Njála, 048

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Chapter 48

Now Gunnar is about to ride to the Thing, but a great crowd of men from the Side east turned in as guests at his house.

Gunnar bade them come and be his guests again, as they rode back from the Thing; and they said they would do so.

Now they ride to the Thing, and Njal and his sons were there. That Thing was still and quiet.

Now we must take up the story, and say that Hallgerda comes to talk with Malcolm the thrall.

"I have thought of an errand to send thee on," she says; "thou shalt go to Kirkby."

"And what shall I do there?" he says.

"Thou shalt steal from thence food enough to load two horses, and mind and have butter and cheese; but thou shalt lay fire in the storehouse, and all will think that it has arisen out of heedlessness, but no one will think that there has been theft."

"Bad have I been," said the thrall, "but never have I been a thief."

"Hear a wonder!" says Hallgerda, "thou makest thyself good, thou that hast been both thief and murderer; but thou shalt not dare to do aught else than go, else will I let thee be slain."

He thought he knew enough of her to be sure that she would so do if he went not; so he took at night two horses and laid packsaddles on them, and went his way to Kirkby. The house-dog knew him and did not bark at him, and ran and fawned on him. After that he went to the storehouse and loaded the two horses with food out of it, but the storehouse he burnt, and the dog he slew.

He went up along by Rangriver, and his shoe-thong snapped; so he takes his knife and makes the shoe right, but he leaves the knife and belt lying there behind him.

He fares till he comes to Lithend; then he misses the knife, but dares not to go back.

Now he brings Hallgerda the food, and she showed herself well pleased at it.

Next morning when men came out of doors at Kirkby there they saw great scathe. Then a man was sent to the Thing to tell Otkell; he bore the loss well, and said it must have happened because the kitchen was next to the storehouse; and all thought that that was how it happened.

Now men ride home from the Thing, and many rode to Lithend. Hallgerda set food on the board, and in came cheese and butter. Gunnar knew that such food was not to be looked for in his house, and asked Hallgerda whence it came?

"Thence," she says; "whence thou mightest well eat of it; besides, it is no man's business to trouble himself with housekeeping."

Gunner got wroth and said, "Ill indeed is it if I am a partaker with thieves;"[1] and with that he gave her a slap on the cheek.[2]

She said she would bear that slap in mind and repay it if she could.

So she went off and he went with her, and then all that was on the board was cleared away, but flesh-meat was brought in instead, and all thought that was because the flesh was thought to have been got in a better way.

Now the men who had been at the Thing fare away.

References

  1. Ill indeed is it if I am a partaker with thieves: "Indeed, the almost legendary patience of Gunnarr of Hlíðarendi in Njáls saga is finally broken when he discovers that his wife Hallgerðr has engineered a theft (by using the slave Melkófr) and therefore put him in the position of being a Þjófsnautr 'thief's companion'" Baldur Hafstað. Egils saga, Njáls saga, and the Shadow of Landnáma (p. 504-505).
  2. gave her a slap on the cheek: "She expects gratitude or a complicit wink for a job well done, and gets a humiliating reprimand instead. She now suffers the aching frustration and attendant rage of having one’s good intentions misinterpreted." Miller, William Ian. Otkel vs. Gunnar: Chapters 46–56 (p. 112).

Kafli 48

Gunnar ríður til þings en að hans gisti fjölmenni mikið austan af Síðu. Gunnar bauð að þeir gistu þar er þeir riðu af þingi. Njáll var á þingi og synir hans. Þingið er kyrrt.

Nú er þar til að taka að Hallgerður kemur að máli við Melkólf þræl: „Sendiför hefi eg hugað þér,“ segir hún, „þú skalt fara í Kirkjubæ.“

„Og hvað skal eg þangað?“ segir hann.

„Þú skalt stela þaðan mat á tvo hesta og hafa smjör og ost en þú skalt leggja eld í útibúrið og munu allir ætla að af vangeymslu hafi orðið en engi mun ætla er stolið hafi verið.“

Þrællinn mælti: „Vondur hefi eg verið en aldrei hefi eg þjófur verið.“

„Heyr á endemi,“ segir Hallgerður. „Þú gerir þig góðan þar sem þú hefir bæði verið þjófur og morðingi og skalt þú eigi þora annað en fara ella mun eg láta drepa þig.“

Hann þóttist vita að hún mundi svo gera ef hann færi eigi. Tók hann tvo hesta og lagði á lénur og fór í Kirkjubæ. Hundurinn gó eigi og kenndi hann og hljóp í móti honum. Síðan fór hann til útibúrs og klyfjaði þaðan tvo hesta af mat en brenndi búrið og drap hundinn. Hann fór upp með Rangá og slitnaði skóþvengur hans og tekur hann kníf og gerir að. Honum liggur eftir knífurinn og beltið. Hann fer þar til er hann kemur til Hlíðarenda. Þá saknar hann knífsins og þorir eigi aftur að fara, færir nú Hallgerði matinn. Hún lætur vel yfir.

Um morguninn er menn komu út í Kirkjubæ sáu menn þar skaða mikinn. Var þá sendur maður til þings að segja Otkatli. Hann varð vel við skaðann og kvað það valdið mundu hafa að eldhúsið var áfast útibúrinu og ætluðu það þá allir.

Nú ríða menn heim af þingi og riðu margir til Hlíðarenda. Hallgerður bar mat á borð og kom innar ostur og smjör. Gunnar vissi slíks matar þar ekki von og spurði Hallgerði hvaðan það kæmi.

„Þaðan sem þú mátt vel eta,“ segir hún, „enda er það ekki karla að annast um matreiðu.“

„Illa er þá ef eg er þjófsnautur“[1] og lýstur hana kinnhest.[2]

Hún kvaðst þann hest muna skyldu og launa ef hún mætti. Gekk hún þá fram og hann með henni og var þá borið allt af borðinu en borið innar slátur og ætluðu allir að það mundi til hafa borið að þá mundi þykja fengið betur. Fara þingmenn nú í braut.

Tilvísanir

  1. Illa er þá ef eg er þjófsnautur: "Indeed, the almost legendary patience of Gunnarr of Hlíðarendi in Njáls saga is finally broken when he discovers that his wife Hallgerðr has engineered a theft (by using the slave Melkófr) and therefore put him in the position of being a Þjófsnautr 'thief's companion'" Baldur Hafstað. Egils saga, Njáls saga, and the Shadow of Landnáma (s. 504-505).
  2. lýstur hana kinnhest: "She expects gratitude or a complicit wink for a job well done, and gets a humiliating reprimand instead. She now suffers the aching frustration and attendant rage of having one’s good intentions misinterpreted." Miller, William Ian. Otkel vs. Gunnar: Chapters 46–56 (s. 112).

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