Njála, 120

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Chapter 120

OF SKARPHEDINN AND THORKEL FOULMOUTH.


Asgrim and his fellows went to Thorkel Foulmouth's booth, and Asgrim said then to his companions, "This booth Thorkel Foulmouth owns, a great champion, and it were worth much to us to get his-help. We must here take heed in everything, for he is self- willed and bad tempered; and now I will beg thee, Skarphedinn, not to let thyself be led into our talk."

Skarphedinn smiled at that. He was so clad, he had on a blue kirtle and grey breeks, and black shoes on his feet, coming high up his leg; he had a silver belt about him, and that same axe in his hand with which he slew Thrain, and which he called the "ogress of war," a round buckler, and a silken band round his brow, and his hair brushed back behind his ears. He was the most soldier-like of men, and by that all men knew him. He went in his appointed place, and neither before nor behind.

Now they went into the booth and into its inner chamber. Thorkel sate in the middle of the cross-bench, and his men away from him on all sides. Asgrim hailed him, and Thorkel took the greeting well, and Asgrim said to him, "For this have we come hither, to ask help of thee, and that thou wouldst come to the Court with us."

"What need can ye have of my help," said Thorkel, "when ye have already gone to Gudmund; he must surely have promised thee his help?"

"We could not get his help," says Asgrim.

"Then Gudmund thought the suit likely to make him foes," said Thorkel; "and so no doubt it will be, for such deeds are the worst that have ever been done; nor do I know what can have driven you to come hither to me, and to think that I should be easier to undertake your suit than Gudmund, or that I would back a wrongful quarrel."

Then Asgrim held his peace, and thought it would be hard work to win him over.

Then Thorkel went on and said, "Who is that big and ugly fellow, before whom four men go, pale-faced and sharp featured, and unlucky-looking, and cross-grained?"

"My name is Skarphedinn," said Skarphedinn, "and thou hast no right to pick me out, a guiltless man, for thy railing. It never has befallen me [1] to make my father bow down before me, or to have fought against him, as thou didst with thy father.[2] Thou hast ridden little to the Althing, or toiled in quarrels at it, and no doubt it is handier for thee to mind thy milking pails at home than to be here at Axewater in idleness. But stay, it were as well if thou pickedst out from thy teeth that steak of mare's rump which thou atest ere thou rodest to the Thing while thy shepherd looked on all the while, and wondered that thou couldst work such filthiness!"

Then Thorkel sprang up in mickle wrath, and clutched his short sword and said, "This sword I got in Sweden when I slew the greatest champion, but since then I have slain many a man with it, and as soon as ever I reach thee I will drive it through thee, and thou shalt take that for thy bitter words."

Skarphedinn stood with his axe aloft, and smiled scornfully and said, "This axe I had in my hand when I leapt twelve ells across Markfleet and slew Thrain Sigfus' son, and eight of them stood before me, and none of them could touch me. Never have I aimed weapon at man that I have not smitten him."

And with that he tore himself from his brothers, and Kari his brother-in-law, and strode forward to Thorkel.

Then Skarphedinn said, "Now, Thorkel Foulmouth, do one of these two things: sheathe thy sword and sit thee down, or I drive the axe into thy head and cleave thee down to the chine."

Then Thorkel sate him down and sheathed the sword, and such a thing never happened to him either before or since.[3]

Then Asgrim and his band go out, and Skarphedinn said, "Whither shall we now go?"

"Home to our booths," answered Asgrim.

"Then we fare back to our booths wearied of begging," says Skarphedinn.

"In many places," said Asgrim, "hast thou been rather sharp- tongued, but here now, in what Thorkel had a share methinks thou hast only treated him as is fitting,"

Then they went home to their booths, and told Njal, word for word, all that had been done.

"Things," he said, "draw on to what must be."

Now Gudmund the Powerful heard what has passed between Thorkel and Skarphedinn, and said, "Ye all know how things fared between us and the men of Lightwater, but I have never suffered such scorn and mocking at their hands as has befallen Thorkel from Skarphedinn, and this is just as it should be."

Then he said to Einar of Thvera, his brother, "Thou shalt go with all my band, and stand by Njal's sons when the courts go out to try suits; but if they need help next summer, then I myself will yield them help."

Einar agreed to that, and sent and told Asgrim, and Asgrim said, "There is no man like Gudmund for nobleness of mind," and then he told it to Njal.

References

  1. It has never befallen me: "The use of the verb henda (happen) gives a certain feeling of passivity and chance. Something inside Skarphéðinn is perhaps saying that this might just as easily have happened if the circumstances had been different, and perhaps even expressing a secret wish that this would have happened. However, in the most straightforward sense, he is priding himself for not contending with his father, and this will ultimately be his downfall. Njáll’s power over his sons and Skarphéðinn’s failure to resist and rebel against his omnipotent father causes the death of almost the entire family.” Tirosh, Yoav. Víga-Njáll: A New Approach Toward Njáls saga (p. 224).
  2. father: Skarpheðinn’s accusations […] clarify Skarpheðinn’s motives for the killing of Höskuldr and his disruption of the agreement reached with Flosi. Though slow to believe Mörðr’s lies, Skarpheðinn found their inner logic inescapable: no good son forgets his father’s killing, nor could a good son hear his father’s manliness slandered and be silent." Clark, George. Beowulf and Njáls saga (p. 86)
  3. since: "Matched against Skarpheðinn, Þorkell collapses as though he were a fraud, but he is not, and the narrator’s careful delineation of Þorkell’s prowess and his failure makes Skarpheðinn’s appalling and almost inhuman power startlingly vivid." Clark, George. Beowulf and Njáls saga (p. 79)

Kafli 120

Ásgrímur og þeir félagar gengu til búðar Þorkels háks.

Ásgrímur mælti þá til félaga sinna: „Þessa búð á Þorkell hákur, kappi mikill, og væri oss mikið undir að vér fengjum liðsinni hans. Skulum vér hér til gæta í alla staði því að hann er einlyndur og skapvandur. Vil eg nú biðja þig, Skarphéðinn, að þú létir ekki til þín taka um tal vort.“

Skarphéðinn glotti að og var svo búinn að hann var í blám kyrtli og í blárendum brókum og uppháva svarta skúa á fótum. Hann hafði silfurbelti um sig og öxi þá í hendi er hann hafði drepið Þráin með og hann kallaði Rimmugýgi og törgubuklara og silkihlað um höfuð og greitt hárið aftur um eyrun. Hann var allra manna hermannlegastur og kenndu því hann allir ósénn. Hann gekk sem honum var skipað og hvorki fyrr né síðar.

Þeir gengu nú inn í búðina og í innanverða. Þorkell sat á miðjum palli og menn hans alla vega út í frá honum. Ásgrímur kvaddi hann. Þorkell tók því vel.

Ásgrímur mælti til hans: „Til þess erum vér hingað komnir að biðja þig liðveislu að þú gangir til dóma með oss.“

Þorkell mælti: „Hvað munduð þér þurfa minnar liðveislu þar sem þér genguð til Guðmundar? Og mundi hann heita yður liði sínu.“

„Ekki fengum vér hans liðsinni,“ segir Ásgrímur.

Þorkell mælti: „Þá þótti Guðmundi óvinsælt vera málið og mun svo og vera því að slík verk hafa verst verið unnin. Og veit eg hvað þér hefir til gengið hingað að fara að þú ætlaðir að eg mundi vera óhlutvandari en Guðmundur og mundi eg vilja fylgja að röngu máli.“

Ásgrímur þagnaði þá og þótti þungt fyrir.

Þorkell mælti: „Hver er sá hinn mikli og hinn ferlegi er fjórir menn ganga fyrri, fölleitur og skarpleitur, ógæfusamlegur og illmannlegur?“

Skarphéðinn mælti: „Eg heiti Skarphéðinn,“ segir hann, „og er þér skuldlaust að velja mér hæðiyrði, saklausum manni. Hefir mig aldrei það hent [1] að eg hafi kúgað föður minn og barist við hann sem þú gerðir við þinn föður.[2] Hefir þú og lítt riðið til alþingis eða starfað í þingdeildum og mun þér kringra að hafa ljósaverk að búi þínu að Öxará í fásinninu. Er þér og nær að stanga úr tönnum þér rassgarnarendann merarinnar er þú ást áður þú reiðst til þings og sá smalamaður þinn og undraðist hann er þú gerðir slíka fúlmennsku.“

Þorkell spratt þá upp af mikilli reiði og þreif sax sitt og mælti: „Þetta sax fékk eg í Svíþjóð og drap eg hinn mesta kappa en síðan vó eg margan mann með. Og þegar eg næ til þín skal eg reka það í gegnum þig og skaltu það hafa fyrir fáryrði þín.“

Skarphéðinn stóð með reidda öxina og glotti við og mælti: „Þessa öxi hafði eg í hendi þá er eg hljóp tólf álna yfir Markarfljót og vó eg Þráin Sigfússon og stóðu þeir átta fyrir og fékk engi þeirra fang á mér. Hefi eg og aldrei svo reitt vopn að manni að eigi hafi við komið.“

Síðan hratt hann þeim frá bræðrum sínum og Kára mági sínum og óð fram að Þorkatli.

Skarphéðinn mælti þá: „Gerðu nú annaðhvort, Þorkell hákur, að þú slíðrar saxið og sest niður eða eg keyri öxina í höfuð þér og klýf þig í herðar niður.“

Þorkell sest þá niður og slíðraði saxið og hafði hvorki orðið á fyrir honum áður né síðan.[3] Þeir Ásgrímur gengu þá út.

Skarphéðinn mælti: „Hvert skulum vér nú ganga?“

Ásgrímur svaraði: „Heim til búðar vorrar.“

„Þá förum vér bónleiðir til búðar,“ segir Skarphéðinn.

Ásgrímur mælti þá: „Margstaðar hefir þú verið heldur orðhvass en hér er Þorkell átti hlut að þykir mér þú það eitt hafa á hann leikið er maklegt er.“

Gengu þeir þá heim til búðar sinnar og sögðu Njáli frá öllu sem gerst.

Hann mælti: „Búið dragi til þess sem vera vill.“

Guðmundur hinn ríki spurði nú hversu farið hafði með þeim Skarphéðni og Þorkatli og mælti svo: „Kunnigt er yður hversu farið hefir með oss Ljósvetningum og hefi eg aldrei farið jafnmikla skömm né sneypu fyrir þeim sem nú fór Þorkell fyrir Skarphéðni og er þetta allvel orðið.“

Hann mælti þá til Einars Þveræings bróður síns: „Þú skalt fara með öllu liði mínu og veita Njálssonum þá er dómar fara út en ef þeir þurfa liðs annað sumar þá skal eg sjálfur veita þeim lið.“

Einar játaði því og lét segja Ásgrími.

Ásgrímur mælti: „Ólíkur er Guðmundur flestum höfðingjum.“

Ásgrímur sagði þetta Njáli.

Tilvísanir

  1. Hefir mig aldrei það hent: "The use of the verb henda (happen) gives a certain feeling of passivity and chance. Something inside Skarphéðinn is perhaps saying that this might just as easily have happened if the circumstances had been different, and perhaps even expressing a secret wish that this would have happened. However, in the most straightforward sense, he is priding himself for not contending with his father, and this will ultimately be his downfall. Njáll’s power over his sons and Skarphéðinn’s failure to resist and rebel against his omnipotent father causes the death of almost the entire family.” Tirosh, Yoav. Víga-Njáll: A New Approach Toward Njáls saga (s. 224)
  2. föður: "Skarpheðinn’s accusations […] clarify Skarpheðinn’s motives for the killing of Höskuldr and his disruption of the agreement reached with Flosi. Though slow to believe Mörðr’s lies, Skarpheðinn found their inner logic inescapable: no good son forgets his father’s killing, nor could a good son hear his father’s manliness slandered and be silent." Clark, George. Beowulf and Njáls saga (s. 86)
  3. síðan: "Matched against Skarpheðinn, Þorkell collapses as though he were a fraud, but he is not, and the narrator’s careful delineation of Þorkell’s prowess and his failure makes Skarpheðinn’s appalling and almost inhuman power startlingly vivid." Clark, George. Beowulf and Njáls saga (s. 79)

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