Njála, 092

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Chapter 92

Now there was great talk about this quarrel of theirs, and all seemed to know that it would not settle down peacefully.

Runolf, the son of Wolf Aurpriest, east in the Dale, was a great friend of Thrain's, and had asked Thrain to come and see him, and it was settled that he should come east when about three weeks or a month were wanting to winter.

Thrain bade Hrapp, and Grani, and Gunnar Lambi's son, and Lambi Sigurd's son, and Lodinn, and Tjorvi, eight of them in all, to go on this journey with him. Hallgerda and Thorgerda were to go too. At the same time Thrain gave it out that he meant to stay in the Mark with his brother Kettle, and said how many nights he meant to be away from home.

They all of them had full arms. So they rode east across Markfleet, and found there some gangrel women, and they begged them to put them across the Fleet west on their horses, and they did so.

Then they rode into the Dale, and had a hearty welcome; there Kettle of the Mark met them, and there they sate two nights.

Both Runolf and Kettle besought Thrain that he would make up his quarrel with Njal's sons; but he said he would never pay any money, and answered crossly, for he said he thought himself quite a match for Njal's sons wherever they met.

"So it may be," says Runolf; "but so far as I can see, no man has been their match since Gunnar of Lithend died and it is likelier that ye will both drag one another down to death."

Thrain said that was not to be dreaded.

Then Thrain fared up into the Mark, and was there two nights more; after that he rode down into the Dale, and was sent away from both houses with fitting gifts.

Now the Markfleet was then flowing between sheets of ice on both sides, and there were tongues of ice bridging it across every here and there.

Thrain said that he meant to ride home that evening, but Runolf said that he ought not to ride home; he said, too, that it would be more wary not to fare back as he had said he would before he left home.

"That is fear, and I will none of it," answers Thrain.

Now those gangrel women whom they had put across the Fleet came to Bergthorsknoll, and Bergthora asked whence they came, but they answered, "Away east under Eyjafell."

"Then, who put you across Markfleet?" said Bergthora.

"Those," said they, "who were the most boastful and bravest clad of men."

"Who?" asked Bergthora.

"Thrain Sigfus' son," said they, "and his company, but we thought it best to tell thee that they were so full-tonged towards this house, against thy husband and his sons."

"Listeners do not often hear good of themselves," says Bergthora. After that they went their way, and Bergthora gave them gifts on their going, and asked them when Thrain might be coming home.

They said that he would be from home four or five nights.

After that Bergthora told her sons and her son-in-law Kari, and they talked long and low about the matter.

But that same morning when Thrain and his men rode from the east, Njal woke up early and heard how Skarphedinn's axe came against the panel.

Then Njal rises up, and goes out, and sees that his sons are all there with their weapons, and Kari, his son-in-law too. Skarphedinn was foremost. He was in a blue cape, and had a targe, and his axe aloft on his shoulder. Next to him went Helgi; he was in a red kirtle, had a helm on his head, and a red shield, on which a hart was marked. Next to him went Kari; he had on a silken jerkin, a gilded helm and shield, and on it was drawn a lion. They were all in bright holiday clothes.

Njal called out to Skarphedinn, "Whither art thou going, kinsman?"

"On a sheep hunt," he said.

"So it was once before," said Njal, "but then ye hunted men."

Skarphedinn laughed at that, and said, "Hear ye what the old man says? He is not without his doubts."

"When was it that thou spokest thus before," asks Kari.

"When I slew Sigmund the White," says Skarphedinn, "Gunnar of Lithend's kinsman."

"For what?" asks Kari.

"He had slain Thord Freedmanson, my foster-father."

Njal went home, but they fared up into the Redslips, and bided there; thence they could see the others as soon as ever they rode from the east out of the Dale.

There was sunshine that day and bright weather.

Now Thrain and his men ride down out of the Dale along the river bank.

Lambi Sigurd's son said, "Shields gleam away yonder in the Redslips when the sun shines on them, and there must be some men lying in wait there."

"Then," says Thrain, "we will turn our way lower down the Fleet, and then they will come to meet us if they have any business with us."

So they turn down the Fleet. "Now they have caughtsight of us," said Skarphedinn, "for lo! they turn their path elsewhither, and now we have no other choice than to run down and meet them."

"Many men," said Kari, "would rather not lie in wait if the balance of force were not more on their side than it is on ours; they are eight, but we are five."

Now they turn down along the Fleet, and see a tongue of ice bridging the stream lower down and mean to cross there.

Thrain and his men take their stand upon the ice away from the tongue, and Thrain said, "What can these men want? They are five, and we are eight."

"I guess," said Lambi Sigurd's son, "that they would still run the risk though more men stood against them."

Thrain throws off his cloak, and takes off his helm.

Now it happened to Skarphedinn, as they ran down along the Fleet, that his shoe-string snapped asunder, and he stayed behind.

"Why so slow, Skarphedinn?" quoth Grim.

"I am tying my shoe," he says.

"Let us get on ahead," says Kari; "methinks he will not be slower than we."

So they turn off to the tongue, and run as fast as they can. Skarphedinn sprang up as soon as he was ready, and had lifted his axe, "the ogress of war," aloft, and runs right down to the Fleet. But the Fleet was so deep that there was no fording it for a long way up or down.

A great sheet of ice had been thrown up by the flood on the other side of the Fleet as smooth and slippery as glass, and there Thrain and his men stood in the midst of the sheet.

Skarphedinn takes a spring into the air, and leaps over the stream between the icebanks, and does not check his course, but rushes still onwards with a slide. The sheet of ice was very slippery, and so he went as fast as a bird flies.[1] Thrain was just about to put his helm on his head; and now Skarphedinn bore down on them, and hews at Thrain with his axe, "the ogress of war," and smote him on the head, and clove him down to the teeth, so that his jaw-teeth fell out on the ice. This feat was done with such a quick sleight that no one could get a blow at him; he glided away from them at once at full speed. Tjorvi, indeed, threw his shield before him on the ice, but he leapt over it, and still kept his feet, and slid quite to the end of the sheet of ice.

There Kari and his brothers came to meet him.

"This was done like a man," says Kari.

"Your share is still left,"[2] says Skarphedinn, and sang a song:

"To the strife of swords not slower, After all, I came than you, For with ready stroke the sturdy Squanderer of wealth I felled; But since Grim's and Helgi's sea-stag Norway's Earl erst took and stripped, Now 'tis time for sea-fire bearers Such dishonour to avenge."

And this other song he sang:

"Swiftly down I dashed my weapon, Gashing giant, byrnie-breacher, She, the noisy ogre's namesake, Soon with flesh the ravens glutted; Now your words to Hrapp remember, On broad ice now rouse the storm, With dull crash war's eager ogress Battle's earliest note hath sung."

"That befits us well, and we will do it well," says Helgi.

Then they turn up towards them. Both Grim and Helgi see where Hrapp is, and they turned on him at once. Hrapp hews at Grim there and then with his axe; Helgi sees this and cuts at Hrapp's arm, and cut it off, and down fell the axe.

"In this," says Hrapp, "thou hast done a most needful work, for this hand hath wrought harm and death to many a man."

"And so here an end shall be put to it," says Grim; and with that he ran him through with a spear, and then Hrapp fell down dead.

Tjorvi turns against Kari and hurls a spear at him. Kari leapt up in the air, and the spear flew below his feet. Then Kari rushes at him, and hews at him on the breast with his sword, and the blow passed at once into his chest, and he got his death there and then.

Then Skarphedinn seizes both Gunnar Lambi's son, and Grani Gunnar's son, and said, "Here have I caught two whelps! but what shall we do with them?

"It is in thy power," says Helgi, "to slay both or either of them, if you wish them dead."

"I cannot find it in my heart to do both--help Hogni and slay his brother," says Skarphedinn.

"Then the day will once come," says Helgi, "when thou wilt wish that thou hadst slain him, for never will he be true to thee, nor will any one of the others who are now here."

"I shall not fear them," answers Skarphedinn.

After that they gave peace to Grani Gunnar's son, and Gunnar Lambi's son, and Lambi Sigurd's son, and Lodinn.

After that they went down to the Fleet where Skarphedinn had leapt over it, and Kari and the others measured the length of the leap with their spear-shafts, and it was twelve ells.

Then they turned homewards, and Njal asked what tidings. They told him all just as it had happened, and Njal said, "These are great tidings, and it is more likely that hence will come the death of one of my sons, if not more evil."

Gunnar Lambi's son bore the body of Thrain with him to Gritwater, and he was laid in a cairn there.


  1. he went as fast as a bird flies: "The comparison of Skarpheðinn's smooth gliding and the motion of a bird in flight brings to mind the phrase 'saman níðingar skríða' ('birds of a feather flock together' (Zoëga 1910, 382) or literally, 'shameful men glide together'). The smooth flight of a bird seems to be in keeping with skríða 's generic meaning of any smooth motion." Thurber, B.A.. The Similarity Of Bone Skates Skis (p. ...).
  2. Your share is still left : " In chapter 92, when the brothers go out to kill Þráinn, the axe rings again on the panel...and Skarphebin's curt words to Kári remind us that Þórðr Leysingjason is not forgotten...The climax to the first phase of Part I - the only incident in which Njál's sons play a full part - is therefore strikingly emphasised and clearly connected with its sequel in Part II. " Maxwell, Ian Ramsay. Pattern in ''Njáls saga'' (p. 32)

Kafli 92

Nú verður umræða mikil um deild þeirra og þóttust allir vita að eigi mundi sogurt sjatna.

Runólfur son Úlfs aurgoða austur í Dal var vin Þráins mikill og hafði boðið Þráni heim og var á kveðið að hann skyldi koma austur er þrjár vikur væru af vetri eða mánuður.

Þeir fóru með Þráni Víga-Hrappur og Grani, Gunnar Lambason og Lambi Sigurðarson, Loðinn og Tjörvi. Þeir voru átta. Þær skyldu og fara Þorgerður og Hallgerður. Því lýsti og Þráinn að hann ætlaði að vera í Mörk með Katli bróður sínum og kvað á hversu margar nætur hann ætlaði heiman að vera. Þeir höfðu allir alvæpni. Riðu þeir austur yfir Markarfljót og fundu þar konur snauðar og báðu að þær skyldi reiða yfir fljótið vestur. Þeir gerðu svo.

Þá riðu þeir í Dal og höfðu þar góðar viðtökur. Þar var fyrir Ketill úr Mörk. Sátu þeir þar tvær nætur. Runólfur og Ketill báðu Þráin að hann mundi semja við Njálssonu en hann kvaðst aldrei mundu fé gjalda og svaraði styggt en hann kvaðst hvergi þykjast varbúinn við Njálssonum hvar sem þeir fundust.

„Vera má að svo sé,“ segir Runólfur, „en eg hefi hina skilning að engi sé þeirra maki síð Gunnar að Hlíðarenda lést og er það líkara að hér dragi öðrum hvorum til bana.“

Þráinn kveðst ekki það mundu hræðast.

Þá fór Þráinn upp í Mörk og var þar tvær nætur. Síðan reið hann ofan í Dal og var hann hvartveggja út leystur með sæmilegum gjöfum.

Markarfljót féll í millum höfuðísa og voru spengur á hér og hvar. Þráinn sagði að hann ætlaði heim að ríða um kveldið. Runólfur mælti að hann skyldi eigi heim ríða, sagði það varlegra vera að fara eigi sem hann hefði sagt.

Þráinn svarar: „Hræðsla er það og vil eg það eigi.“

Göngukonur þær er þeir reiddu yfir fljótið komu til Bergþórshvols og spurði Bergþóra hvaðan þær væru en þær sögðust vera austan undan Eyjafjöllum.

„Hver reiddi yður yfir Markarfljót?“ segir Bergþóra.

„Þeir er mestir oflátar voru,“ segja þær.

„Hverjir voru þeir?“ segir Bergþóra.

„Þráinn Sigfússon,“ sögðu þær, „og fylgdarmenn hans en það þótti oss helst að segja þér er þeir voru svo fjölorðir og illorðir hingað til bónda þíns og sona hans.“

Bergþóra sagði: „Margir kjósa ekki orð á sig.“

Síðan fóru þær í braut og gaf Bergþóra þeim gjafir og spurði þær hvenær Þráinn mundi heim koma. Þær sögðu að hann mundi vera heiman fjórar nætur eða fimm. Síðan sagði Bergþóra sonum sínum og Kára mági sínum og töluðu þau lengi leynilega.

En þann morgun hinn sama er þeir Þráinn riðu austan þá vaknaði Njáll snemma og heyrði að öx Skarphéðins kom við þilið. Stendur þá Njáll upp og gengur út og sér að synir hans eru með vopnum allir og svo Kári mágur hans. Skarphéðinn var fremstur. Hann var í blám stakki og hafði törguskjöld og öxi sína reidda um öxl. Næst honum gekk Helgi. Hann var í rauðum kyrtli, hafði hjálm á höfði og rauðan skjöld og markaður á hjörtur. Næst honum gekk Kári. Hann hafði silkitreyju, hjálm, gylltan skjöld og var dregið á leó. Allir voru þeir í litklæðum.

Njáll kallaði á Skarphéðin: „Hvert skal fara, frændi?“

„Í sauðaleit,“ sagði hann.

„Svo var eitt sinn fyrr,“ segir Njáll, „og veidduð þá menn.“

Skarphéðinn hló að og mælti: „Heyrið þér hvað karlinn segir. Eigi er hann grómlaus.“

„Hvenær mæltuð þér þetta fyrr?“ segir Kári.

„Þá vó eg Sigmund hvíta frænda Gunnars,“ segir Skarphéðinn.

„Fyrir hvað?“ sagði Kári.

„Hann hafði drepið Þórð leysingjason frænda minn.“

Njáll gekk heim en þeir fóru upp í Rauðaskriður og biðu þar. Máttu þeir þaðan sjá þegar hinir riðu austan frá Dal. Sólskin var um daginn og heiðviðri.

Nú ríða þeir Þráinn ofan frá Dal eftir eyrunum.

Lambi Sigurðarson mælti: „Skildir blika við í Rauðaskriðum er sólin skín á og mun þar vera nokkurra manna fyrirsát.“

„Þá skulum vér snúa ofan með fljótinu,“ segir Þráinn, „og munu þeir þá til móts við oss ef þeir eiga við oss nokkur erindi.“

Snúa þeir þá ofan með fljótinu.

Skarphéðinn mælti: „Nú hafa þeir séð oss, því að þeir snúa nú leiðinni og er oss nú engi annar til en hlaupa ofan fyrir þá.“

Kári mælti: „Margir munu fyrir sitja og hafa eigi þannig liðsmun sem vér. Eru þeir átta en vér fimm.“

Snúa þeir nú ofan með fljótinu og sjá yfir spöng niðri og ætla þar yfir.

Þeir Þráinn námu staðar upp frá spönginni á ísinum.

Þráinn mælti: „Hvað munu menn þessir vilja? Þeir eru fimm en vér erum átta.“

Lambi Sigurðarson mælti: „Þess get eg að þó mundu þeir til hætta þótt manni stæði fleira fyrir.“

Þráinn fer af kápunni og tekur af sér hjálminn.

Það varð Skarphéðni er þeir hljópu ofan með fljótinu að stökk í sundur skóþvengur hans og dvaldist hann eftir.

„Hví hvikast þér svo, Skarphéðinn?“ kvað Grímur.

„Bind eg skó minn,“ segir hann.

„Förum vér fyrir,“ segir Kári, „svo líst mér sem hann muni ekki verða seinni en vér.“

Snúa þeir ofan til spangarinnar og fara mikinn. Skarphéðinn spratt upp þegar er hann var búinn og hafði uppi öxina Rimmugýgi. Hann hleypur að fram að fljótinu en fljótið var svo djúpt að langt var um ófært. Mikið svell var hlaupið upp öðrum megin fljótsins og svo hált sem gler og stóðu þeir þar á miðju svellinu. Skarphéðinn hefur sig á loft og hleypur yfir fljótið meðal höfuðísa og stöðvar sig og rennir þegar af fram fótskriðu. Svellið var hált mjög og fór hann svo hart sem fugl flygi.[1] Þráinn ætlaði að setja á sig hjálminn. Skarphéðin bar nú að fyrr og höggur til Þráins með öxinni Rimmugýgi og kom í höfuðið og klauf ofan í jaxlana svo að þeir féllu niður á ísinn. Þessi atburður varð með svo skjótri svipan að engi kom höggvi á hann. Hann renndi þegar frá ofan óðfluga. Tjörvi renndi fyrir hann törgu og steðjaði hann yfir upp og stóðst þó og rennir á enda svellsins. Þá koma þeir Kári í móti honum.

„Karlmannlega er að farið,“ segir Kári.

„Eftir er enn yðvar hluti,“[2] segir Skarphéðinn og kvað vísur tvær:

28. Brátt læt eg brynjum hætta

bengríði fram ríða;

fylldi heldur á höldi

hrafn vangjálpar nafna.

Veitið Hrapp, sem hétuð,

hríð á ísi víðum;

reið söng róstuhljóðum

Rimmugýgur til dimmum.

Og enn kvað Skarphéðinn:

29. Auðs, kom eg ekki síðar

en til vopna sennu

ér, því að æskirýri

allharðan lét eg falla.

En því að jarl hrauð unnar

elg fyrir Grím og Helga,

nú er eldviðum öldu

efni þess að hefna.

Snúa þeir þá upp að þeim. Þeir Grímur og Helgi sjá hvar Hrappur var og sneru þegar að honum. Hrappur höggur þegar til Gríms með öxinni. Helgi sér þetta og höggur á höndina Hrappi svo að af tók en niður féll öxin.

Hrappur mælti: „Þetta hefir þú mikið nauðsynjaverk unnið því að þessi hönd hefir mörgum manni mein gert og bana.“

„Hér skal nú endir verða,“ segir Grímur og lagði spjóti í gegnum hann. Féll Hrappur þá dauður niður. Tjörvi snýr í móti Kára og skýtur að honum spjóti. Kári hljóp í loft upp og flaug spjótið fyrir neðan fætur Kára. Kári hleypur að honum og höggur til hans með sverðinu á brjóstið og þegar á hol. Hafði hann þegar bana.

Skarphéðinn grípur þá báða, Gunnar Lambason og Grana Gunnarsson, og mælti: „Tekið hefi eg hér hvelpa tvo eða hvað skal við gera?“

„Kosti áttir þú,“ segir Helgi, „að drepa hvorntveggja ef þú vildir þá feiga.“

„Eigi nenni eg að hafa það saman að veita Högna en drepa bróður hans.“

„Koma mun þar einhverju sinni,“ segir Helgi, „að þú mundir hafa viljað drepa hann því að aldrei mun hann þér trúr verða og engi þeirra er hér eru nú.“

Skarphéðinn sagði: „Ekki mun eg hræðast þá.“

Síðan gáfu þeir grið Grana Gunnarssyni og Gunnari Lambasyni og Lamba Sigurðarsyni og Loðni.

Eftir það sneru þeir heim og spurði Njáll tíðinda. Þeir segja honum öll sem gerst.

Njáll mælti: „Mikil eru tíðindi þessi og er það líkara að hér leiði af dauði eins sonar míns ef eigi verður meira að.“

Gunnar Lambason flutti lík Þráins með sér til Grjótár og var hann þar heygður.


  1. fór hann svo hart sem fugl flygi: "The comparison of Skarpheðinn's smooth gliding and the motion of a bird in flight brings to mind the phrase 'saman níðingar skríða' ('birds of a feather flock together' (Zoëga 1910, 382) or literally, 'shameful men glide together'). The smooth flight of a bird seems to be in keeping with skríða 's generic meaning of any smooth motion." Thurber, B.A.. The Similarity Of Bone Skates Skis (s. ...).
  2. Eftir er enn yðvar hluti : " In chapter 92, when the brothers go out to kill Þráinn, the axe rings again on the panel...and Skarphebin's curt words to Kári remind us that Þórðr Leysingjason is not forgotten...The climax to the first phase of Part I - the only incident in which Njál's sons play a full part - is therefore strikingly emphasised and clearly connected with its sequel in Part II. " Maxwell, Ian Ramsay. Pattern in ''Njáls saga'' (s. 32)


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