Njála, 058

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Chapter 58

There was a man named Egil; he was a son of Kol, who took land as a settler between Storlek and Reydwater. The brother of Egil was Aunund of Witchwood, father of Hall the Strong, who was at the slaying of Holt-Thorir with the sons of Kettle the Smooth- tongued.

Egil kept house at Sandgil; his sons were these: Kol, and Ottar, and Hauk. Their mother's name was Steinvor; she was Starkad's sister.

Egil's sons were tall and strifeful; they were most unfair men. They were always on one side with Starkad's sons. Their sister was Gudruna Nightsun, and she was the bestbred of women.

Egil had taken into his house two Easterlings; the one's name was Thorir and the other's Thorgrim. They were not long come out hither for the first time, and were wealthy and beloved by their friends; they were well skilled in arms, too, and dauntless in everything.

Starkad had a good horse of chesnut hue, and it was thought that no horse was his match in fight. Once it happened that these brothers from Sandgil were away under the Threecorner. They had much gossip about all the householders in the Fleetlithe, and they fell at last to asking whether there was any one that would fight a horse against them.

But there were some men there who spoke so as to flatter and honour them, that not only was there no one who would dare do that, but that there was no one that had such a horse

Then Hildigunna answered, "I know that man who will dare to fight horses with you."

"Name him," they say.

"Gunnar has a brown horse," she says, "and he will dare to fight his horse against you, and against any one else."

"As for you women," they say, "you think no one can be Gunnar's match;[1] but though Geir the Priest or Gizur the White have come off with shame from before him, still it is not settled that we shall fare in the same way."

"Ye will fare much worse," she says: and so there arose out of this the greatest strife between them. Then Starkad said, "My will is that ye try your hands on Gunnar last of all; for ye will find it hard work to go against his good luck."

"Thou wilt give us leave, though, to offer him a horsefight?"

"I will give you leave, if ye play him no trick."

They said they would be sure to do what their father said.

Now they rode to Lithend; Gunnar was at home, and went out, and Kolskegg and Hjort went with him, and they gave them a hearty welcome, and asked whither they meant to go?

"No farther than hither," they say. "We are told that thou hast a good horse, and we wish to challenge thee to a horse-fight."

"Small stories can go about my horse," says Gunnar; "he is young and untried in every way."

"But still thou wilt be good enough to have the fight, for Hildigunna guessed that thou wouldest be easy in matching thy horse."

"How came ye to talk about that?" says Gunnar.

"There were some men," say they, "who were sure that no one would dare to fight his horse with ours."

"I would dare to fight him," says Gunnar; "but I think that was spitefully said."

"Shall we look upon the match as made, then?" they asked.

"Well, your journey will seem to you better if ye have your way in this; but still I will beg this of you, that we so fight our horses that we make sport for each other, but that no quarrel may arise from it, and that ye put no shame upon me; but if ye do to me as ye do to others, then there will be no help for it but that I shall give you such a buffet as it will seem hard to you to put up with. In a word, I shall do then just as ye do first."

Then they ride home. Starkad asked how their journey had gone off; they said that Gunnar had made their going good.

"He gave his word to fight his horse, and we settled when and where the horse-fight should be; but it was plain in everything that he thought he fell short of us, and he begged and prayed to get off."

"It will often be found," says Hildigunna, "that Gunnar is slow to be drawn into quarrels, but a hard hitter if he cannot avoid them."

Gunnar rode to see Njal, and told him of the horse-fight, and what words had passed between them, "But how dost thou think the horse-fight will turn out?"

"Thou wilt be uppermost," says Njal, "but yet many a man's bane will arise out of this fight."

"Will my bane perhaps come out of it?" asks Gunnar.

"Not out of this," says Njal; "but still they will bear in mind both the old and the new feud who fare against thee, and thou wilt have naught left for it but to yield."

Then Gunnar rode home.

References

  1. As for you women: "Envious male aggression now turns against Gunnarr, to undermine the hero-worship of the women. Rivalry at horse-fights is a common device for reviving feuds in the sagas, but I do not think it is elsewhere provoked by the wager of a female admirer." Dronke, Ursula. The Role of Sexual Themes in Njáls Saga (p. 30)

Kafli 58

Egill hét maður. Hann var Kolsson Óttarssonar ballar er land nam meðal Stotalækjar og Reyðarvatns. Bróðir Egils var Önundur í Tröllaskógi, faðir Halla hins sterka er var að vígi Holta-Þóris með sonum Ketils hins sléttmála. Egill bjó í Sandgili. Synir hans voru þeir Kolur og Óttar og Haukur. Móðir þeirra hét Steinvör systir Starkaðar. Synir Egils voru miklir menn og kappsamir og hinir mestu ójafnaðarmenn. Þeir voru að einu máli og synir Starkaðar. Systir þeirra var Guðrún náttsól og var kvenna kurteisust.

Egill hafði tekið við Austmönnum tveimur. Hét annar Þórir en annar Þorgrímur. Þeir voru frumferlar út hingað, vinsælir og auðgir. Þeir voru vígir vel og fræknir um allt.

Starkaður átti hest góðan, rauðan að lit, og þótti sem engi hestur mundi hafa við þeim í vígi.

Einhverju sinni var það að þeir bræður úr Sandgili voru undir Þríhyrningi. Þeir höfðu viðurmæli mikið um alla bændur í Fljótshlíð og þar kom að þeir töluðu hvort nokkur mundi vilja etja hestum við þá. En þeir menn voru að mæltu það til sóma þeim og eftirlætis að bæði mundi vera að engi mundi þora enda mundi engi eiga þvílíkan hest.

Þá svaraði Hildigunnur: „Veit eg þann mann er þora mun að etja við yður.“

„Nefndu þann,“ segja þeir.

„Gunnar á hest brúnan og mun hann þora að etja við yður og við alla aðra.“

„Svo þykir yður konum sem engi muni vera hans maki.[1] En þótt óvirðilega hafi farið fyrir honum Geir goði eða Gissur hvíti þá er eigi ráðið að oss fari svo.“

„Yður mun first fara,“ segir hún og varð þeim af hin mesta deila.

Starkaður mælti: „Á Gunnar vil eg að þér leitið síst því að erfitt mun yður verða að ganga í móti giftu hans.“

„Leyfa muntu oss að vér bjóðum honum hestaat?“

„Leyfa mun eg ef þér prettið hann í öngu.“

Þeir kváðust svo gera mundu.

Riðu þeir nú til Hlíðarenda. Gunnar var heima og gekk út. Kolskeggur og Hjörtur gengu út með honum og fögnuðu þeim vel og spurðu hvert þeir ætluðu að fara.

„Eigi lengra,“ segja þeir. „Oss er sagt er þú eigir hest góðan og viljum vér bjóða þér hestaat.“

„Litlar sögur mega ganga frá hesti mínum. Hann er ungur og óreyndur að öllu.“

„Kost muntu láta að etja,“ segja þeir, „og gat þess til Hildigunnur að þú mundir góður af hestinum.“

„Hví töluðuð þér um það?“ segir Gunnar.

„Þeir menn voru,“ segja þeir, „er það mæltu að engi mundi þora að etja við vorn hest.“

„Þora mun eg að etja,“ segir Gunnar, „en grálega þykir mér þetta mælt.“

„Skulum vér til þess ætla þá?“ segja þeir.

„Þá mun yður för yður þykja best ef þér ráðið þessu. En þó vil eg þess beiða yður að vér etjum svo hestunum að vér gerum öðrum gaman en oss verði engi vandræði og þér gerið mér enga skömm. En ef þér gerið til mín sem til annarra þá er eigi ráðið nema eg sveigi það að yður að hart mun þykja undir að búa. Mun eg þar eftir gera sem þér gerið fyrir.“

Ríða þeir þá heim. Spurði Starkaður að hversu þeim hefði farist. Þeir sögðu að Gunnar gerði góða ferð þeirra.

„Hann hét að etja hesti sínum og kváðum vér á nær það hestavíg skyldi vera. Fannst það á í öllu að honum þótti sig skorta við oss og baðst hann undan.“

„Það mun á finnast,“ segir Hildigunnur, „að Gunnar er seinþreyttur til vandræða en harðdrægur ef hann má eigi undan komast.“

Gunnar reið að finna Njál og sagði honum hestaatið.

„Þú munt hafa meira hlut,“ sagði Njáll, „en þó mun hér hljótast af margs manns bani.“

„Mun nokkuð hér minn bani af hljótast?“ segir Gunnar.

„Ekki mun það af þessu,“ segir Njáll, „en þó munu þeir minnast á fornan fjandskap og nýjan er að þér fara og muntu ekki annað mega en hrökkva við.“

Gunnar reið þá heim.

Tilvísanir

  1. Svo þykir yður konum sem engi muni vera hans maki: "Envious male aggression now turns against Gunnarr, to undermine the hero-worship of the women. Rivalry at horse-fights is a common device for reviving feuds in the sagas, but I do not think it is elsewhere provoked by the wager of a female admirer." Dronke, Ursula. The Role of Sexual Themes in Njáls Saga (bls. 30)

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