirkby, and called Otkell out. He greeted them, and Gunnar said, "It so happens that I am come to deal with thee for hay and meat, if there be any left."

Otkell answers, "There is store of both, but I will sell thee neither."[1]

"Wilt thou give me them then," says Gunnar, "and run the risk of my paying thee back somehow?"

"I will not do that either," says Otkell.

Skamkell all the while was giving him bad counsel.

Then Thrain Sigfus' son, said, "It would serve him right if we take both hay and meat and lay down the worth of them instead."

Skamkell answered, "All the men of Mossfell must be dead and gone then, if ye, sons of Sigfus, are to come and rob them."

"I will have no hand in any robbery," says Gunnar.

"Wilt thou buy a thrall of me?" says Otkell.

"I'll not spare to do that," says Gunnar. After that Gunnar bought the thrall,[2] and fared away as things stood.

Njal hears of this, and said, "Such things are ill done, to refuse to let Gunnar buy; and it is not a good outlook for others if such men as he cannot get what they want."

"What's the good of thy talking so much about such a little matter," says Bergthora; "far more like a man would it be to let him have both meat and hay, when thou lackest neither of them."

"That is clear as day," says Njal, "and I will of a surety supply his need somewhat."

Then he fared up to Thorolfsfell, and his sons with him, and they bound hay on fifteen horses; but on five horses they had meat. Njal came to Lithend, and called Gunnar out. He greeted them kindly.

"Here is hay and meat," said Njal, "which I will give thee; and my wish is, that thou shouldst never look to any one else than to me if thou standest in need of anything."

"Good are thy gifts," says Gunnar, "but methinks thy friendship is still more worth, and that of thy sons."

After that Njal fared home, and now the spring passes away.

References

  1. but I will sell thee neither. : “Gunnar construes Otkel‘s remark as a hint to ask for a gift rather than as the statement of defiance it soon proves itself to be, that is, an indication of hostility to selling rather than hostility to him.” Miller, William Ian. Gift, Sale, Payment, Raid. (p. 28).
  2. After that Gunnar bought the thrall : “It is one Otkel Skarfsson who refuses to sell Gunnar hay, which he needs to help his neighbours in a time of famine, but he does sell him a slave of very questionable character named Melkólf. It is unclear why Gunnar would purchase a slave with nothing to recommend him when he is apparently in no need of one, but it is one of Gunnar’s characteristics that he makes repeated mistakes.” Andersson, Theodore M..Demythologizing the Tradition (p. 193).

Kafli 47

Otkell hét maður. Hann var Skarfsson Hallkelssonar. Sá barðist við Grím í Grímsnesi og felldi hann af hólmi. Þeir voru bræður Hallkell og Ketilbjörn gamli. Hann bjó í Kirkjubæ. Þorgerður hét kona hans. Hún var Másdóttir Runólfssonar Naddaðarsonar hins færeyska. Otkell var auðigur að fé. Son hans hét Þorgeir. Hann var á ungum aldri og gervilegur maður.

Skammkell hét maður. Hann bjó að Hofi öðru. Hann átti vel fé. Hann var lyginn, ódæll og illur viðureignar. Hann var vinur Otkels.

Hallkell hét bróðir Otkels. Hann var mikill maður og sterkur og var þar með Otkatli. Bróðir þeirra hét Hallbjörn hvíti. Hann flutti út þræl einn er Melkólfur hét. Hann var írskur og heldur óvinsæll. Hallbjörn fór til vistar með Otkatli og svo Melkólfur þræll. Þrællinn mælti það jafnan að hann þættist sæll ef Otkell ætti hann. Hann var vel til hans og gaf honum kníf og belti og alklæðnað en þrællinn vann allt það er hann vildi. Otkell falaði þrælinn að bróður sínum. Hann kvaðst mundu gefa honum þrælinn en kvað þó verra grip í en hann ætlaði. En þegar er Otkell átti þrælinn þá vann hann aldrei verr. Otkell talaði oftlega fyrir Hallbirni að honum þætti þrællinn lítið vinna. Hann sagði Otkatli að honum var annað verr gefið.

Í þenna tíma kom hallæri mikið svo að menn skorti bæði hey og mat og gekk það um allar sveitir. Gunnar miðlaði mörgum manni hey og mat og höfðu allir er þangað komu meðan til var. Svo kom að Gunnar skorti bæði hey og mat. Þá kvaddi Gunnar Kolskegg til ferðar með sér og Þráin Sigfússon og Lamba Sigurðarson. Þeir fóru í Kirkjubæ og kölluðu Otkel út. Hann heilsar þeim.

Gunnar mælti: „Svo er háttað,“ segir Gunnar, „að eg er kominn að fala að þér hey og mat ef til væri.“

Otkell segir: „Hvorttveggja er til en hvortgi mun eg þér selja.“[1]

„Viltu gefa mér þá og hætta til hverju eg launa þér?“

„Eigi vil eg það,“ segir Otkell.

Skammkell var tillagaillur.

Þráinn Sigfússon mælti: „Þess væri vert að vér tækjum og legðum verð í staðinn.“

Skammkell svaraði: „Aldauða eru Mosfellingar ef þér Sigfússynir skuluð ræna þá.“

„Með engi rán vil eg fara,“ segir Gunnar.

„Vilt þú kaupa þræl að mér?“ segir Otkell.

„Það spara eg eigi,“ segir Gunnar.

Síðan keypti Gunnar þrælinn[2] og fór í braut við svo búið.

Þetta spyr Njáll og mælti: „Illa er slíkt gert að varna Gunnari kaups. Er þar öðrum eigi góðs von er slíkir fá eigi.“

„Hvað þarft þú margt um slíkt að tala? Miklu er drengilegra að fá honum bæði mat og hey er þig skortir hvortgi til,“ sagði Bergþóra.

Njáll mælti: „Þetta er dagsanna og skal eg birgja hann að nokkuru.“

Fór hann upp í Þórólfsfell og synir hans og bundu þar hey á fimmtán hesta en á fimm hestum höfðu þeir mat. Njáll kom til Hlíðarenda og kallaði út Gunnar. Hann fagnar þeim vel.

Njáll mælti: „Hér er hey og matur er eg vil gefa þér. Vil eg að þú leitir aldrei annarra en mín ef þú þarft nokkurs við.“

„Góðar eru gjafir þínar,“ segir Gunnar, „en meira þykir mér verð vinátta þín og sona þinna.“

Fór Njáll heim síðan. Síðan líður nú vorið.


Tilvísanir

  1. en hvortgi mun eg þér selja : “Gunnar construes Otkel‘s remark as a hint to ask for a gift rather than as the statement of defiance it soon proves itself to be, that is, an indication of hostility to selling rather than hostility to him.” Miller, William Ian. Gift, Sale, Payment, Raid. (s. 28).
  2. Síðan keypti Gunnarr þrælinn : “It is one Otkel Skarfsson who refuses to sell Gunnar hay, which he needs to help his neighbours in a time of famine, but he does sell him a slave of very questionable character named Melkólf. It is unclear why Gunnar would purchase a slave with nothing to recommend him when he is apparently in no need of one, but it is one of Gunnar’s characteristics that he makes repeated mistakes.” Andersson, Theodore M..Demythologizing the Tradition (s. 193).

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