Sigurðsson, Gísli. 2004. The Medieval Icelandic Saga and Oral Tradition: A Discourse on Method. Trans. Nicholas Jones. Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature 2. Cambridge, MA: Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_SigurdssonG.The_Medieval_Icelandic_Saga_and_Oral_Tradition.2004.
5. The Same Event in More Than One Saga
Genealogies of the Droplaugarsons
Figure 5-1: The genealogy of the Droplaugarsons as given in Droplaugarsona saga, chapters 1 and 2
- According to Landnámabók (S 285, H 246), Yngvildr (Hávarsdóttir, the wife of Þiðrandi and mother of Ketill þrymr in Droplaugarsona saga) was the daughter of Ævarr the Old and Þjóðhildr, daughter of Þorkell fullspakr.
- None of Yngvildr’s paternal relations nor the in-laws of her brother Bersi as given in Droplaugarsona saga are mentioned at all in Landnámabók, with the sole exception of Egill the Red of Nes (S 292, H 253).
- Landnámabók mentions Egill’s son Óláfr in passing, but includes neither Yngvildr’s sister-in-law Ingibjǫrg nor Egill’s father Guttormr, both of whom are mentioned in Droplaugarsona saga.
- Of the three brothers and sisters, Þorvaldr (father of the Droplaugarsons), Hallkatla (wife of Geitir Lýtingsson), and Gróa of Eyvindará, none is mentioned in Landnámabók.
- The Sturlubók redaction of Landnámabók (S 388) names the wife of Earl Ásbjǫrn as Álǫf, daughter of Þórðr vaggagði, rather than Sigríðr.
Figure 5-2: The maternal genealogy of the Droplaugarsons as given in Brand-Krossa þáttr
Figure 5-3: The genealogy of the Droplaugarsons according to Fljótsdœla saga, chapters 3-7
Genealogies of Helgi Ásbjarnarson
Figure 5-4: The genealogy of Helgi Ásbjarnarson as given in Droplaugarsona saga, chapter 3a
Figure 5-5: The genealogy of Helgi Ásbjarnarson as given in Brand-Krossa þáttr, chapter 1
|Droplaugarsona saga||Landnámabók||Brand-Krossa þáttr||Hrafnkels saga—
|Helgi is related by marriage to the descendants of Brynjólfr the Old.||Helgi is a descendant of Hrafnkell Freysgoði.||Helgi is a descendant of Hrafnkell Freysgoði.||Helgi is a descendant of Hrafnkell Freysgoði.|
|Helgi is the brother of Hrafnkell goði’s father.||Helgi’s father and Hrafnkell goði’s father are brothers.||Helgi’s father and Hrafnkell goði’s father are brothers.||Helgi’s father and Hrafnkell goði’s father are brothers.|
|Hrafnkell has a dream in Skriðdalur.||Hrafnkell has a dream in Skriðdalur.||Hallfreðr has a dream in Geitdalur.|
|Hrafnkell lives at Steinröðarstaðir.||Hrafnkell lives at Steinröðarstaðir.||Hrafnkell lives at Aðalból and Lokhilla (later Hrafnkelsstaðir).|
|Þórir lives at Steinröðarstaðir; Ásbjǫrn lives at Lokhellur (modern Hrafnkelsstaðir).||Þórir lives at Hrafnkelsstaðir; Ásbjǫrn lives at Aðalból.|
|Nearly 20 farms in Hrafnkelsdalur.|
Figure 5-6: The genealogy of Helgi Ásbjarnarson as given in Fljótsdœla saga chapter 1, in direct continuation of Hrafnkels saga
The ‘Same’ Events in Different Sagas
- Knew their material from oral tradition rather than from books, and
- Could rely on their audiences possessing a comparable supplementary knowledge of the same material and using this to interpret references and allusions.
So what kind of picture emerges when we look at major events that are mentioned or described in more than one saga? Here the questions are the same as ever: Do the diction and the way shared events are presented suggest written literary relations between sagas, or does it seem likelier that the saga writers got their material from oral sources? Do the writers allude to events outside the text in a way that suggests they expected their audience to be familiar with these events? And if so, is there anything to indicate whether this knowledge came from books or from oral tradition? 
The battle in Böðvarsdalur
An ancestor of the Droplaugarsons wins a wife abroad
|Hauksbók (H 240)||Sturlubók (S 278)|
|Ketill ok Graut-Atli, synir Þóris þiðranda, fóru ór Veradal til Íslands ok námu land í Fljótsdal, fyrr en Brynjólfr kœmi út, Lagarfljótsstrandir báðar, Ketill fyrir vestan fljót á millim Hengiforsár ok Ormsár.||Ketill ok Graut-Atli, synir Þóris þiðranda, fóru ór Veradal til Íslands ok námu land í Fljótsdal, fyrr en Brynjólfr kom út. Ketill nam Lagarfljótsstrandir báðar fyrir vestan Fljót á milli Hengiforsár ok Ormsár.|
|(Ketill and Graut-Atli, the sons of Þórir þiðrandi, moved from Veradal to Iceland and claimed land in Fljótsdalur, before Brynjólfr came out, on both shores of Lagarfljót, Ketill to the west of the lake between Hengiforsá and Ormsá. )||(Ketill and Graut-Atli, the sons of Þórir þiðrandi, moved from Veradal to Iceland and claimed land in Fljótsdalur, before Brynjólfr came out. Ketill claimed both shores of Lagarfljót to the west of the lake between Hengiforsá and Ormsá.)|
|Ketill fór útan ok var með Véþormi, syni Vémundar hins gamla; þá keypti hann at Véþormi Arneiði, dóttur Ásbjarnar jarls skerjablesa, er [Haralds konungs hárfagra, er auknefndist skerjablesi, sem] Hólmfastr son Véþorms hafði hertekit, þá er þeir Grímr systurson Véþorms drápu Ásbjǫrn jarl í Suðreyjum [ok tóku þar Ólǫfu konu hans ok Arneiði dóttur hans]. Ketill þrymr keypti Arneiði tveimr hlutum dýrra en Véþormr mat hana í fyrstu [fyrir ǫndverðu].||Ketill fór útan ok var með Véþormi syni Vémundar ens gamla; þá keypti hann at Véþormi Arneiði, dóttur Ásbjarnar jarls skerjablesa, er Hólmfastr son Véþorms hafði hertekit, þá er þeir Grímr systurson Véþorms drápu Ásbjǫrn jarl. Ketill keypti Arneiði dóttur Ásbjarnar tveim hlutum dýrra en Véþormr mat hana í fyrstu;|
|(Ketill went abroad and stayed with Véþormr, the son of Vémundr the Old; while there, he bought from Véþormr Arneiðr, the daughter of Earl Ásbjǫrn skerjablesi, whom [of King Haraldr hárfagri, who was nicknamed skerjablesi, whom] Véþormr’s son Hólmfastr had taken as spoils of war when he and Grímr, Véþormr’s nephew, killed Earl Ásbjǫrn in the Hebrides [and captured his wife Ólǫf and his daughter Arneiðr there]. Ketill þrymr bought Arneiðr at twice the price Véþormr had set on her at first [at the outset].)||(Ketill went abroad and stayed with Véþormr, the son of Vémundr the Old; while there, he bought from Véþormr Arneiðr, the daughter of Earl Ásbjǫrn skerjablesi, whom Véþormr’s son Hólmfastr had taken as spoils of war when he and Grímr, Véþormr’s nephew, killed Earl Ásbjǫrn. Ketill bought Arneiðr Ásbjǫrn’s daughter at twice the price Véþormr had set on her at first;)|
|En áðr þau Ketill fóru [fœri] til Íslands, fann Arneiðr silfr mikit [fólgit] undir viðarrótum ok leyndi Ketil, til þess er hann fekk hennar [þá seldi hon honum silfrit].||en er kaupit var orðit, þá gerði Ketill brúðkaup til Arneiðar. Eptir þat fann hon grafsilfr mikit undir viðarrótum. Þá bauð Ketill at flytja hana til frænda sinna, en hon kaus þá honum at fylgja.|
|(But before Ketill and his men went [could go] to Iceland, Arneiðr found a hoard of silver [hidden] under the roots of a tree and hid it from Ketill until he married her [then she handed the silver over to him].)||(and when the deal was struck, Ketill took Arneiðr as his wife. After this, she found a hoard of buried silver under the roots of a tree. Ketill offered to take her to her relatives, but she chose to go with him.)|
|Þau fóru út ok bjǫggu á Arneiðarstǫðum. Þeira son var Þiðrandi faðir Ketils í Njarðvík.||Þau fóru út ok bjǫggu á Arneiðarstǫðum; þeira son var Þiðrandi faðir Ketils í Njarðvík.|
|(They left for Iceland and lived at Arneiðarstaðir. Their son was Þiðrandi, the father of Ketill of Njarðvík.)||(They left for Iceland and lived at Arneiðarstaðir; their son was Þiðrandi, the father of Ketill of Njarðvík.)|
|[Jóreiðr var dóttir Þiðranda, móðir Þorsteins, fǫður Guðríðar, móður Rannveigar, móður Salgerðar, móður Guðrúnar, móður Hreins ábóta, fǫður Valdísar, móður Snorra, fǫður Hallberu.]|
|[Þiðrandi’s daughter was Jóreiðr, the mother of Þorsteinn, father of Guðríðr, mother of Rannveig, mother of Salgerðr, mother of Guðrún, mother of Abbot Hreinn, father of Valdís, mother of Snorri, father of Hallbera.]|
- Ketill þrymr’s settlement claim. According to Landnámabók, Ketill and his brother Graut-Atli claimed land in Fljótsdalur, on both sides of the lake, before Brynjólfr (the Old) arrived in Iceland; later Ketill goes abroad and when he returns sets up home at Arneiðarstaðir within his land claim. In Droplaugarsona saga, on the other hand, the brothers live at Húsastaðir in Skriðdalur before Ketill goes abroad; when he returns he buys land to the west of the lake and settles at Arneiðarstaðir, and Atli buys land to the east ‘er nú heitir í Atlavík’ (‘at the place now called Atlavík’) (ÍF XI:140).
- Véþormr’s family. In Landnámabók, Véþormr is said to be the son of Vémundr the Old, the father of Hólmfastr, and the maternal uncle of Grímr. In Droplaugarsona saga he is the son of Rǫgnvaldr, son of Ketill raumr, and has three brothers, Grímr, Guttomr, and Ormarr. In both sources Grímr takes part in the raids on the Hebrides, but Véþormr goes with him only in the saga. Hólmfastr, who in Landnámabók is the one who captures Arneiðr, is not mentioned in the saga; on the other hand, the saga is alone in mentioning Guttormr and Ormarr.
- Arneiðr’s price. Landnámabók says that Ketill purchased Arneiðr at twice the price Véþormr had set on her initially, without the actual price being specified. According to Droplaugarsona saga, Ketill got her at a discount because of his friendship with Véþormr, who says, ‘Þú skalt fá hana fyrir hálft hundrað silfrs sakar okkarrar vináttu’ (‘You shall have her for half a hundred of silver on account of our friendship’) (ÍF XI:138).
- In Brand-Krossa þáttr, a farmer called Grímr from Vík in Vopnafjörður loses his precious brindled ox with cross markings on its head into the sea and becomes so depressed that his brother Þorsteinn from Öxarfjörður suggests he go abroad to recover his spirits. The brothers go to Norway with sheepskin cloaks and arrange a deal with a man called Kárhǫfði. This man lives with a farmer called Geitir, who he tells them is ‘vel auðgan ok inn bezta í skuldum’ (‘very well off and with an excellent credit rating’) (ÍF XI:188). Grímr hands over all his goods to Kárhǫfði and goes with his brother to stay with a farmer called Þórir in Trondheim. A little while later they set off to look for Geitir. No one knows anything about him, except that an old man in an isolated valley knows of some cliffs called Geitishamrar and points them off in that direction. In a cave in the rock face they find Kárhǫfði ‘kompán sinn’ (‘their business associate’) (188), who invites them into the living room. There they see the intact skin of the ox Brandkrossi and recognize their sheepskins on the men who are sitting in the room. The proprietor of the cave is Geitir, who has a wife and a daughter called Droplaug. Geitir cheers Grímr up by offering him generous compensation for his ox, which he had lured there by magic, as well as his daughter and lots of money besides. Grímr is happy to accept and they all sleep together in a single bed throughout the winter, the brothers and Droplaug, and love blossoms between Grímr and Droplaug. When spring arrives Droplaug is sent off with a rich dowry and they sail back to Iceland. The þáttr ends by tracing the line of descent from Grímr and Droplaug to Helgi and Grímr Droplaugarson (see p. 193).
- Fljótsdœla saga also moves outside the realistic framework of the sagas of Icelanders in its tale of how Þorvaldr, the son of Þiðrandi the Old of Njarðvík, goes abroad following a financial disagreement with his brother Ketill. Þorvaldr is shipwrecked on Shetland and spends the winter in a menial position at the hall of Earl Bjǫrgólfr. As the midwinter yule feast approaches, despondency settles over the household. No one will tell Þorvaldr why this should be, but he has a dream in which he takes his spear and goes out along the shoreline past some rocks until he comes to a cave, where he finds a woman chained, whom he releases and takes away with him; but he wakes up in terror when he realizes he is being pursued by some kind of living being. The earl is deeply affected when Þorvaldr recounts his dream to him, and tells him that his daughter Droplaug had disappeared the previous yule, carried off by a giant called Geitir who lives in a cliff called Geitishamarr in the mountain Geitissúlur and is the greatest curse in all of Shetland. Þorvaldr now seeks out the cave, finds Droplaug, and makes off with her. A little later the giant Geitir returns home and sets off in pursuit, but Þorvaldr kills him with his own swords and takes Droplaug back to her father’s house. Later, goods are recovered from the cave, including the things lost by Þorvaldr and his shipmates in the shipwreck. A year later Þorvaldr gets Droplaug as his wife, turns down an earldom in Shetland, and sails home to Iceland with great wealth and his wife, together with her mother Arneiðr and her mother’s brother Grímr. Grímr buys himself land at Gil in Jökulsdalur and Þorvaldr sets up home at Vallholt to the west of the lake at Lagarfljót. His mother-in-law takes ‘við búi fyrir innan stokk’ (‘over the running of the house itself’) (233) and so the place becomes known as Arneiðarstaðir.
The drowning of Helgi Ásbjarnarson’s first wife
|Droplaugarsona saga (ÍF XI:142-4)||Fljótsdœla saga (ÍF XI:236-40)|
|Helgi Ásbjarnarson lives at Oddsstaðir with his wife Droplaug Spak-Bersadóttir. They have several children. Droplaug’s mother Ingibjǫrg is in childbed and Droplaug goes to Bersastaðir with gifts of food. With her she has a pair of slaves to drive a sledge pulled by two oxen. ‘Droplaug var eina nótt uppi þar, því at mannboð skyldi vera á O[rm]sstǫðum einni nótt síðar, en þat var litlu fyrir várþing. Þá fóru þau heim ok óku eptir ísi. Ok er þau kómu út um Hallormsstaði, þá fóru þrælarnir í sleðann, því at uxarnir kunnu þá heim. En er þau kómu á víkina fyrir sunnan Oddsstaði, þá gingu uxarnir báðir niðr í eina vǫk, ok drukknuðu þau þar ǫll, ok heitir þar síðan Þrælavík. Sauðamaðr Helga sagði honum einum saman tíðendin, en hann bað hann engum segja. Síðan fór Helgi til várþings. Þar seldi hann Oddsstaði ok keypti Mjóvanes. Fór hann þagat byggðum, ok þótti honum sér þá skjótara fyrnask líflát Droplaugar. Nǫkkuru síðar bað Helgi Ásbjarnarson Þórdísar toddu, dóttur Brodd-Helga, ok var hon honum gefin.’ (‘Droplaug spent one night up there because there was to be a gathering at O[rm]sstaðir the following night; this was a little before the time of the spring assembly. Then they went home and drove along the ice. As they were coming out past Hallormsstaðir, the slaves got into the sledge, because the oxen knew their way home from here. But when they got to the bay south of Oddsstaðir both the oxen went through a hole in the ice and they were all drowned; the place has since been known as Þrælavík [‘Slave Bay’]. Helgi’s shepherd told him the news in private and he told him to tell no one. Then Helgi went to the spring assembly. There he sold Oddsstaðir and bought Mjóvanes. He moved his household there, thinking that this way he would get over Droplaug’s death the quicker. Some time later Helgi Ásbjarnarson asked for the hand of Þórdís todda, the daughter of Brodd-Helgi, and she was given to him in marriage.’)||The Droplaugarsons are being fostered by Bersi, and when Helgi Ásbjarnarson asks for the hand of Bersi’s daughter, Þorlaug, Helgi Droplaugarson is so upset at losing her that he does not attend the wedding. Helgi Ásbjarnarson and Þorlaug set up home at Oddsstaðir and have a daughter called Ragnheiðr. In the third winter Þorlaug weans her daughter and sets off ‘á kynnisleit upp á Bersastaði at finna föður sinn’ (‘on a visit up to Bersastaðir to see her father’) (239). After a week Helgi sends slaves with two oxen to fetch her. ‘Þeir vóru þar um nótt. Þá fell lognsnær um nóttina. Um morgininn fara þau heimleiðis. Þá var Helgi farinn ofan á drang þann, er fram gengr af Oddsstaðahöfða. Sá hann þá, at þeir óku sunnan eptir ísinum ok ofan í vök eina, ok drukknuðu þau þar öll. Þar heitir nú Þrælavík.’ (‘They spent the night there. The night was still and it snowed. In the morning they set off for home. At the time Helgi had gone down to the high rock that stands above the lake out from Oddsstaðahöfði. He saw them driving south along the ice and down into a crack, and they were all drowned. The place is now called Þrælavík [‘Slave Bay’]’) (239). Helgi announces the news publicly and Bersi offers to foster Ragnheiðr so that Helgi might ‘skjótara af hyggja, en þat varð þó ekki’ (‘the sooner forget, but that was not to be’) (239). Two winters later Helgi marries Þórdís todda and she moves to Oddsstaðir, where in the interim he has had a child by his housekeeper. Þórdís sends the housekeeper away but brings up the child herself. The next winter Þórdís puts in a request that they sell Oddsstaðir and buy Mjóvanes in its place.|
|Droplaugarsona saga||Fljótsdœla saga|
|1. Helgi is married to Droplaug.||1. Helgi is married to Þorlaug, to the displeasure of Helgi Droplaugarson.|
|2. They have several children.||2. They have a single daughter, Ragnheiðr.|
|3. Droplaug visits her mother Ingibjǫrg with gifts of food while she is in childbed.||3. In her third winter Þorlaug weans Ragnheiðr and visits her father.|
|4. Two slaves go along with the sledge, which is drawn by two oxen. They stay one night.||4. After a week, Helgi sends slaves and two oxen to collect his wife.|
|5. A shepherd sees the accident and tells Helgi, who asks him not to tell anyone else.||5. Helgi sees the accident himself and announces the news publicly.|
|6. Helgi sells Oddsstaðir to help him forget Droplaug.||6. Bersi offers to foster Ragnheiðr to help Helgi forget Þorlaug.|
|7. Some time later Helgi marries Þórdís todda and she moves with him to Mjóvanes.||7. Two winters later Helgi marries Þórdís todda, having in the meantime had a child by his housekeeper, and the next winter they move to Mjóvanes.|
Helgi Droplaugarson kills Þorgrímr torðyfill
|Droplaugarsona saga (ÍF XI:144-7)||Fljótsdœla saga (ÍF XI:240-56)|
|One autumn Þórir’s domestic workers are sitting around the fire at Mýnes discussing women. The general opinion is that Droplaug ranks higher than most women in the district but then Þorgrímr torðyfill puts in, ‘ef hon hefði bónda sinn einhlítan gǫrt’ (‘if she’d kept herself to her husband’) (144-5). No one else has ever heard anything compromising about her and Þórir, as head of the household, tells the men to watch their tongues. A certain Þorfinnr passes this chitchat on to Droplaug. She says nothing immediately, but a short time later she tells her sons about it and asks them not to seek vengeance. At the time Helgi is thirteen and Grímr twelve. A little later they go to visit their aunt Gróa at Eyvindará, saying they intend to hunt ptarmigan, but they then go on to Mýnes and ask after Þórir, who is away, and his domestic staff. An unintroduced man called Ásmundr is doing the hay along with Þorgrímr, and when he sees the brothers approaching they unbridle the horse from the hay sled and Þorgrímr tries to get on and escape but Helgi shoots him with a spear. Ásmundr goes home in terror and the brothers go back to Gróa, who sends them on to Arneiðarstaðir after asking them what they have caught, to which Helgi replies: ‘Vit hǫfum veitt torðyfil einn’ (‘We’ve only caught a single torðyfill’) (146). When Þórir returns that afternoon he shows little interest and turns the matter over to Helgi Ásbjarnarson on the grounds that Þorgrímr had been his freedman. Droplaug sends the boys to Geitir Lýtingsson at Krossavík but they lose their way in a supernatural blizzard and find themselves going sunwise [east to west] around SpaBersi’s shrine to the gods. He tells them that the storm is the result of the gods’ anger at their having gone sunwise round the temple and at failing to announce the killing of Torðyfill in the legally prescribed manner. They make atonement and go on to Krossavík. The following spring Þorkell Geitisson and Helgi Ásbjarnarson agree a settlement, leaving Helgi Droplaugarson feeling that the slander remains unavenged. He gets legal training from Þorkell and uses this to pick quarrels with Helgi Ásbjarnarson’s client farmers.||Þorgrímr torðyfill, a freedman, domestic worker and kinsman of Þórir of Mýnes is sitting by the fire one autumn with Þórir and his workers. Þórir has long been without a wife and Þorgrímr initiates a discussion about whether any woman has run a household as handsomely after her husband died as Þórir has his. Droplaug’s name is mentioned, to which Þorgrímr responds that that might have been the case if she had not lain with the slave Svartr and had her son Helgi by him. Þórir tries to hush this up but word gets to Arneiðarstaðir where Droplaug takes offense and goads Helgi, then aged twelve, to do something about it. Helgi and Grímr, aged ten, just laugh and amuse themselves hunting ptarmigan. As winter draws on, the boys set out one night with their hunting tackle to Eyvindará and from there to Mýnes, where they see Þorgrímr working on a load of hay along with one of the household retainers. The boys are recognized; the retainer reckons they present no danger, but Þorgrímr is frightened of their marksmanship and rides away. Helgi hurls a spear at him that goes right through him. The brothers go on to Eyvindará but the retainer carries on with this work, leaving Þorgrímr sitting dead on his horse until the end of the day, when he finally tells Þórir what has happened. Þórir sets out immediately but by now Gróa has sent her kinsmen home to Arneiðarstaðir, where their mother welcomes them and asks about the hunting. Helgi replies: ‘Smátt er í veiðum, móðir, veidda ek tordýfil einn’ (‘Not much of a catch, mother, I only caught a single torðyfill’) (247). Þórir and Gróa reach a settlement, but at this point Þorgrímr’s brother Nollarr turns up and wants to get Helgi Ásbjarnarson involved in the case. Helgi refuses and so Nollarr tries to whip up Bersi against his foster son by telling him that he is now seducing Helga of Skeggjastaðir, for whom Bersi has had a special fondness. Nollarr’s plans come to nothing, but as a result of his intervention Helgi loses Helga and never looks at another woman as long as he lives.|
- The slander of one of Þórir of Mýnes’s domestic retainers, Þorgrímr torðyfill, that Droplaug has been unfaithful to her husband, reaches the ears of Droplaug and her sons.
- Helgi and Grímr have a reputation as keen ptarmigan hunters.
- Helgi kills Þorgrímr with a spear as Þorgrímr tries to make his getaway from the haymaking on horseback.
- Helgi and Grímr visit their kinswoman Gróa at Eyvindarstaðir on their way.
- Reparation is made for Þorgrímr by:
a. in Droplaugarsona saga, Þorkell Geitisson paying money to Helgi Ásbjarnarson (Þorgrímr being his freedman);b. in Fljótsdœla saga, Gróa paying money to Þórir of Mýnes.
- It supplies the name Þorfinnr for the man who tells Droplaug about Þorgrímr’s slander; Þorfinnr has no other function in the saga.
- It names Ásmundr as the farmhand who is working on the hay with Þorgrímr.
- Droplaugarsona saga supplies the names of Þorfinnr and Ásmundr, while the corresponding characters in Fljótsdœla saga remain nameless.
- The ages of the brothers are given differently: thirteen and twelve in Droplaugarsona saga; twelve and ten in Fljótsdœla saga (which, however, attributes to Helgi significant experience in affairs of the heart at the time of this episode).
- The time scales are different: in Droplaugarsona saga the whole affair takes place within a comparatively short period; in Fljótsdœla saga the brothers allow things to drift on toward winter before they decide to act.
- Following the killing of Þorgrímr, the two sagas give different details of the people involved in the settlement, and in Fljótsdœla saga there is the added burlesque episode about Þorgrímr’s otherwise unknown brother, Nollarr.
|Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana (ÍF XI:196-200)||Fljótsdœla saga (ÍF XI:258-264)|
|Ásbjǫrn vegghamarr turns up one autumn and takes lodgings with Bjǫrn Kóreksson in Skriðudalur. Ásbjǫrn is described as ‘mikill maðr ok svipligr, sterkligr, svartr á hár ok mjǫk hárr, eygðr illa ok langhálsaðr’ (‘a big man and impressive-looking, strongly built, black-haired and very tall, with unpleasant eyes and a long neck’) (196). He claims to be from the south of Iceland and to have previously been working for Ásgrímr Elliða-Grímsson. He is taken on and given lodgings by the Kórekssons, and works well for almost three years and builds up some capital. Then he wants to set up farm on his own but accumulates debts, both to the Kórekssons and to a merchant called Þórir Englandsfari who has previously made friends with Þiðrandi, the son of Geitir Lýtingsson, at a horse fight; at this same horse fight Bjǫrn Kóreksson has also made friends with Þiðrandi by giving him the horse that he had pitted against one belonging to Ketill of Njarðvík. Þórir is staying with Brodd-Helgi, who says that so far as he is concerned Ásbjǫrn is ‘óskapfelldr ok hroðavænligr’ (‘not to my taste and likely to cause trouble’) (197). Ásbjǫrn welshes on his debts and absconds to Njarðvík, promising Ketill that this time he will be ‘hagfelldr’ (‘tractable’) (197). The Kórekssons attempt to recover their debts from Ketill, who admits that they are in the right but sees no reason to part with his own money on Ásbjǫrn’s behalf. At the request of his foster son Þiðrandi, Ketill permits the Kórekssons to come in a small group to summons Ásbjǫrn. Þiðrandi is shocked that he should act like this and Ketill accuses him of taking an interest in the case only because of the horse he has been given. Þiðrandi moves away to Krossavík and the Kórekssons decide to go and issue the summons if Þiðrandi will go with them ‘á kynnisleit’ (‘to see what is happening’) (198). That same summer, three of the Kórekssons (Bjǫrn, Þorfinnr, and Halldórr), Þórir the merchant, Þiðrandi, and two other unnamed men go to Njarðvík. Ásbjǫrn sees them coming as he ‘var á mýri nǫkkurri ok gróf torf’ (‘was out in a certain bog digging turfs’) (199); he ‘kastar nú niðr verkfœrum sínum ok tekr á skeiði miklu heim til bœjarins’ (‘now throws down his tools and takes to his feet at great speed home to the farm’) (199). One of the brothers aims a javelin at him and hits him in the belly, but he makes it back into the house with the fire, where Ketill ‘bakaðisk við eldinn’ (‘was roasting himself by the fire’) (199), and urges Ketill to avenge him. This is the last we hear of Ásbjǫrn.||Ásbjǫrn, a southerner from Flói in the southwest, has traveled east by way of Rangárvellir and Síða and taken lodgings in Fljótsdalur. He is ‘mikill maðr vexti, dökkr á hárslit, ljótr í andliti ok heldr óþokkuligr’ (‘a big man in stature, dark-haired, ugly of face and rather unappealing’ (258). He is good at building walls and has been five years in Fljótsdalur before things go wrong. He spends the first two years with Þorbjǫrn kóreki, father of Gunnsteinn and Þorkell, at Kóreksstaðir, after which he sets up farm with his pregnant wife and some children at Sauðlækur, later called Hlaupandastaðir. His wealth starts to run out and he deserts his wife and children and moves to Njarðvík, where Ketill takes him on to build walls. The people of Kóreksstaðir provide for his destitute dependants but are unable to recover the rent owed to them. No one likes Ásbjǫrn except Ketill. Þiðrandi now leaves his foster father Hróarr to visit his kinsman Ketill and arrives with six others at Þorbjǫrn’s house. Þorbjǫrn’s sons get Þiðrandi to agree to have a word with Ketill about making Ásbjǫrn available for prosecution. So they ride twenty of them to Njarðvík and see Ásbjǫrn ‘upp í hlíðinni at garðlagi’ (‘up on the hillside laying walls’) (261). Gunnsteinn throws a spear shaft at him ‘með hlátri miklum’ (‘with much laughter’) (261) and it goes through his turned-up kirtle. Ásbjǫrn jumps and ‘tekr þegar skeið heim til bæjar’ (‘takes at once to his feet home to the farm’) (261) and runs ‘í eldaskálann, þar er Ketill bakast’ (‘into the hall with the fire where Ketill is roasting himself’) (261-2), saying that Gunnsteinn’s spear has gone in under one of his arms and ‘út undir annarri’ (‘out under the other’) (262), and urges Ketill to avenge him. Ketill goes out and lays into Þiðrandi, who cuts him to the ground but is wounded himself. After the main encounter Þiðrandi tells Gunnsteinn that Ásbjǫrn has used divination to see how things will turn out and is even now among the fallen stripping ‘mannnáinn einn’ (‘one of the corpses’) (264). Gunnsteinn runs over and hacks Ásbjǫrn in two through the middle.|
- In the description of Ásbjǫrn himself, both sagas agree on his origins (‘sunnlenzkr,’ ‘from the south of Iceland’) and the main features of his character and appearance, but they do not use the same words except in the general and formulaic phrase ‘mikill maðr’ (‘a big man’). This formula—by which I mean a fixed combination of words used in similar circumstances—appears countless times in the sagas and is thus of questionable value for positing literary relations.
- The texts also agree in the formulaic expression taka á skeiði/taka skeið (‘take to one’s feet,’ ‘run’). In Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana it says that Ásbjǫrn ‘tekr á skeiði miklu heim til bœjarins’ (‘takes to his feet at great speed home to the farm’); in Fljótsdœla saga the actual words used are ‘tekr þegar skeið heim til bæjar’ (‘takes at once to his feet home to the farm’). The expressions gera skeið and renna skeið (‘run,’ ‘put on a spurt,’ usually for a limited distance) are fairly common in the sagas, but taka skeið occurs only in Þórðar saga kakala in Sturlunga saga (317:479), in Magnússona saga in Heimskringla (27:739), and, among the sagas of Icelanders, in the D text of Hrafnkels saga (i.e. in the version found as part of a compilation with Fljótsdœla saga in Mánaskálar/Grafarkotsbók, AM 551 c 4to) in the passage describing Sámr’s attack on Hrafnkell at Aðalból at the beginning of chapter 11: ‘Nú taka þeir skeið heim at bænum’ (‘Now they set off at a run home to the farm’) (11:1408).  So far as this affects the probabilities of a literary relationship with Gunnars saga, it is therefore necessary to bear in mind that the expression taka skeið was part of the vocabulary of the writer of Fljótsdœla saga long before he found himself needing to find a way to describe Ásbjǫrn’s sprint back to the farm at Njarðvík. There is thus no need to assume that he got the formula from Gunnars saga at this point; the example might even be used to argue that Gunnars saga is the recipient here, though this would probably conflict too radically with all our general ideas about the ages of the sagas to be considered in any way plausible (see also p. 240). Attention should also be paid to the nuances of usage of the formula; at both places in the composite Hrafnkels saga/Fljótsdœla saga in AM 551 c 4to the form is taka skeið, while in Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana it appears as taka á skeiði, a difference which might rather be taken to suggest that what we have here are independent uses of a formula in each saga. However, some kind of literary relationship cannot be ruled out entirely, especially since in both cases the formula turns up in the same context, i.e. followed by the phrase ‘heim at bœnum/til bœjar(-ins)’ (‘home to the farm’).
- The third formula is bakask við eld (‘roast, toast [lit. ‘bake’] oneself by the fire’). In both accounts Ketill is said to have been ‘bakask við eld’ (‘roasting himself by the fire’) when Ásbjǫrn rushes in and urges him to avenge him. The expression, and the activity, is not uncommon in the sagas. However, Ketill’s sitting over the fire is fully motivated in Fljótsdœla saga, where he has previously been said to be subject to frequent fits of the shivers; this perhaps implies that Ketill is not fully in control of his actions at this point, which may explain why he lays into his well-loved kinsman Þiðrandi the moment he gets outside. Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana has nothing comparable about any such instability in Ketill’s character; here his warming himself by the fire is used to prefigure his death, for he ‘kenndi ekki heitt af eldinum ok kvazk þat undarligt þykkja’ (‘felt no heat from the fire and said he found this uncanny’) (ÍF XI:200). The two texts thus make very different uses of the ideas inherent in the formula ‘bakast við eld.’
|Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana||Fljótsdœla saga|
|1. Ásbjǫrn goes to Bjǫrn Kóreksson at Skriðudalur and stays there working for him for two winters.||1. Ásbjǫrn arrives in Fljótsdalur and spends two winters working for Þorbjǫrn kórekr at Kóreksstaðir.|
|2. Ásbjǫrn is in his third winter in the east.||2. Ásbjǫrn is in his fifth winter in the east.|
|3. Ásbjǫrn builds up debts to the Kórekssons and fails to pay Þórir Englandsfari.||3. Ásbjǫrn deserts his pregnant wife and his children and fails to pay the Kórekssons his rent.|
|4. Ásbjǫrn is given lodgings by Ketill, who refuses to part with money on his behalf and permits him to be summonsed.||4. Ásbjǫrn is taken on to build walls by Ketill; unlike most others, Ketill gets on well with Ásbjǫrn.|
|5. Þiðrandi is Ketill’s foster son but, to Ketill’s displeasure, he accepts a gift from the Kórekssons.||5. Þiðrandi is Hróarr’s foster son and Ketill’s kinsman and is friends with the Kórekssons.|
|6. During the summer Þiðrandi goes to Krossavík.||6. Þiðrandi has recently returned from abroad.|
|7. There are three Kórekssons, Bjǫrn, Þorfinnr, and Halldórr.||7. Þorbjǫrn kórekr has two sons, Gunnsteinn and Þorkell.|
|8. The party bearing the summons to Njarðvík consists of the Kórekssons, Þórir, Þiðrandi, and two unnamed—seven in total.||8. Þiðrandi (with six others) and the Kórekssons (20 in total) ride to Njarðvík to have Ásbjǫrn given up for prosecution.|
|9. Ásbjǫrn sees the summonsing party coming and runs back to the farm from digging turfs.||9. Þiðrandi and his men see Ásbjǫrn, who runs back to the farm from building walls.|
|10. An unnamed Kóreksson throws a javelin into Ásbjǫrn’s belly and out the other side.||10. Gunnsteinn Kóreksson throws a spear shaft at Ásbjǫrn and through the folds in his kirtle.|
|11. No more is said of Ásbjǫrn after he tries to goad Ketill into action with a javelin sticking out of his guts.||11. Ásbjǫrn is stripping the bodies of the slain when Gunnsteinn rushes up and hacks him to death.|
- ‘Nú er þat sumra manna sǫgn, at í þessari ferð hafi verit Helgi Droplaugarson með Þorkatli, frænda sínum, en eigi vitum vér, hvárt satt er’ (‘According to some people, Helgi Droplaugarson was on this expedition with his kinsman Þorkell, but we do not know whether this is true’) (ÍF XI:204; see p. 180).
- ‘Þar bjó Helgi þá’ (‘Helgi lived there [sc. at Mjóvanes] at the time’) (ÍF XI:207).
- ‘Ok eigi miklu síðar tókusk til skipti þeira Helga Ásbjarnarsonar ok Gríms Droplaugarsonar, at Helgi var veginn’ (‘And not much later things between Helgi Ásbjarnarson and Grímr Droplaugarson took the turn that Helgi was killed’) (ÍF XI:209).
|Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana (ÍF XI:200-1)||Fljótsdœla saga (ÍF XI:262-5)|
|Egged on by Ásbjǫrn, Ketill loses his cool and rushes outside with spear in hand. Þiðrandi asks his men to spare his foster father. Ketill runs at Bjǫrn Kóreksson and thrusts his spear into him. Þórir Englandsfari then gives Ketill a fatal wound but is himself cut down by Ketill’s own men. When two of Ketill’s men, Þjóðgeirr and Þórir bringr, have been killed, Þiðrandi and his companions, five in total, want to ride away. At this point one of Ketill’s servant women runs indoors and urges the Norwegian merchants Gunnarr and Þormóðr to avenge her master. Gunnarr goes outside and asks which man would be the greatest loss among the attackers: ‘“Þat er hann Þiðrandi,” segir hon, in auma kona’ (‘“That’s him, Þiðrandi,” she says, the wretched woman’) (200-1). Gunnarr throws a spear into Þiðrandi’s back and it pierces through him. The lady of the house, Þorgerðr, and her sons lament this deed, but Gunnarr ‘kvað nú svá búit vera mundu’ (‘said that what was done was done’) (201).||Egged on by Ásbjǫrn, Ketill jumps up ‘við bræði mikla’ (‘in great wrath’) (262), puts on a woolen shirt and goes in silence to his sleeping closet where he gets a helmet, sword, and shield. Once outside, he slashes at Þiðrandi who is on horseback, cutting through both saddle and into the horse. His second blow splits Þiðrandi’s shield. Meanwhile the women call together Ketill’s workmen, twenty all told. Þiðrandi tells his men not to use their weapons on his kinsman Ketill and asks him his terms. Ketill makes no reply and continues to attack Þiðrandi, who gives ground until the sun has started to go down. As Þiðrandi uses his sword to vault backwards over a stream, Ketill slashes at him, dislocating his right shoulder blade and exposing his lungs. So finally Þiðrandi thrusts back at Ketill with his left hand and kills him; then he sits down with the Kórekssons, the only ones still alive among his men. Ketill’s men cover his body with earth and go back to the house, exhausted and wounded from the battle. During the evening a housemaid goes to Gunnarr the Norwegian as he sits in his storehouse putting flights on his arrows and urges him to avenge her master. Gunnarr takes up a bow, puts an arrow to the string and asks where Þiðrandi is. She points him out and the arrow pierces his chest and comes out between his shoulders. Gunnarr asks again who it is that the arrow has hit and is told that it is Þiðrandi. At this he says: ‘Seg allra kvenna örmust. Eigi fekk annan mann vinsælla né betr at sér. Hefi ek þeim manni bana unnit, er ek vilda sízt’ (‘You and your wretched tongue, woman! There was never a more popular and accomplished man. I have been the death of the man I would least have wanted to’) (265).|
- The names of Ketill, Gunnarr, and Þiðrandi;
- Both Ketill and Þiðrandi are killed;
- An unnamed woman urges Gunnarr to kill Þiðrandi.
|Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana||Fljótsdœla saga|
|1. Ketill goes outside with a spear.||1. Ketill goes outside with a helmet, sword, and shield.|
|2. Þiðrandi asks his men to spare his foster father.||2. Þiðrandi asks his men to spare his kinsman.|
|3. Ketill kills Bjǫrn Kóreksson.||3. Ketill only attacks Þiðrandi.|
|4. Ketill is killed by Þórir Englandsfari.||4. Ketill is killed by Þiðrandi.|
|5. Of Þiðrandi’s men only Þórir is killed, and of Ketill’s domestic staff Þjóðgeirr and Þórir bringr are killed.||5. Of Þiðrandi’s men all are killed except the Kórekssons; Ketill’s domestic staff are wounded.|
|6. Þiðrandi and four others ride away.||6. Having been mortally wounded by Ketill, Þiðrandi sits on a tussock with the Kórekssons.|
|7. A servant woman urges Gunnarr and Þormóðr to take action.||7. A housemaid urges Gunnarr to take action.|
|8. Gunnarr asks who would be the greatest loss and is told that this would be Þiðrandi.||8. Gunnarr asks directly to have Þiðrandi pointed out to him.|
|9. Gunnarr throws a spear into Þiðrandi’s back.||9. Gunnarr shoots an arrow into Þiðrandi’s chest.|
|10. Gunnarr is phlegmatic about his deed.||10. Gunnarr regrets his deed and holds the woman to blame.|
|Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana (ÍF XI:201-7)||Fljótsdœla saga (ÍF XI:267-82)|
|Everybody mourns the death of Þiðrandi. Þorkell Geitisson searches for the two Norwegians at Njarðvík but Þorgerðr, the mistress of the house, says that they have been thrown out. Later that winter Þorkell forces Ketill’s sons, Þorkell and Eyjólfr, to admit they are harboring the Norwegians in their goatsheds (by means of killing a calf and using its blood to make Eyjólfr think that his brother has been killeda). With the brothers tied up, Þorkell Geitisson and his men go after the Norwegians; Þorkell kills Þormóðr with a the spear but Gunnarr escapes and flees to Sveinki at farm of Bakki in Borgarfjörður. Sveinki thanks Gunnarr for having avenged his friend Ketill of Njarðvík and hides him under a pile of fuel turfs in an outhouse. Þorkell Geitisson arrives (according to the saga, some say accompanied by Helgi Droplaugarson) and searches Sveinki’s farm. Meanwhile, Sveinki bars the door and spirits Gunnarr away. They go down to the shore, where Sveinki has Gunnarr hide himself under his newly caulked fishing boat and drives a flock of lambs over their tracks to hide them. Þorkell is angry at having been locked in and wants to search under the boat. Sveinki himself goes under the boat and Þorkell’s men jab their spears under it and wound Gunnarr. Somewhat improbably, Sveinki inflicts a cut upon himself and comes out from under the boat with blood pouring from him. Þorkell departs and Sveinki now takes Gunnarr to his barn and hides him in the hay. Þorkell returns swiftly but neglects to search in the barn. Once he is finally gone, Sveinki takes Gunnarr down to the sea and tells him to swim out to a small island offshore and hide himself in the seaweed. There he remains until Sveinki feels confident that Þorkell is not coming back and rows out to fetch him. Sveinki then advises Gunnarr to go to Helgi Ásbjarnarson at Mjóvanes and seek assistance; to do this, he must arrive in the dark and knock at the north door in a certain way, because then Helgi will come to the door himself. This works and Helgi allows Gunnarr to lie low in one of his outhouses when he hears of how Sveinki has helped him.||Hróarr Tungugoði dies of grief for his foster son. Þorkell Ketilsson builds a funeral mound for his kinsman and those who have died, while others from the family turn their minds to vengeance: Þorkell Geitisson, Bjarni of Hof, Þórdís todda (wife of Helgi Ásbjarnarson), and the Droplaugarsons. As winter approaches, Þorkell Geitisson sets off, accompanied by the Droplaugarsons. In all, eighteen men go on to Njarðvík, picking up Gunnsteinn at Kóreksstaðir on the way. By the time they arrive at Njarðvík, Helgi Droplaugarson has assumed command of the expedition. They get news of Þorkell Ketilsson and his men, capture them and threaten to kill them unless they tell on Gunnarr, who turns out to have been staying through the winter under cover in a tent on the rocky wastes. Þorkell Geitisson is given the task of guarding Þorkell Ketilsson while Helgi goes after Gunnarr, who happens to have gone outside in his linen breeches to relieve himself and sees the trouble on its way. He runs off in bare feet, is wounded by a spear, but swims across the bay and crosses the screes to Borgarfjörður with Helgi and his men coming after him by boat and on foot. Gunnarr meets Sveinungr of Bakki, who hides him in a pile of turfs but expresses no thanks to him for killing Þiðrandi. To put the search party off the scent, Sveinungr sends out his son dressed in white to round up sheep and directs Helgi towards him when he inquires about Gunnarr. While Helgi goes after the boy, Sveinungr hides Gunnarr in the hay in the barn. When Helgi realizes who the shepherd is, he turns back and goes into the barn with Sveinungr while his men open the hatch. Gunnarr remains undiscovered and Helgi sets off home. Gunnarr is put under a boat and his tracks are hidden by driving sheep across them. Helgi suspects he has been deceived and turns back. They search under the boat with their spears but notice nothing, even though they wound Gunnarr in the thigh. By now Sveinungr has a very ugly look on his face and they make off. Gunnarr is brought indoors and his wounds tended. Helgi’s men call on Sveinungr’s brother Gunnsteinn in Borgarfjörður, who makes them thoroughly unwelcome when he hears about the trouble they have been causing at Bakki. The next day they are already up on the moors when Helgi notices there is blood on his spear and realizes that Gunnarr must have been under the boat after all. But he thinks that getting Gunnarr out of Sveinungr’s hands will be beyond him and decides to continue home. A little later Sveinungr takes Gunnarr to Helgi Ásbjarnarson at Mjóvanes, who accepts him and keeps him safe in a storehouse through the winter.|
|Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana||Fljótsdœla saga|
|1. Þorkell Geitisson searches for the Norwegians and forces Eyjólfr Ketilsson to divulge their whereabouts.||1. Þorkell Geitisson enlists the Droplaugarsons. Helgi Droplaugarson forces Þorkell Ketilsson to divulge Gunnarr’s whereabouts. Þorkell Geitisson remains behind.|
|2. There are two Norwegians in the goatsheds; one is killed while escaping.||2. Gunnarr is on his own in a tent and is wounded while trying to escape.|
|3. The route of Gunnarr’s flight down into Borgarfjörður is not described.||3. The saga gives details of Gunnarr’s swim across the bay and his route on foot across the frozen screes down into Borgarfjörður.|
|4. Sveinki thanks Gunnarr for having avenged Ketill.||4. Sveinungr condemns the killing of Þiðrandi.|
|5. ‘Some say’ that Helgi Droplaugarson was with Þorkell on the expedition.||5. Helgi is the leader of the expedition.|
|6. Sveinki locks Þorkell indoors while he hides Gunnarr under his boat.||6. Sveinungr sends Helgi on a wild goose chase after his son while he hides Gunnarr under the boat.|
|7. Sveinki goes under the boat and inflicts a wound on himself in order to deceive the man who has stabbed Gunnarr with his spear.||7. Sveinungr stands by in anger during the search under the boat.|
|8. Þorkell never searches Sveinki’s barn.||8. Helgi goes with Sveinungr into the barn.|
|9. Sveinki gets Gunnarr to swim out to an island once Þorkell is far enough away.||9. Sveinungr takes Gunnarr back inside after he has been wounded under the boat.|
|10. Nothing is said about Þorkell’s journey home.||10. On his way home, Helgi stays with Sveinungr’s brother and sees Gunnarr’s blood on his spear the next day.|
|11. Sveinki sends Gunnarr on alone to Helgi Ásbjarnarson.||11. Sveinungr takes Gunnarr to Helgi Ásbjarnarson himself.|
|Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana (ÍF XI:203)||Droplaugarsona saga (ÍF XI:151)||Fljótsdœla saga (ÍF XI:273)|
|‘Gunnarr kom at bœ þeim, er á Bakka hét, í Borgarfirði. Þar bjó sá maðr, er Sveinki hét, garpr mikill ok inn ódælasti viðreignar.’ (‘Gunnarr came to the farm of Bakki in Borgarfjörður. A man lived there called Sveinki, a sturdy warrior and not a man to be trifled with.’)||‘Sveinungr hét maðr, er bjó á Bakka í Borgarfirði. Hann var Þórisson. Hann var mikill maðr ok sterkr ok vitr. Hann var vinr Helga Droplaugarsonar.’ (‘There was a man called Sveinungr who lived at Bakki in Borgarfjörður. He was the son of Þórir. He was a big man and strong and wise. He was a friend of Helgi Droplaugarson.’)||‘Sunnan undir hálsinum stendr bær, er heitir á Bakka […] Þar bjó sá maðr, er Sveinungr hét. Hann var kraptamaðr mikill ok átti góða peninga, kvóngaðr maðr ok átti einn son, níu vetra gamlan, þá er þetta varð tíðinda […] Sveinungr var einrænn maðr, ok var mál manna, at hann væri eigi allr þar, er hann var sénn. En þó var hann góðr þar, er hann vildi, en gjörði við fá eiga.’ (‘South under the ridge there stands a farm called Bakki […] There lived a man called Sveinungr. He was a man of great strength and well-to-do, a married man with one son nine years old when this happened […] Sveinungr kept himself to himself and the word was that there was more to him than met the eye. But he treated well those that he chose to, though he kept his nose out of other people’s business.’)|
|Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana (ÍF XI:209-11)||Laxdœla saga (ÍF V:202-4)||Fljótsdœla saga (ÍF XI:285-8)|
|Þorkell Geitisson has Gunnarr declared guilty at the Alþingi. Grímr Droplaugarson kills Helgi Ásbjarnarson and Þórdís todda says ‘at hon vill senda Gunnar vestr til Helgafells til Guðrúnar Ósvífrsdóttur til halds ok trausts, ok skilði hon vel við hann. Ok kom hann vestr þangat í þat mund, er Guðrún var fǫstnuð Þorkatli Eyjólfssyni’ (‘that she wishes to send Gunnarr west to Helgafell to Guðrún Ósvífrsdóttir for safe-keeping and security, and she parted with him on good terms. He arrived there in the west just at the time that the marriage was being arranged between Guðrún and Þorkell Eyjólfsson’) (209). By this time all of Gunnarr’s property has come into the hands of Þorkell Geitisson. Þorkell Eyjólfsson rides to his wedding at Helgafell: ‘Ok um kveldit, er menn taka handlaugar, þá heldr Gunnarr Þiðrandabani vatni fyrir boðsmǫnnum ok Þorkatli Eyjólfssyni ok hefir hatt síðan á hǫfði. Þorkell þykkisk kenna manninn ok spyrr hann at nafni. Hann nefndisk því nafni, sem honum líkaði, en eigi því, er hann hét’ (‘And in the evening, when people take bowls to wash their hands, Gunnarr Þiðrandabani holds water for the guests and Þorkell Eyjólfsson and has a hat that hangs down over his head. Þorkell thinks he recognizes the man and asks him his name. He named himself with a name as he saw fit, and not what he was really called’) (210). Þorkell now sends for Guðrún with a message that he wants Gunnarr out of there; if not, he will leave himself. ‘Henni þykkir jafnvel, þótt hon eigi ekki hann Þorkel Eyjólfsson at bónda ok fari hann á brott, sem hann kom. “En ekki vinn ek þat til hans at selja þá menn undir vápn, er ek vil halda”’ (‘[Guðrún says] it is all the same to her if she doesn’t go through with marrying this Þorkell Eyjólfsson and if he goes away just as he came. “And I’m not doing that for him, handing people over to their deaths whom I choose to protect”’ (210). Snorri goði is introduced as a friend of Guðrún’s and it is said that they have altogether a hundred men with them. Þorkell backs down and the marriage goes ahead. Guðrún ‘kom Gunnari Þiðrandabana útan með fulltingi Snorra goða ok leysti hann vel af hendi. Fór Gunnarr útan ok kom aldri til Íslands síðan’ (‘With Snorri goði’s help, Guðrún got Gunnarr Þiðrandabani out of the country and sent him off in style. Gunnarr left the country and came never again to Iceland’) (210). He sends Guðrún fine gifts and invites Sveinki to come to him in Norway, where he is well provided for ‘til elli ævi sinnar’ (‘until the old age of his life’) (211).||The autumn set for the marriage between Guðrún and Þorkell Eyjólfsson, ‘hafði Gunnarr Þiðrandabani verit sendr Guðrúnu til trausts ok halds; hon hafði ok við honum tekit, ok var leynt nafni hans […] fór hann mjǫk hulðu hǫfði, því at margir stórir menn veittu þar eptirsjár. It fyrsta kveld veizlunnar, er menn gengu til vatns, stóð þar maðr mikill hjá vatninu; sá var herðimikill ok bringubreiðr; sá maðr hafði hatt á hǫfði. Þorkell spurði, hverr hann væri; sá nefndisk svá, sem honum sýndisk. Þorkell segir: “Þú munt segja eigi satt; værir þú líkari at frásǫgn Gunnari Þiðrandabana”’ (‘Gunnarr Þiðrandabani had been sent to Guðrún for security and safe-keeping and she had accepted him, and his name was kept secret […] He kept a very low profile because many powerful men were after him. The first evening of the feast, when people were going to the water [to wash], there was a big man standing by the water; he was broad-shouldered and broad-chested; this man had a hat on his head. Þorkell asked who he was. He named himself, as he saw fit. Þorkell says: “I don’t think you’re telling the truth; from what I’ve heard tell you are more like Gunnarr Þiðrandabani”’) (202). Þorkell presses him to reveal his true identity. Gunnarr does so and asks what he has in mind. ‘Þorkell kvazk þat vilja mundu, at hann vissi þat brátt’ (‘Þorkell said he would let him know soon enough’) (202), and orders his men to arrest him. Guðrún sees what is going on and orders her men to come to Gunnarr’s aid. She has ‘lið miklu meira’ (‘a much bigger band of followers’) (202) and a battle looks imminent. But Snorri goði intervenes and points out to Þorkell that Guðrún has more courage and character than the both of them. ‘Þorkell lézk því hafa heitit nafna sínum, Þorkatli Geitissyni, at hann skyldi drepa Gunnar, ef hann kœmi vestr á sveitir’ (‘Þorkell said he had promised his namesake Þorkell Geitisson that he would kill Gunnarr if he turned up there in the west’) (203). Snorri persuades him there is more to be had from going along with him and Guðrún, as he will not find another wife like her. Þorkell is placated, Gunnarr is taken away, and the feast proceeds. The newlyweds establish a good relationship and in the spring Guðrún asks Þorkell what he ‘vili sjá fyrir Gunnari’ (‘wants to do about Gunnarr’) (203), but he leaves this up to her. Guðrún requests ‘at þú gefir honum skipit’ (‘that you give him the ship’) (203). Þorkell answers: ‘“Eigi er þér lítit í hug um mart, Guðrún […] ok er þér eigi hent at eiga vesalmenni; er þat ok ekki við þitt œði; skal þetta gera eptir þínum vilja”’ (‘“You don’t believe in half measures, Guðrún […] and it wouldn’t do for you to be married to some miserable wretch; that wouldn’t suit your spirit; we’ll do things the way you want”’) (203-204). ‘Fór Gunnarr útan ok kom við Nóreg’ (‘Gunnarr left the country and came to Norway’) (204), where he ‘var stórauðigr ok it mesta mikilmenni ok góðr drengr’ (‘was very rich and a man of great substance and of noble mind’) (204).||The Droplaugarsons have Gunnarr’s property guarded and Þorkell Geitisson puts a price on his head and gives ‘höfðingjum umboð, at hann skulu höndum taka. Allir hétu góðu um þetta’ (‘the chieftains a commission to have him arrested. Everyone promised to do as he asked’) (286). This includes Þorkell Eyjólfsson, who lives at Helgafell and is married to Guðrún Ósvífrsdóttir. There have been warm feelings between her and Helgi Ásbjarnarson and they have exchanged gifts. Helgi has Gunnarr escorted to Guðrún ‘því at hann var sendr þangat til umsjár ok halds með gnógum jarteiknum’ (‘since he was sent there for care and safe-keeping with ample marks of accreditation’) (286). Guðrún reacts favorably but Þorkell is not at home. ‘Hann hafði heitit Þorkeli Geitissyni at taka Gunnar af lífi, ef hann næði honum’ (‘He had promised Þorkell Geitisson to execute Gunnarr if he could lay his hands on him’) (286). When Þorkell returns ‘síð um aptan’ (‘late in the afternoon’) (286) people are helped out of their outdoor clothes and the fires are lit. He then sees an unfamiliar man, very powerfully built, in a gray hooded cape, and ‘spyrr, hverr sá maðr væri hinn drengiligi. Hann segir til sín ok kveðst Gestr heita’ (‘asks who this noble-looking man might be. He speaks up and says his name is Gestr’ [a common enough name, but also meaning ‘guest’]) (286-7). Þorkell says: ‘“Furðu líkr ertu þeim manni at frásögn, er heitir Gunnar ok er kallaðr Þiðrandabani”’ (‘“From what I’ve heard tell, you’re amazingly like the man called Gunnarr, known also as Þiðrandabani”’) (287). Asked how he can be expected to react, he says: ‘Þat skaltu vita brátt’ (‘You’ll know soon enough’) (287) and takes a swipe at Gunnarr with his sword. Guðrún is told what is going on and orders Þorkell to leave the man alone, threatening to divorce him otherwise. She delivers a speech about Gunnarr having been sent to her ‘til halds ok trausts’ (‘for safe-keeping and security’) (287) and that she will protect him like a son until the ships leave Iceland in the summer. Þorkell replies: ‘“Verðr optast engin hæfa á, ef þú ræðr eigi því, sem þú vilt. Verðum vér jafnan lítilmenni af, ef þú hlutast til”’ (‘“Things generally don’t work out unless you get your own way. We always seem to come out of it looking pathetic once you get involved”’) (287). In the spring Guðrún wants Gunnarr to be given a ship belonging to their son Gellir, who is staying at home for the summer. Þorkell lets her have her own way. ‘Siglir Gunnar í haf, þegar honum gaf byri’ (‘Gunnarr sails out to sea once he got a favorable breeze’) (288) and lands in Hálogaland in the north of Norway, where it transpires he is the son of a nobleman. The following summer he sends the ship back to Iceland with generous payment and lives the rest of his life in Hálogaland ‘ok kemr lítt við þessa sögu’ (‘and has little [further] part in this saga’) (288).|
- The names of the main characters are the same in all cases.
- Gunnarr Þiðrandabani comes to Guðrún Ósvífrsdóttir.
- Þorkell Eyjólfsson opposes Guðrún’s protecting Gunnarr.
- There is a threat of a breakdown in relations between Þorkell and Guðrún.
- Guðrún gets Gunnarr out of the country.
|Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana||Laxdœla saga||Fljótsdœla saga|
|1. Þórdís sends Gunnarr to Guðrún.||1. The person who sends Gunnarr to Guðrún is not specified.||1. Helgi Ásbjarnarson has Gunnarr escorted to Guðrún.|
|2. Gunnarr arrives during the wedding of Guðrún and Þorkell.||2. Gunnarr arrives before the wedding of Guðrún and Þorkell.||2. Guðrún and Þorkell are living at Helgafell and have a grown-up son, Gellir.|
|3. Gunnarr and Þorkell speak while the guests are washing their hands; Gunnarr holds vatni (‘water’).||3. Gunnarr and Þorkell speak while the guests are washing their hands, i.e. go to vatns (‘water’).||3. Gunnarr and Þorkell speak by the fire.|
|4. Gunnarr gives an unspecified false name.||4. Gunnarr gives an unspecified false name.||4. Gunnarr gives his name as Gestr.|
|5. Þorkell threatens to leave the feast if Gunnarr is not sent away.||5. Þorkell gives an order for Gunnarr to be arrested.||5. Þorkell aims a blow at Gunnarr.|
|6. —||6. Þorkell has promised (heitit) Þorkell Geitisson that he will kill Gunnarr.||6. Þorkell has promised (heitit) Þorkell Geitisson that he will kill Gunnarr.|
|7. Guðrún is indifferent to whether Þorkell leaves or not.||7. Guðrún gets her own men to protect Gunnarr.||7. Guðrún tells Þorkell to leave Gunnarr in peace and threatens to divorce him.|
|8. The combined forces of Guðrún and Snorri goði are enough to stop Þorkell from carrying out this threat.||8. Snorri goði intervenes and tells Þorkell to put more value on the trust of him and Guðrún than of Þorkell Geitisson.||8. —|
|9. —||9. Gunnarr is led away from the feast.||9. —|
|10. With the support of Snorri goði, Guðrún gets Gunnarr out of the country.||10. Guðrún gets Þorkell to provide Gunnarr with a ship to get abroad.||10. Guðrún provides Gunnarr with the ship belonging to her and Þorkell’s son, Gellir.|
|11. Gunnarr sends Guðrún fine gifts and invites Sveinki to come to him.||11. Gunnarr lives on his riches in Norway and is out of the saga.||11. Gunnarr is the son of a nobleman and returns the ship with fine gifts.|
|Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana (ÍF XI:210-1)||Laxdœla saga (ÍF V:202-4)|
|[Material said to be from ‘saga Njarðvíkinga’ – 3 lines]|
|Introduction – 4 lines||Introduction – 3 lines|
|Dialogue between Þorkell and Gunnarr – 7 lines||Dialogue between Þorkell and Gunnarr – 13 lines|
|Guðrún’s reactions – 8 lines||Guðrún’s reactions – 6 lines|
|Snorri goði lends his support to Guðrún – 2 lines||Dialogue between Snorri goði and Þorkell – 13 lines|
|[Guðrún and Þorkell’s married life – 11 lines]|
|Þorkell’s reaction and relations with Guðrún – 2 lines||Dialogue between Guðrún and Þorkell about Gunnarr – 11 lines|
|Gunnarr got out of Iceland – 3 lines||Gunnarr got out of Iceland – 4 lines|
|Gunnarr in Norway – 5 lines||Gunnarr in Norway – 2 lines|
|Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana (ÍF XI:209-10)||Laxdœla saga (ÍF V:202)||Fljótsdœla saga (ÍF XI:286-7)|
|‘at hon vill senda Gunnar vestr til Helgafells til Guðrúnar Ósvífrsdóttur til halds ok trausts’ (‘that she wishes to send Gunnarr west to Helgafell to Guðrún Ósvífrsdóttir for safe-keeping and security’) (209).||‘hafði Gunnarr Þiðrandabani verit sendr Guðrúnu til trausts ok halds’ (Gunnarr Þiðrandabani had been sent to Guðrún for security and safe-keeping’) (202).||‘því at hann var sendr þangat til umsjár ok halds með gnógum jarteiknum’ (‘since he was sent there for care and safekeeping with ample marks of accreditation’) (286).|
|‘sendr … til halds ok trausts’ (‘sent … for safe-keeping and security’ (287).|
|‘Þorkell þykkisk kenna manninn ok spyrr hann at nafni’ (‘Þorkell thinks he recognizes the man and asks him his name’) (210).||‘Þorkell spurði, hverr hann væri’ (Þorkell asked who he was’) (202).||‘Þorkell spyrr, hverr sá maðr væri hinn drengiligi’ (‘Þorkell asks who this noble-looking man might be’) (286).|
|Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana (ÍF XI:210-1)||Laxdœla saga (ÍF V:202-4)||Fljótsdœla saga (ÍF XI:286-7)|
|‘Ok um kveldit, er menn taka handlaugar, þá heldr Gunnarr Þiðrandabani vatni fyrir boðsmǫnnum ok Þorkatli Eyjólfssyni ok hefir hatt síðan á hǫfði’ (‘And in the evening, when people take bowls to wash their hands, Gunnarr Þiðrandabani holds water for the guests and Þorkell Eyjólfsson and has a hat that hangs down over his head’) (210).||‘It fyrsta kveld veizlunnar, er menn gengu til vatns, stóð þar maðr mikill hjá vatninu; sá var herðimikill ok bringubreiðr; sá maðr hafði hatt á hǫfði’ (‘The first evening of the feast, when people were going to the water [to wash], there was a big man standing by the water; he was broad-shouldered and broad-chested; this man had a hat on his head’) (202).|
|‘Þorkell þykkisk kenna manninn ok spyrr hann at nafni. Hann nefndisk því nafni, sem honum líkaði, en eigi því, er hann hét’ (‘Þorkell thinks he recognizes the man and asks him his name. He named himself with a name as he saw fit, and not what he was really called’) (210).||‘Þorkell spurði, hverr hann væri; sá nefndisk svá, sem honum sýndisk’ (‘Þorkell asked who he was. He named himself, as he saw fit’) (202).||‘Þorkell spyrr, hverr sá maðr væri hinn drengiligi. Hann segir til sín ok kveðst Gestr heita’ (‘Þorkell asks who this noble-looking man might be. He speaks up and says his name is Gestr’) (286-7).|
|‘Þorkell segir: “Þú munt segja eigi satt; værir þú líkari at frásǫgn Gunnari Þiðrandabana”’ (‘Þorkell says: “I don’t think you’re telling the truth; from what I’ve heard tell you are more like Gunnarr Þiðrandabani”’) (202).||‘Þorkell segir: “Furðu líkr ertu þeim manni at frásögn, er heitir Gunnar ok er kallaðr Þiðrandabani”’ (‘Þorkell says: “From what I’ve heard tell, you’re amazingly like the man called Gunnarr, known also as Þiðrandabani”’) (287).|
|‘Þorkell kvazk þat vilja mundu, at hann vissi þat brátt’ (‘Þorkell said he would let him know soon enough’) (202).||‘Þorkell svarar: “Þat skaltu vita brátt”’ (‘Þorkell answers: “You’ll know soon enough”’) (287).|
|‘Þorkell lézk því hafa heitit nafna sínum, Þorkatli Geitissyni, at hann skyldi drepa Gunnar, ef hann kœmi vestr á sveitir’ (‘Þorkell said he had promised his namesake Þorkell Geitisson that he would kill Gunnarr if he turned up there in the west’) (203).||‘Allir hétu góðu um þetta’ (‘Everyone promised to do as he asked’) (286).
‘Hann hafði heitit Þorkeli Geitissyni at taka Gunnar af lífi, ef hann næði honum’ (‘He had promised Þorkell Geitisson to execute Gunnarr if he could lay his hands on him’) (286).
|‘Fór Gunnarr útan ok kom aldri til Íslands síðan’ (‘Gunnarr left the country and came never again to Iceland’) (210).||‘Fór Gunnarr útan ok kom við Nóreg’ (‘Gunnarr left the country and came to Norway’) (204).|
- Laxdœla saga was written with conscious knowledge of both the other sagas.
- Laxdœla saga supplied material to both the other sagas in their accounts of the reception given to Gunnarr by Guðrún Ósvífrsdóttir.
- The writer of Laxdœla saga used Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana, and then some time later the writer of Fljótsdœla saga used Laxdœla saga in his account of Gunnarr’s fortunes in the west.
- The writer of Laxdœla saga used Fljótsdœla saga, and then some time later the writer of Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana used Laxdœla saga in his account of Gunnarr’s fortunes in the west.
|Laxdœla saga (ÍF V:221-3)||Fljótsdœla saga (ÍF XI:235-6)|
|Þorkell has the sword Skǫfnungr with him when he drowns. (222)||Þorvaldr leaves the sword acquired from Geitir with Droplaug. (235)|
|‘Þváttdaginn fyrir páska spurðusk tíðendin ok þóttu vera mikil, því at Þorkell hafði verit mikill hǫfðingi.’ (‘The news got out on the Saturday before Easter and aroused much interest, for Þorkell had been a great chieftain.’) (223)||‘En þessi tíðindi spurðust brátt um heraðit ok þótti mörgum mikil.’ (‘But this news got out quickly around the district and aroused much interest among many people.’) (235)|
|‘Guðrúnu þótti mikit fráfall Þorkels.’ (‘Guðrún was deeply affected by the decease of Þorkell.’) (223)||‘Droplaug kunni illa fráfalli Þorvalds.’ (‘Droplaug was upset by the decease of Þorvaldr.’) (236)|
Figure 5-7: Possible relationships among the sources, accounting for a) the reference in Laxdœla saga to *saga Njarðvíkinga, and b) the verbal correspondences linking Laxdœla saga, Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana, and Fljótsdœla saga