Njála, 077

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Chapter 77

Gunnar woke up in his hall and said, "Thou hast been sorely treated, Sam, my fosterling, and this warning is so meant that our two deaths will not be far apart."

Gunnar's hall was made all of wood, and roofed with beams above, and there were window-slits under the beams that carried the roof, and they were fitted with shutters.

Gunnar slept in a loft above the hall, and so did Hallgerda and his mother.

Now when they were come near to the house they knew not whether Gunnar were at home, and bade that some one would go straight up to the house and see if he could find out. But the rest sat them down on the ground.

Thorgrim the Easterling went and began to climb up on the hall; Gunnar sees that a red kirtle passed before the windowslit, and thrusts out the bill, and smote him on the middle. Thorgrim's feet slipped from under him, and he dropped his shield, and down he toppled from the roof.

Then he goes to Gizur and his band as they sat on the ground.

Gizur looked at him and said, "Well, is Gunnar at home?

"Find that out for yourselves," said Thorgrim; "but this I am sure of, that his bill is at home,"[1] and with that he fell down dead.

Then they made for the buildings. Gunnar shot out arrows at them, and made a stout defence, and they could get nothing done. Then some of them got into the out houses and tried to attack him thence, but Gunnar found them out with his arrows there also, and still they could get nothing done.

So it went on for a while, then they took a rest, and made a second onslaught. Gunnar still shot out at them, and they could do nothing, and fell off the second time. Then Gizur the White said, "Let us press on harder; nothing comes of our onslaught."

Then they made a third bout of it, and were long at it, and then they fell off again.

Gunnar said, "There lies an arrow outside on the wall, and it is one of their shafts; I will shoot at them with it, and it will be a shame to them if they get a hurt from their own weapons."

His mother said, "Do not so, my son; nor rouse them again when they have already fallen off from the attack."

But Gunnar caught up the arrow and shot it after them, and struck Eylif Aunund's son, and he got a great wound; he was standing all by himself, and they knew not that he was wounded.

"Out came an arm yonder," says Gizur, "and there was a gold ring on it, and took an arrow from the roof, and they would not look outside for shafts if there were enough in doors; and now ye shall made a fresh onslaught."

"Let us burn him house and all," said Mord.

"That shall never be," says Gizur, "though I knew that my life lay on it; but it is easy for thee to find out some plan, such a cunning man as thou art said to be."

Some ropes lay there on the ground, and they were often used to strengthen the roof. Then Mord said, "Let us take the ropes and throw one end over the end of the carrying beams, but let us fasten the other end to these rocks and twist them tight with levers, and so pull the roof off the hall."

So they took the ropes and all lent a hand to carry this out, and before Gunnar was aware of it, they had pulled the whole roof off the hall.

Then Gunnar still shoots with his bow so that they could never come nigh him. Then Mord said again that they must burn the house over Gunnar's head. But Gizur said, "I know not why thou wilt speak of that which no one else wishes, and that shall never be."

Just then Thorbrand Thorleik's son, sprang up on the roof, and cuts asunder Gunnar's bowstring. Gunnar clutches the bill with both hands, and turns on him quickly and drives it through him, and hurls him down on the ground.

Then up sprung Asbrand his brother. Gunnar thrusts at him with his bill, and he threw his shield before the blow, but the bill passed clean through the shield and broke both his arms, and down he fell from the wall.

Gunnar had already wounded eight men and slain those twain. By that time Gunnar had got two wounds, and all men said that he never once winced either at wounds or death.

Then Gunnar said to Hallgerda, "Give me two locks of thy hair, and ye two, my mother and thou, twist them together into a bowstring for me.[2]."

"Does aught lie on it?" she says.

"My life lies on it[3];" he said; "for they will never come to close quarters with me if I can keep them off with my bow."

"Well!" she says, "now I will call to thy mind[4] that slap[5] on the face which thou gavest me; and I care never[6] a whit whether thou holdest out a long while or a short."

Then Gunnar sang a song:

"Each who hurts the gory javelin Hath some honour of his own, Now my helpmeet wimple-hooded Hurries all my fame to earth. No one owner of a war-ship Often asks for little things, Woman, fond of Frodi's flour, Wends her hand as she is wont."

"Every one has something to boast of," says Gunnar, "and I will ask thee no more for this."[7]

"Thou behavest ill," said Rannveig, "and this shame shall long be had in mind."

Gunnar made a stout and bold defence, and now wounds other eight men with such sore wounds that many lay at death's door. Gunnar keeps them all off until he fell worn out with toil. Then they wounded him with many and great wounds, but still he got away out of their hands, and held his own against them a while longer, but at last it came about that they slew him.

Of this defence of his, Thorkell the Skald of Gota-Elf sang in the verses which follow--[8]

"We have heard how south in Iceland Gunnar guarded well himself, Boldly battle's thunder wielding, Fiercest foeman on the wave; Hero of the golden collar, Sixteen with the sword he wounded; In the shock that Odin loveth, Two before him tasted death."

But this is what Thormod Olaf's son sang--

"None that scattered sea's bright sunbeams, Won more glorious fame than Gunnar, So runs fame of old in Iceland, Fitting fame of heathen men; Lord of fight when helms were crashing, Lives of foeman twain he took, Wielding bitter steel he sorely Wounded twelve, and four besides."

Then Gizur spoke and said, "We have now laid low to earth a mighty chief, and hard work has it been, and the fame of this defence of his shall last as long as men live in this land."

After that he went to see Rannveig and said, "Wilt thou grant us earth here for two of our men who are dead, that they may lie in a cairn here?"

"All the more willingly for two," she says, "because I wish with all my heart I had to grant it to all of you."

"It must be forgiven thee," he says, "to speak thus, for thou hast had a great loss."

Then he gave orders that no man should spoil or rob anything there.

After that they went away.

Then Thorgeir Starkad's son said, "We may not be in our house at home for the sons of Sigfus, unless thou Gizur or thou Geir be here south some little while."

"This shall be so," says Gizur, and they cast lots, and the lot fell on Geir to stay behind.

After that he came to the Point, and set up his house there; he had a son whose name was Hroald; he was base born, and his mother's name was Biartey; he boasted that he had given Gunnar his death blow. Hroald was at the Point with his father.

Thorgeir Starkad's son boasted of another wound which he had given to Gunnar.

Gizur sat at home at Mossfell. Gunnar's slaying was heard of, and ill spoken of throughout the whole country, and his death was a great grief to many a man.

References

  1. his bill is at home: "The first variety of humor in the saga is black humor based on understatement, likened by Boyer (1987) to the 'tragic humor' defined as a sort of 'minor plot' or 'means of lightning a tale whose atmosphere is often too suffocating.'" Le Goff, Jacques. Laughter in Brennu-Njáls saga (p. 162).
  2. into a bowstring for me: "Svona er saga Njálu um bogastrenginn, og það þarf ekki að leggjast djúpt til að sjá það, að þetta er allt skáldskapur og þjóðsaga frá upphafi til enda og meira að segja lélegur skáldskapur." Ólafur Ólafsson. Hallgerður Höskuldsdóttir (p. 152).
  3. My life lies on it: “The mythological Yi was betrayed by his wife, Chang-E, and the quasi-historical Yi too was betrayed by his wife, Chun- Hu. And Gunnar the Sun-god was indeed betrayed by his wife, Hallgerð the Moon-goddess, who furthermore was said to be a thief, like Chang- E.” Jón Egill Eþórsson. The Myth of Yi the Archer & the Allegory of Njals Saga (p. 49).
  4. call to thy mind: "But her revenge is more grandly artful and hence, strangely, more blameworthy for having no appreciable practical effect; it is pure revenge. There is not a shred of the political or practical in it. It is revenge devoted wholly to the aesthetics of getting even. And because Hallgerd takes special care to remember, the author has his revenge upon her by forgetting her, by dropping her from the story with nary a word of farewell." Miller, William Ian. A Conclusion: Justice and Exits (pp. 306-7).
  5. that slap: “The epic threefold repetition, therefore, forms the substructure and it also governs the construction. Three times we find the hair-motif, three times a marriage, and finally Hallgerðr’s attitude and words cause each of the three men to strike her. Each time the blow is a defensive action, and it invariability causes revenge – though in different forms. The hair-motif finally leads to the dramatic climax in Hallgerðr’s behaviour.” Bouman, Arie Cornelis. Literature and Myth, the picture of Hallgerðr (p. 7).
  6. I care never: “Þegar Hallgerður er að hefna kinnhests Gunnars, eru athafnir hennar mótaðar af afleiðingum hinna fyrri kinnhesta. Veit hún, að hún er þá um leið að hefna sín á Þorvaldi, fyrsta bónda sínum? Eða veit hún það ekki? Eða ríkir eitthvert hálfrökkur í vitund hennar?” Einar Ól. Sveinsson. Klýtæmestra og Hallgerður (p. 18).
  7. and I will ask thee no more for this: "Gunnar chooses not to overpower her and cut her hair, as we noted before, though that option was available to him. Does that reveal that he too knows her hair does not matter at all? Or did he also realize that she had given him the best gift of all: a way to take no responsibility for his own death, and instead to have history place the blame all on her. His own perfect revenge." Miller, William Ian. The Two Thorgeirs and Death of Gunnar: Chapters 67–77 (p. 143).
  8. the verses which follow: "Not all Íslendingasögur (Family Sagas) have verse quotations, but those which have only rarely quote verse as evidence or confirmation. In the main verse quotation is here for the sake of entertainment only (…). In Njáls saga we have another exceptional case (…). In the latest version of the saga there are in all 24 instances of verse quotation, (…). Two of these instances seem intended as a kind of evidence or confirmation." Bjarni Einarsson. On the rôle of verse in saga-literature (p. 122).

Kafli 77

Gunnar vaknaði í skálanum og mælti: „Sárt ertu leikinn, Sámur fóstri, og búið svo sé til ætlað að skammt skuli okkar í meðal.“

Skáli Gunnars var ger af viði einum og súðþaktur utan og gluggar hjá brúnásunum og snúin þar fyrir speld. Gunnar svaf í lofti einu í skálanum og Hallgerður og móðir hans.

Þá er þeir komu að vissu þeir eigi hvort Gunnar mundi heima vera og báðu að einhver mundi fara heim fyrir og vita hvers vís yrði. En þeir settust niður á völlinn. Þorgrímur Austmaður gekk upp á skálann. Gunnar sér að rauðan kyrtil bar við glugginn og leggur út með atgeirinum á hann miðjan. Þorgrími skruppu fæturnir og varð laus skjöldurinn og hrataði hann ofan af þekjunni. Gengur hann síðan að þeim Gissuri er þar sátu á vellinum.

Gissur leit við honum og mælti: „Hvort er Gunnar heima?“

Þorgrímur svaraði: „Vitið þér það en hitt vissi eg að atgeir hans var heima.“[1]

Síðan féll hann niður dauður. Þeir sóttu þá að húsunum. Gunnar skaut út örum að þeim og varðist vel og gátu þeir ekki að gert. Þá hljópu sumir í húsin og ætluðu þaðan að að sækja. Gunnar kom þangað að þeim örunum og gátu þeir ekki að gert og fór svo fram um hríð. Þeir tóku hvíld og sóttu að í annað sinn. Gunnar skaut enn út og gátu þeir ekki að gert og hrukku frá í annað sinn.

Þá mælti Gissur hvíti: „Sækjum að betur, ekki verður af oss.“

Gerðu þeir þá hríð hina þriðju og voru við lengi. Eftir það hrukku þeir frá.

Gunnar mælti: „Ör liggur þar úti á vegginum og er sú af þeirra örum og skal eg þeirri skjóta til þeirra. Og er þeim það skömm ef þeir fá geig af vopnum sínum.“

Móðir hans mælti: „Ger þú eigi það að þú vekir þá er þeir hafa áður frá horfið.“

Gunnar þreif örina og skaut til þeirra og kom á Eilíf Önundarson og fékk hann af sár mikið. Hann hafði staðið einn saman og vissu þeir eigi að hann var særður.

„Hönd kom þar út,“ segir Gissur, „og var á gullhringur og tók ör er lá á þekjunni og mundi eigi vítt leitað viðfanga ef gnógt væri inni og skuluð þér nú sækja að.“

Mörður mælti: „Brennum vér hann inni.“

„Það skal verða aldrei,“ segir Gissur, „þótt eg viti að líf mitt liggi við. Er þér sjálfrátt að leggja til ráð þau er dugi svo slægur maður sem þú ert kallaður.“

Strengir lágu á vellinum og voru hafðir til að festa með hús jafnan.

Mörður mælti: „Tökum vér strengina og berum um ásendana en festum aðra endana um steina og snúum í vindása og vindum af ræfrið af skálanum.“

Þeir tóku strengina og veittu þessa umbúð alla og fann Gunnar eigi fyrr en þeir höfðu undið allt þakið af skálanum. Gunnar skýtur þá af boganum svo að þeir komast aldrei að honum. Þá mælti Mörður í annað sinn að þeir mundu brenna Gunnar inni.

Gissur mælti: „Eigi veit eg hví þú vilt það mæla er engi vill annar og skal það aldrei verða.“

Í þessu bili hleypur upp á þekjuna Þorbrandur Þorleiksson og höggur í sundur bogastrenginn Gunnars. Gunnar þrífur atgeirinn báðum höndum og snýst að honum skjótt og rekur í gegnum hann og kastar honum á völlinn. Þá hljóp upp Ásbrandur bróðir hans. Gunnar leggur til hans atgeirinum og kom hann skildi fyrir sig. Atgeirinn renndi í gegnum skjöldinn en brotnuðu báðir handleggirnir og féll hann út af vegginum. Áður hafði Gunnar sært átta menn en vegið þá tvo. Þá fékk Gunnar sár tvö og sögðu það allir menn að hann brygði sér hvorki við sár né við bana.

Hann mælti til Hallgerðar: „Fá mér leppa tvo úr hári þínu og snúið þið móðir mín saman til bogastrengs mér“[2].

„Liggur þér nokkuð við?“ segir hún.

„Líf mitt liggur við[3],“ segir hann, „því að þeir munu mig aldrei fá sótt meðan eg kem boganum við.“

„Þá skal eg nú,“ segir hún, „muna þér[4] kinnhestinn[5] og hirði eg aldrei[6] hvort þú verð þig lengur eða skemur.“

Gunnar kvað þá:


23. Hver hefir dreyrgra darra

dómreynir til, sóma

niður drepur sveigar Sága,

síns ágætis, mínum.

Öngur skal lítils lengi

liðs ráðandi biðja;

fús verður fagurmjöls dísi

Fenju hönd á venju.


„Hefir hver til síns ágætis nokkuð,“ segir Gunnar, „og skal þig þessa eigi lengi biðja.“[7]

Rannveig mælti: „Illa fer þér og mun þín skömm lengi uppi.“

Gunnar varði sig vel og fræknlega og særir nú aðra átta menn svo stórum sárum að mörgum lá við bana. Gunnar ver sig þar til er hann féll af mæði. Þeir særðu hann mörgum stórum sárum en þó komst hann úr höndum þeim og varði sig þá lengi. En þó kom þar að þeir drápu hann.

Um vörn hans orti Þorkell Elfaraskáld í vísu þessi:[8]


24. Spurðu vér hve varðist

vígmóður kjalar slóða

gnýstærandinn geiri

Gunnar, fyrir Kjöl sunnan.

Sóknrýrir vann sára

sextán viður mána

hríðar herðimeiða

hauðurmens en tvo dauða.


Gissur mælti: „Mikinn öldung höfum vér nú að velli lagt og hefir oss erfitt veitt og mun hans vörn uppi meðan landið er byggt.“

Síðan gekk hann til fundar við Rannveigu og mælti: „Viltu veita mönnum vorum tveimur jörð er dauðir eru og séu hér heygðir?“

„Að heldur tveimur að eg mundi veita yður öllum,“ segir hún.

„Vorkunn er það,“ segir hann, „er þú mælir það því að þú hefir mikils misst“ og kvað á að þar skyldi engu ráða og engu spilla. Fóru á braut síðan.

Þá mælti Þorgeir Starkaðarson: „Eigi megum vér vera heima í búum vorum fyrir Sigfússonum nema þú, Gissur, eða Geir sért suður hér nokkura hríð.“

„Þetta mun svo vera,“ segir Gissur og hlutuðu þeir og hlaut Geir eftir að vera.

Síðan fór hann í Odda og settist þar. Hann átti sér son er Hróaldur hét. Hann var laungetinn og hét Bjartey móðir hans og var systir Þorvalds hins veila er veginn var við Hestlæk í Grímsnesi. Hann hrósaði því að hann hefði veitt Gunnari banasár. Hróaldur var með föður sínum. Þorgeir Starkaðarson hrósaði öðru sári að hann hefði Gunnari veitt. Gissur sat heima að Mosfelli.

Víg Gunnars spurðist og mæltist illa fyrir um allar sveitir og var hann mörgum mönnum harmdauði.

Tilvísanir

  1. atgeir hans var heima: "The first variety of humor in the saga is black humor based on understatement, likened by Boyer (1987) to the 'tragic humor' defined as a sort of 'minor plot' or 'means of lightning a tale whose atmosphere is often too suffocating.'" Le Goff, Jacques. Laughter in Brennu-Njáls saga (s. 162).
  2. til bogastrengs mér: "Svona er saga Njálu um bogastrenginn, og það þarf ekki að leggjast djúpt til að sjá það, að þetta er allt skáldskapur og þjóðsaga frá upphafi til enda og meira að segja lélegur skáldskapur." Ólafur Ólafsson. Hallgerður Höskuldsdóttir (s. 152).
  3. Líf mitt liggur við: “The mythological Yi was betrayed by his wife, Chang-E, and the quasi-historical Yi too was betrayed by his wife, Chun- Hu. And Gunnar the Sun-god was indeed betrayed by his wife, Hallgerð the Moon-goddess, who furthermore was said to be a thief, like Chang- E.” Jón Egill Eþórsson. The Myth of Yi the Archer & the Allegory of Njals Saga (s. 49).
  4. muna þér: "But her revenge is more grandly artful and hence, strangely, more blameworthy for having no appreciable practical effect; it is pure revenge. There is not a shred of the political or practical in it. It is revenge devoted wholly to the aesthetics of getting even. And because Hallgerd takes special care to remember, the author has his revenge upon her by forgetting her, by dropping her from the story with nary a word of farewell." Miller, William Ian. A Conclusion: Justice and Exits (pp. 306-7).
  5. muna þér kinnhestinn: “The epic threefold repetition, therefore, forms the substructure and it also governs the construction. Three times we find the hair-motif, three times a marriage, and finally Hallgerðr’s attitude and words cause each of the three men to strike her. Each time the blow is a defensive action, and it invariability causes revenge – though in different forms. The hair-motif finally leads to the dramatic climax in Hallgerðr’s behaviour.” Bouman, Arie Cornelis. Literature and Myth, the picture of Hallgerðr (s. 7).
  6. hirði eg aldrei: “Þegar Hallgerður er að hefna kinnhests Gunnars, eru athafnir hennar mótaðar af afleiðingum hinna fyrri kinnhesta. Veit hún, að hún er þá um leið að hefna sín á Þorvaldi, fyrsta bónda sínum? Eða veit hún það ekki? Eða ríkir eitthvert hálfrökkur í vitund hennar?” Einar Ól. Sveinsson. Klýtæmestra og Hallgerður (s. 18).
  7. og skal þig þessa eigi lengi biðja: "Gunnar chooses not to overpower her and cut her hair, as we noted before, though that option was available to him. Does that reveal that he too knows her hair does not matter at all? Or did he also realize that she had given him the best gift of all: a way to take no responsibility for his own death, and instead to have history place the blame all on her. His own perfect revenge." Miller, William Ian. The Two Thorgeirs and Death of Gunnar: Chapters 67–77 (s. 143).
  8. vísu þessi: "Not all Íslendingasögur (Family Sagas) have verse quotations, but those which have only rarely quote verse as evidence or confirmation. In the main verse quotation is here for the sake of entertainment only (…). In Njáls saga we have another exceptional case (…). In the latest version of the saga there are in all 24 instances of verse quotation, (…). Two of these instances seem intended as a kind of evidence or confirmation." Bjarni Einarsson. On the rôle of verse in saga-literature (s. 122).

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