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.
4. The Same Characters in More Than One Saga
Literary Relations: Premises and Practices
- A long passage has been copied word for word from another source, e.g. Grettis saga, ch. 6-8, which is clearly based on Landnámabók (see Jónsson, G. 1936:xvii).
- Two or more sources describe the same incidents or characters (see below).
- One source shows familiarity with incidents or characters that we know from another source (see below).
- The same or similar wording and/or circumstances appear in two or more texts though applied to different characters or incidents, e.g. the killing of Þorgrímr Þorsteinsson in Gísla saga and the killing of Helgi Ásbjarnarson in Droplaugarsona saga (see Andersson1969:28-39).
The Austfirðingasögur: Single Entity or Discrete Works?
- Do the sagas exhibit the same or different ideas about the characters they have in common?
- Do the sagas appear to assume a degree of knowledge on the part of the audience or reader about the characters who appear in them?
- When events are mentioned in more than one source, how are they presented in each of them and what ideas do we find in connection with them?
- Whether the audience’s knowledge might have come from the reading of books or from listening to stories as oral entertainment. 
- Whether there is anything to indicate that the writer of one saga used another extant written saga as a source.
- Whether the writer and audience had merely heard stories about the characters and events that come into the written saga.
The Same Character in More Than One Saga
- What are their salient characteristics?
- Are their genealogies always given in the same way or do they vary between sources?
- Do the same characters feature in the ‘same’ incidents?
- Is there any way of deducing from the texts whether the writer is assuming a common and shared knowledge of the particular character and his or her fate?
Sources other than Þorsteins saga hvíta and Vápnfirðinga saga
- In Landnámabók (S 195, H 163) the first mention of Brodd-Helgi is as the father of his son Bjarni in the genealogy of Bjarni’s wife Rannveig, daughter of Þorgeirr Eiríksson and Yngvildr Þorgeirsdóttir. (N.B. in Vápnfirðinga saga, ch. 14, Rannveig is said to have been previously married to a certain Ǫgmundr.) This connects Brodd-Helgi to the chieftain Ketilbjǫrn the Old of Mosfell in Grímsnes, whose wife Helga was the sister of Eiríkr’s wife, Þuríðr; in other words, the grandmother of Brodd-Helgi’s daughter-in-law was the sister of Ketilbjǫrn’s wife.
- In the Þórðarbók ms. of Landnámabók (using material from the lost Melabók), as an addendum at S 266, H 228 at the start of the section on the settlement of the Eastern Quarter of Iceland, a genealogy is traced from the settler Hróðgeirr the White by way of his daughter Ingibjǫrg, wife of Þorsteinn the White, who is said to have been the paternal grandmother of ‘Helgi’ (sic., rather than ‘Brodd-Helgi’), the father of Bjarni. The line is then continued through eight generations down to the head of the family who probably had a hand in compiling the Melabók around 1300, Markús Þórðarson of Melar.
- Landnámabók S 270, H 232 traces the line of descent from Þorsteinn the White, ‘a wise and good man,’ who came to Iceland and had children by his wife Ingibjǫrg, including Þorgils, who married Ásvǫr Þórisdóttir; they were the parents of Brodd-Helgi, who by his first wife Halla Lýtingsdóttir was the father of Víga-Bjarni (‘Killer-Bjarni’).
- Landnámabók S 272, H 234 gives genealogical details of the killers of Brodd-Helgi’s father, Þorgils. These are named as Þorkell (Þórir í S) and Heðinn (thus also in Vápnfirðinga saga, though in Þorsteins saga hvíta the brothers of Þorsteinn the Fair are named Þorkell and Einarr), two brothers of Þorsteinn the Fair, the killer of Einarr, son of Þórir Graut-Atlason.
- The Landnámabók supplement in Skarðsárbók details the male line of descent to Brodd-Helgi, who is the fifth generation from Øxna-Þórir, the paternal grandfather of Þorsteinn the White.
- There is also an addendum in the Þórðarbók (from Melabók) ms. of Landnámabók at S 257, H 221 giving additional details of the sons of Glíru-Halli (additions in italics): ‘Þeir fellu í Bǫðvarsdal ór liði Bjarna Brodd-Helgasonar, þá er hann barðisk við Þorkel Geitisson’ (‘They fell in Böðvarsdalur out of the followers of Bjarni Brodd-Helgason when he fought against Þorkell Geitisson’). A similar addendum on the sons of Glíru-Halli appears in Þórðarbók (from Melabók) at S 265, H 227. Þórðarbók contains other minor additions and emendations that tie in with Vápnfirðinga saga, making it probable that the copyist of Þórðarbók (Melabók) knew this saga. In his Íslenzk fornrit edition, Jakob Benediktsson (1968:285n9) suggests that these additions in Þórðarbók which correspond with Vápnfirðinga saga probably go back to the lost Melabók (rather than being added much later by the compiler of Þórðarbók itself).
- In Kristni saga (‘Saga of Christianity’), in the middle of the famous account of how lawspeaker Þorgeirr covered himself with a cloak at the Alþingi to ponder the future religious policy of Iceland in the year that Christianity was adopted, 1000, it is mentioned that a certain Digr-Ketill had brought a charge of Christianity against Þorleifr of Krossavík north of Reyðarfjörður in the east, claiming that Þorleifr, together with Hallr of Síða, had made a victory offering to Christ on behalf of the Eastern Quarter. Digr-Ketill’s charge is said to have had the backing of Brodd-Helgi (‘at ráði Brodd-Helga’) but was dropped when Ketill was forced to accept shelter from Þorleifr when caught in a miraculous blizzard. It is not clear from the account when this incident is supposed to have taken place.
- More information on this incident is given in Kristni þáttr (‘Þáttr of Christianity’) in Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar in mesta. Here we find added the words: ‘Þorleifi stefndi Digr-Ketill at ráði ok áeggjan Brodd-Helga um kristnihald sem segir í Vápnfirðinga sǫgu’ (‘Digr-Ketill brought a charge of Christian practices against Þorleifr on the advice and at the instigation of Brodd-Helgi, as is told in Vápnfirðinga saga’) (Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta, vol. 2, p. 193), followed by a more detailed account of the assistance given to Digr-Ketill by Þorleifr during the blizzard (see ÍF XI, pp. 34-5).
|Vápnfirðinga saga||Kristni þáttr|
|illviðri (‘foul weather’)||hríð (‘blizzard’)|
|aptr at hverfa (‘turn back’)||lífs ván (‘hope of survival’)|
|tvær nætr veðrfastir (‘two nights stuck by the weather’)||meðan þeir váru þar hríðfastir (‘while they were stuck there in the blizzard’)|
- Sǫrla þáttr, an independent episode in the C text of Ljósvetninga saga, tells the story of a son of Brodd-Helgi called Sǫrli. Sǫrli is staying with the great chieftain Guðmundr ríki, where he is held in high esteem and falls in love with his daughter Þórdís. Þórdís is sent off to Guðmundr’s brother Einarr at Þverá for safekeeping. At one point Sǫrli goes to visit her, and there is a famous description of the sunshine, southerly breeze and fine weather as he rides up to the farm. There is no mention of this Sǫrli in Vápnfirðinga saga or in Landnámabók, despite the latter giving details of Brodd-Helgi’s children and his relations with other chieftains through his daughters-in-law. The þáttr originally ended with genealogies down from Sǫrli and the people of Hof, but the passage is now largely illegible. 
- In stanza 3 of the poem Íslendingadrápa by Haukr Valdísarson, Brodd-Helgi is introduced as ‘faðir Sǫrla’ (‘father of Sǫrli’). Whoever composed these words must also have had more information about Brodd-Helgi, since in the same stanza it says that everyone was frightened of facing this man in battle until Geitir (Lýtingsson) pierced him with his sword.
- Sǫrli Brodd-Helgason also appears in chapter 134 of Njáls saga, where it describes Flosi Þórðarson’s journey around the east of Iceland canvassing support. Flosi comes to Valþjófsstaðir where Sǫrli lives and Sǫrli’s response reveals how important his marriage relations to Guðmundr ríki are to him, since he is unsure how to reply without consulting his father-in-law. The saga names Sǫrli’s sister and brother as Oddný, the wife of Hallbjǫrn the Strong, and Bjarni of Hof. Neither Oddný nor Hallbjǫrn are mentioned in other sources. When Flosi comes to Hof, Bjarni’s genealogy is given even though he is the last of his siblings to be mentioned; the genealogy here agrees with that in Landnámabók (other than that the son of Øxna-Þórir is named Eyvaldr in Njáls saga, Ósvaldr in Landnámabók (Ǫlvir in the Hauksbók redaction), and Ásvaldr in Vápnfirðinga saga: see Sveinsson 1954:352).
- In Ǫlkofra þáttr (ch. 3, ÍF XI:93), Broddi Bjarnason makes a passing reference to his grandfather Brodd-Helgi (who he is named after) when disparaging Þorkell Geitisson. Broddi mentions the death of Brodd-Helgi as if it were a well-known event and reminds Þorkell that ‘faðir þinn tœki ofarliga til þeira launanna’ (‘your father paid a top price for this,’ i.e. with his head) and that ‘faðir minn markaði þik í Bǫðvarsdal’ (‘my father left his mark on you in Böðvarsdalur’).
- Brodd-Helgi is also mentioned in Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana. The saga tells that the merchant Þórir Englandsfari took winter quarters with Brodd-Helgi and developed a strong friendship with him. The following spring Þórir seeks the friendship of Þiðrandi Geitisson, the foster son of Ketill þrymr of Njarðvík. Þórir conducts some business with Ásbjǫrn vegghamarr, an improvident tenant of the Kórekssons (who have previously made friends with Þiðrandi through the gift of a horse). Ásbjǫrn holds on to some of Þórir’s goods without paying for them, and so finishes up in debt to him as well as to the Kórekssons. When Brodd-Helgi hears of this he declares Ásbjǫrn to be ‘óskapfelldr ok hroðavænligr’ (‘distasteful and likely to cause trouble’) (ÍF XI:197). This is the last time Brodd-Helgi is mentioned in the saga. When Ásbjǫrn’s duplicity is revealed he goes as a workman to Ketill of Njarðvík, and Þiðrandi remarks that the Kórekssons can now expect Ketill’s support in recovering their debts. A battle ensues in which Þórir kills Ketill but is himself killed. At this, one of the women of the house eggs Ketill’s guest Gunnarr to cast his spear at Þiðrandi, with tragic results. For a more detailed account of these events, see below, p. 217 ff.
- Brodd-Helgi is mentioned once in Droplaugarsona saga, when Helgi Ásbjarnarson asks for the hand of his daughter, Þórdís todda, in marriage.
- In the ‘Landvættasaga’ (the tale of the guardian spirits of Iceland) in Heimskringla (ÍF XXVI:271-2), Brodd-Helgi is mentioned as living in Vopnafjörður, without further comment; however, the context makes it clear that he is here regarded as the leading chieftain in the Eastern Quarter of Iceland.
Figure 4-1: Jón Jóhannesson’s theories (1950:xv-xxii) on the age and relationships of the sources that mention Brodd-Helgi Þorgilsson
|Vápnfirðinga saga, ch. 1 (ÍF XI:23-4)||Þorsteins saga hvíta, ch. 8 (ÍF XI:18-9)|
|Frá því er sagt einnhvern dag at Hofi, er naut váru á stǫðli, at graðungr var á stǫðlinum, er þeir frændr áttu, en annarr graðungr kom á stǫðulinn, ok stǫnguðusk graðungarnir. (It is said that on a certain day at Hof, when the bulls were at the milking shed, that a stud bull was at the milking shed that belonged to the kinsmen, and another stud bull came to the milking shed, and the stud bulls started goring each other.)||Þat var einn dag at Hofi, er naut váru at stǫðli, þar var griðungr einn kominn til nautanna, mikill ok stórr. Annarr griðungr var heima fyrir, mikill ok ógrligr, er þeir frændr áttu. (There was one day at Hof, when the bulls were at the milking shed, that a certain stud bull had come to the bulls, big and solid. Another stud bull was there from home, big and fearsome, that belonged to the kinsmen.)|
|En sveinninn Helgi var úti ok sér, at þeira graðungr dugir verr ok ferr frá. (But the boy Helgi was outside and sees that their bull is coming off worse and goes away.)||Helgi var þá úti staddr ok sá, at griðungarnir gengusk at ok stǫnguðusk, ok varð heimagriðungrinn vanhluta fyrir búigriðunginum. (Helgi was then standing outside and saw that the stud bulls were going at each other and goring each other, and the home bull was losing out to the neighboring bull.)|
|Hann tekr mannbrodd einn ok bindr í enni graðunginum, ok gengr þaðan frá þeira graðungi betr. (He takes a crampon [Icelandic mannbroddr, a spiked overshoe for walking on ice] and binds it onto the forehead of the stud bull, and from then things go better for their bull.)||En er Helgi sér þat, gengr hann inn ok sœkir sér mannbrodda stóra ok bindr þá framan í ennit á heimagriðunginum. Síðan taka þeir til ok stangask sem áðr, allt þar til er heimagriðungrinn stangar hinn til dauðs. Hǫfðu mannbroddarnir gengit á hol. Þótti flestum mǫnnum þetta vera bellibragð, er Helgi hafði gǫrt. (And when Helgi sees this, he goes inside and fetches some big crampons and binds them on the front of the home bull’s forehead. Then they start off again and gore each other as before, and carry on until the home bull gores the other to death. The crampons had pierced into his vital organs. Most people thought this a humorous prank that Helgi had done.)|
|Af þessum atburði var hann kallaðr Brodd-Helgi. (From this incident he was called Brodd-Helgi.)||Fekk hann af þessu þat viðrnefni, at hann var kallaðr Brodd-Helgi, en þá þótti mǫnnum þat miklu heillavænligra at hafa tvau nǫfn. Var þat þá átrúnaðr manna, at þeir menn myndi lengr lifa, sem tvau nǫfn hefði. (From this he got the nickname, that he was called Brodd-Helgi; in those days people thought it much more propitious to have two names. It was then people’s belief that people would live longer who had two names.)|
|Var hann afbrigði þeira manna allra, er þar fœddusk upp í heraðinu, at atgørvi. (He stood out for accomplishment among all the men who grew up there in the district.)||Skjótt var þat auðsét á Helga, at hann myndi verða hǫfðingi mikill ok engi jafnaðarmaðr. (It was apparent from Helgi early on that he would become a great chieftain and hard and uncompromising.)|
- Vápnfirðinga saga opens with Brodd-Helgi’s genealogy (see family tree) and description, including the account of how he acquired his epithet. At the age of twelve he has a man called Svartr declared outlaw and then kills him in single combat on the moors of Smjörvatnsheiði, a deed which brings him considerable renown. He marries Halla Lýtingsdóttir of Krossanes and becomes friends with her brother Geitir. At this point the merchant Þorleifr kristni (‘the Christian’) and his steersman Hrafn the Norwegian enter the story. Hrafn takes quarters with Geitir but is found killed at the winter games and Geitir and Brodd-Helgi divide his possessions between them (the audience is intended to assume that they are behind the killing). Þorleifr comes to Krossavík while Geitir is away and recovers Hrafn’s property; Halla is present but does nothing to prevent this. Þorleifr then delivers Hrafn’s property to his heirs in Norway.  The two friends, Geitir and Brodd-Helgi, have been bested and accuse each other of having arrogated Hrafn’s wealth. When they hear of Þorleifr kristni’s recovery of the goods, Helgi institutes legal proceedings against him for failure to pay his temple dues and sends his friend Digr-Ketill to demand payment of Þorleifr (who lives at Krossavík at the mouth of Reyðarfjörður); this incident is also described in Kristni saga and Kristniþáttr. The case rebounds on Helgi when Ketill fails him and he proceeds to blame Geitir for this slight to his honor, and the friendship between them cools still further. Halla falls seriously ill; Helgi sends her home destitute to her father’s and takes up with a woman called Þorgerðr silfra (‘silver’), thereby scandalizing local opinion. Geitir attempts to enforce Halla’s rights but Helgi defies him, in part with the support of a great chieftain from the north, Guðmundr ríki (‘the Powerful’). Brodd-Helgi and Geitir are now in open enmity. A client of Geitir’s called Þormóðr of Sunnudalur gets into a dispute with a client of Brodd-Helgi’s called Þórðr.  Brodd-Helgi takes up the case and pursues it so ruthlessly that he kills Þormóðr in the farmyard at Hof when Þormóðr goes there, on Geitir’s advice, to subpoena Þórðr, accompanied by the Egilssons and a man called Tjǫrvi, Geitir and Helgi’s former hitman. Geitir devises a ruse to recover the bodies from Hof without Brodd-Helgi knowing; Helgi admits that Geitir is his superior in intelligence but realizes he can always get his own way by use of force. One day when Geitir is away, Helgi goes to Krossavík to visit Halla, who is now seriously ill, and tries to cure her, but without success, and she dies before Geitir gets home. The hatred and resentment between Brodd-Helgi and Geitir grows ever more bitter, and Guðmundr ríki withdraws his support from Helgi when he refuses to pay over the money he promised him for his support. A merchant called Þórarinn Egilsson, who is a client of Geitir’s, returns to Iceland and Brodd-Helgi offers him winter quarters; Geitir dissuades him from this and invites him to go to him instead. A year later Þórarinn returns home to Egilsstaðir and Geitir moves away to escape Brodd-Helgi’s domination, setting up home at Fagridalur, farther out at the mouth of the fjord. Geitir’s clients think this hardly a fitting residence for their chieftain and urge him to take action against Helgi. Geitir goes north to drum up support, enlisting to his cause the powerful Ófeigr Járngerðarson of Ljósvatnsskarð (rather than Skörð as in other sources), Guðmundr ríki and Ǫlvir inn spaki (‘the Wise’) of Mývatn. Geitir then moves back to Krossavík. The following summer Helgi intends to ride to the assembly but just as he is about to set off his foster mother tells him of an ominous dream she has had in which Helgi appears as a pale-colored ox, Geitir as a red-patched ox and Bjarni Brodd-Helgason as a red ox; these three fetches gore each other to death in the same order as their associated men kill each other shortly afterwards in the saga. At this point there is a lacuna in the manuscript which almost certainly contained the account of how Brodd-Helgi was attacked and killed by Geitir and his supporters.
Figure 4-2: Brodd-Helgi’s genealogy according to Vápnfirðinga saga
Víga-Bjarni, son of Brodd-Helgi
- Bjarni is first named in Landnámabók (S 195, H 163) in connection with the genealogy of the family of his wife, Rannveig Þorgeirsdóttir, the granddaughter of Eiríkr Hróaldsson, the original settler at Hof in Goðdalir. (N.B. Vápnfirðinga saga, ch. 14 (ÍF XI:51) says that Rannveig had previously been married to a man called Ǫgmundr.) This relates Bjarni through marriage ties to the chieftain Ketilbjǫrn the Old of Mosfell in Grímsnes, since Ketilbjǫrn’s wife and Eiríkr’s wife were sisters. See also p. 131 regarding Brodd-Helgi.
- An addendum in the Þórðarbók ms. of Landnámabók (from Melabók) at S 257, H 221 traces the line of descent from Einarr, the settler of Öxarfjörður. The line extends down to Brandr and Bergr, the sons of Glíru-Halli and the grandsons of Ljót Einarsdóttir, who ‘fellu í Bǫðvarsdal ór liði Bjarna Brodd-Helgasonar, þá er hann barðisk við Þorkel Geitisson’ (‘fell in Böðvarsdalur on the side of Bjarni Brodd-Helgason when he fought against Þorkell Geitisson’).
- A similar addendum in Þórðarbók (from Melabók) at Landnámabók S 265, H 227 tracing the direct male line from the settler Finni of Finnafjörður and Miðfjörður down to Glíru-Halli says: ‘hans tveir synir váru í Bǫðvarsdal með Brodd-Helgasyni Bjarna ok fellu þar’ (‘his two sons were at Böðvarsdalur with Bjarni Brodd-Helgason and fell there’). On Glíru-Halli’s name, Jakob Benediktsson (1968:288-9) notes that it appears as Glyttu- or Glettu-Halli in most of the manuscripts of Vápnfirðinga saga (cf. ÍF XI:62n3), which he considers certainly corrupt; the word glírulegur (‘sweet-talking,’ ‘fawning’) has been collected from local speech in the Vopnafjörður region.
- Bjarni is mentioned again in another addendum in Þórðarbók (from Melabók) at Landnámabók S 266, H 288 as one link in a long genealogy from the settler Hróðgeirr the White, through his daughter Ingibjǫrg (wife of Þorsteinn the White), to the late-13th-century Markús Þórðarson of Melar.
- At Landnámabók S 268, H 230, in an entry dealing with Steinbjǫrn kǫrtr Refsson, who was granted land in Vopnafjörður by his father’s brother Eyvindr and lived at Hof, Þórðarbók (from Melabók) gives fuller details than Sturlubók or Hauksbók of the participants in the battle in Böðvarsdalur (Þórðarbók text in italics): ‘Hans synir váru þeir Þormóðr stikublígr, er bjó í Sunnudal, annarr Refr á Refsstǫðum, þriði Egill á Egilsstǫðum; hans bǫrn váru Þórarinn ok Hallbjǫrn, Þrǫstr ok Hallfríðr, er átti Þorkell Geitisson. Brœðr Hallfríðar váru í liði með Þorkatli í Bǫðvarsdal í móti Bjarna Brodd-Helgasyni’ (‘His sons were Þormóðr stikublígr, who lived at Sunnudalur, 2) Refr of Refsstaðir, 3) Egill of Egilsstaðir; his children were Þórarinn and Hallbjǫrn, Þrǫstr and Hallfríðr, who married Þorkell Geitisson. Hallfríðr’s brothers were with Þorkell [Geitisson] at Böðvarsdalur against Bjarni Brodd-Helgason’). This family is well known from Vápnfirðinga saga, which lists more of Steinbjǫrn’s grandsons than appear here.
- At Landnámabók S 270, H 232 Bjarni is named ‘Víga-Bjarni’ (‘Killer-Bjarni’) in a genealogy from Þorsteinn hvíti (‘the White’), ‘a wise man and good,’ who came to Iceland and had children by his wife Ingibjǫrg, including Þorgils, who married Ásvǫr Þórisdóttir. Þorgils and Ásvǫr were then the parents of Brodd-Helgi, who was first married to Halla Lýtingsdóttir, and their son was ‘Víga-Bjarni,’ who married Rannveig, the daughter of Eiríkr of Goðdalir. The same line is given in the sagas that tell of Bjarni. 
- The independent Vǫðu-Brands þáttr included in the C text of Ljósvetninga saga mentions Bjarni in connection with an episode where Þorkell Geitisson of Krossavík in Vopnafjörður goes to Þorsteinn Síðu-Hallsson and solicits his support in a case brought against him by Guðmundr ríki arising from injuries caused by one of his domestic staff, Vǫðu-Brandr, to a certain Þorbjǫrn at some games held at Laxamýri where Brandr was visiting his father. In the conversation between Þorkell and Þorsteinn it comes out that at the Alþingi the previous summer Guðmundr had been preening himself to Bjarni Brodd-Helgason, who is a kinsman of Þorkell’s: ‘Nú vilda ek þitt liðsinni til þiggja at sœkja til þings ok verja málit með kappi fyrir Guðmundi, ef hann skal þó eigi fébótum fyrir koma, ok reyna svá, hvárt ek sé eigi annarrar handar maðr hans, sem hann svaraði Bjarna Brodd-Helgasyni, frænda mínum, um sumarit á alþingi’ (‘Now I would like to have your support so I can go to the assembly and put up a good defense against Guðmundr if he refuses to pay any compensation, and then I’ll find out if I really am not half the man he is, which is what he was saying to my kinsman Bjarni Brodd-Helgason last summer at the Alþingi’) (ÍF X:132). In the next chapter the case comes up at the Alþingi; Bjarni Brodd-Helgason is there ‘ok hafði hann mikinn flokk, ok vissu menn eigi, hvar hann myndi at snúask um liðveizluna’ (‘and had a big band of supporters with him, and it was not clear which side he would come down on’) (ÍF X:135). Þorsteinn takes the initiative to resolve the dispute and proposes a marriage between Þorkell and Guðmundr’s niece, Jórunn Einarsdóttir. Guðmundr and Bjarni Brodd-Helgason meet and Bjarni says: ‘Svá sýnisk mér, Guðmundr, sem þú hafir þurft báðar hendr við Þorkel frænda minn, ok hafi þó ekki af veitt um. Ok man ek enn þat, Guðmundr, er ek bað þik, at þú skyldir sætta okkr Þorkel, ok svaraði engi ódrengiligar en þú ok sagðir hann eigi vera mundu meira en annarrar handar mann gilds manns ok kvazt hann hafa hálfþynnu eina í hendi, en mik hǫggspjót gilt á hávu skapti. En ek em nú minni hǫfðingi en þú, ok sýnisk mér sem hann muni eigi þar lengi gengit hafa skaptamuninn’ (‘It seems to me, Guðmundr, that you’ve needed both hands to deal with my kinsman Þorkell, and even so you’ve had them both full. I still remember, Guðmundr, when I asked you to try and reconcile Þorkell and me, and no one reacted less honorably than you when you said he wasn’t worth half a real man and that he had just a rickety axe in his hand while I had a stout spear on a long shaft. Maybe I am less of a chieftain than you, but it seems to me that it hasn’t taken him long to make up for the difference in the weaponry’) (ÍF X:138). Here Bjarni is reminding Guðmundr of his arrogance at the previous Alþingi, and refers to a dispute between the two kinsmen that Guðmundr has failed to resolve. (It is notable that Þorkell and Bjarni should call each other kinsmen.) At the end of the þáttr it is Jórunn who manages to bring about the reconciliation that had proved beyond Guðmundr ríki: ‘En Jórunn var inn mesti kvenskǫrungr, sem ætt hennar var til. Hon kom ok því til leiðar, sem engi hafði áðr komit, at þeir sættusk frændrnir, Þorkell Geitisson ok Bjarni Brodd-Helgason, ok heldu þá sætt vel ok drengiliga síðan’ (‘But, in the family tradition, Jórunn was a woman of great character and determination. She found a way of getting the kinsmen Þorkell Geitisson and Bjarni Brodd-Helgason to settle their differences, something no one else had managed, and they kept to their agreement well after this, like true men of honor’) (ÍF X:139).
- In Njáls saga ch. 134 Bjarni is mentioned in connection with Flosi Þórðarson’s journey around the east of Iceland canvassing support. When Flosi comes to Valþjófsstaðir the saga says that this is the home of Sǫrli Brodd-Helgason, ‘the brother of Bjarni’ (ÍF XII:351), as if Bjarni requires no further introduction. Bjarni’s family details are only given a little later, when Flosi arrives at Hof: ‘Þar bjó Bjarni Brodd-Helgason, Þorgilssonar, Þorsteins sonar ins hvíta, Ǫlvissonar, Eyvaldssonar, Øxna-Þórissonar.  Móðir Bjarna var Halla Lýtingsdóttir; móðir Brodd-Helga var Ásvǫr, dóttir Þóris Graut-Atlasonar, Þóris sonar þiðranda.  Bjarni Brodd-Helgason átti Rannveigu Þorgeirsdóttur, Eiríks sonar ór Goðdǫlum, Geirmundarsonar, Hróaldssonar, Eiríks sonar ǫrðigskeggja.  Bjarni tók við Flosa báðum hǫndum. Flosi bauð Bjarna fé til liðveizlu. Bjarni mælti: “Aldri hefi ek selt karlmennsku mína við fémútu né svá liðveizlu. En nú er þú þarft liðs, mun ek gera þér um vinveitt ok ríða til þings ok veita þér sem ek munda bróður mínum.” “Þá snýr þú ǫllum vanda á hendr mér,’ segir Flosi, ‘en þó var mér slíks at þér ván.”’ (‘There lived Bjarni Brodd-Helgason, son of Þorgils, son of Þorsteinn the White, son of Ǫlvir, son of Eyvaldr, son of Øxna-Þórir. Bjarni’s mother was Halla Lýtingsdóttir. Brodd-Helgi’s mother var Ásvǫr, daughter of Þórir, son of Graut-Atli, son of Þórir þiðrandi. Bjarni Brodd-Helgason’s wife was Rannveig, daughter of Þorgeirr, son of Eiríkr of Goðdalir, son of Geirmundr, son of Hróaldr, son of Eiríkr ǫrðigskeggi. Bjarni received Flosi with open arms. Flosi offered Bjarni payment for his support. Bjarni said: “I have never sold my manhood for payment, nor my support. But now that you need backing I shall show you my friendship and ride to the Alþingi and assist you as I would my brother.” “You have put me forever in your debt,” says Flosi, “but I might have expected such of a man like you.”’) (ÍF XII:352). Bjarni makes good his promise, helps Flosi in his search for allies, and goes so far as to fight on his side at the Alþingi, where he finds himself hard pressed in single combat with Kári Sǫlmundarson.
Figure 4-3: Bjarni Brodd-Helgason’s genealogy according to Njáls saga, taking in his connections through marriage to characters detailed elsewhere in the saga
- In Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana Bjarni comes riding into the action unannounced and unintroduced with a party of a dozen men on their way to Mjóvanes, the home of his sister Þórdís (the wife of Helgi Ásbjarnarson but in other respects not introduced), with the intention of ransacking the place in search of Gunnarr Þiðrandabani (‘Killer of Þiðrandi’) ‘er drepit hefir frænda várn ok fóstbróður’ (‘who had killed our kinsman and sworn brother’) (ÍF XI:208). Gunnarr is concealed in an outhouse at the farm. Bjarni is confrontational but accepts his sister’s invitation to stay the night, while she takes the opportunity to thwart his intentions by sending for reinforcements. By the time Bjarni wakes the next morning there are thirty of Þórdís’s friends and neighbors assembled in the yard. Faced by such overwhelming odds, Bjarni withdraws without a fight and at this point disappears from the saga.
- In Íslendingadrápa the emphasis is exclusively on Bjarni’s warrior characteristics. The construction put upon his epithet, i.e. that he is ruthless and ‘trigger-happy,’ appears in the words ‘hjalmþrimu gjarn Bjarni’ (‘battle-eager Bjarni’), and the poem goes on to say that he has made the wolves rejoice over Geitir’s blood and killed ‘flesta… ollu… hans fǫður morði’ (‘most of those who brought about his father’s death’).
- In Droplaugarsona saga Bjarni is mentioned only once, when Grímr Droplaugarson is at Krossavík, happy and laughing after killing Helgi Ásbjarnarson in revenge for his brother Helgi. Grímr composes a verse in which he says it is now up to ‘bǫðgjǫrnum Bjarna’ (‘battle-eager Bjarni,’ i.e. Víga-Bjarni) to avenge his in-law. Þorkell Geitisson is in Eyjafjörður in the north settling disputes among his clients and so the mistress of the house, his wife Jórunn, tells Grímr that she is worried about the lack of a leader at the farm: ‘en þó mundum vit til hætta, ef eigi væri násetur Bjarna, mágs Helga Ásbjarnarsonar, sem nú eru’ (‘but even so we might risk it were not that Helgi Ásbjarnarson’s brother-in-law Bjarni lived so close at hand’) (ÍF XI:173).
- In Fljótsdœla saga Bjarni is introduced like a new character when Helgi Ásbjarnarson goes north to Hof to ask for the hand of his sister Þórdís: ‘Þar bjó sá maðr, er Bjarni hét ok var Brodd-Helgason, hinn mesti skörungr ok höfðingi mikill. Hann átti sér systur, er Þórdís hét’ (‘There lived the man who was called Bjarni and was the son of Brodd-Helgi, a man of great character and a powerful chieftain. He had a sister called Þórdís’) (ÍF XI:239). Bjarni agrees to the marriage and then is not mentioned again until after the killing of Þiðrandi, who is said to be a close kinsman of his (ÍF XI:267), though without the relationship being specified more precisely. The saga then lists the people involved in the hunt for Gunnarr the Norwegian to avenge Þiðrandi as Þorkell Geitisson (Þiðrandi’s brother), Bjarni (a close kinsman), Helgi Ásbjarnarson (the husband of Bjarni’s sister Þórdís), and the brothers Grímr and Helgi (sons of Þorvaldr, son of Þiðrandi the old). Gunnarr escapes and Bjarni is not involved any further in the pursuit until chapter 20, by which time Gunnarr has come under the protection of Helgi Ásbjarnarson. Helgi goes off to the local assembly and entrusts Þórdís with protecting Gunnarr; she demurs, pointing out that family relations are bad enough already without this adding to it, and threatens to send for her brother Bjarni. Helgi reminds Þórdís of how badly she had been treated at home at Hof before he married her and says he will send her back there if she hands Gunnarr over ‘undir øxi Bjarna’ (‘to Bjarni’s axe’) (ÍF XI:283). Þórdís does not carry out her threat, but Bjarni turns up on his own initiative with nearly 80 men and asks her to surrender Gunnarr. She pleads ignorance but sends a message to Helgi during the night and the next morning Bjarni calls off the search of his sister’s home and rides back to Hof just before Helgi rides into the yard with 150 supporters. With this, Bjarni disappears from the saga.
- the battle in Böðvarsdalur
- that Bjarni had at one time been in conflict with his kinsman Þorkell Geitisson of Krossanes
- that Bjarni was sufficiently closely related to Þiðrandi Geitisson to feel obliged to avenge his killing, even if this involved incurring the enmity of his sister and brother-in-law
- In Landnámabók, Geitir is first mentioned in an addendum in the Þórðarbók ms. (using material from the lost Melabók) at S 50, H 38. The S and H texts here say that Þorbjǫrn of Arnarholt was the brother of Lýtingr of Vopnafjörður, to which Þ adds ‘fǫður Geitis’ (‘father of Geitir’), thereby relating Geitir to Þorbjǫrn and his family. Geitir does not figure prominently in Landnámabók, appearing only once more, viz. at Hauksbók 233 (though not in the corresponding section in Sturlubók). Both Sturlubók and Hauksbók say here that Lýtingr claimed and settled the eastern shore of Vopnafjörður and lived at Krossavík, and that from him were descended the ‘Vápnfirðingar’ (‘people of Vopnafjörður’). To this, Hauksbók adds the information: ‘Geitir var son Lýtings, faðir Þorkels’ (‘Geitir was the son of Lýtingr and the father of Þorkell’). Þórðarbók (from Melabók) goes on to trace the genealogy down to Markús of Melar (late 13th century).
- Geitir is mentioned right at the end of Þorsteins saga hvíta: ‘Geitir í Krossavík átti Hallkǫtlu, dóttur Þiðranda ins gamla, Ketils sonar þryms  … Geitis ok Hallkǫtlu. Með þeim Geiti ok Brodd-Helga var vinátta mikil í fyrstu, en minnkaðisk svá sem á leið, ok varð ór fullr fjándskapr, sem segir í Vápnfirðinga sǫgu’ (‘Geitir in Krossavík married Hallkatla, the daughter of Þiðrandi the Old, son of Ketill þrymr … of Geitir and Hallkatla. Geitir and Brodd-Helgi were great friends to start with, but the friendship diminished as time went on and turned into open enmity, as is told in Vápnfirðinga saga’) (ÍF XI:19).
- Vápnfirðinga saga introduces Geitir with a conventional genealogy (ÍF XI:26-8; see family tree) starting out from his father Lýtingr, who is the master of Krossavík at the point when the saga opens. The saga says that Geitir and his brothers were much the same age as Brodd-Helgi, whose son Bjarni was being fostered by Geitir at Krossavík. Mention is made of a close friendship between the thinker Geitir and the wealthy Brodd-Helgi. This is followed by details of the descendants of Steinbjǫrn kǫrtr Refsson, who are clients of Geitir’s. The genealogies include references to Helgi Ásbjarnarson and the Droplaugarsons as if they were generally known characters; they are not introduced especially, though it should be noted that some of the manuscripts put Vápnfirðinga saga together with Droplaugarsona saga, where these men are treated more fully.
Figure 4-4: Genealogy and marriage relations of Geitir Lýtingsson at his introduction in Vápnfirðinga saga
- After Vápnfirðinga saga has established this dramatic tension, for a time Geitir and his brother-in-law Brodd-Helgi are hand in glove (see pp. 130 f). There is a lacuna in the manuscripts which probably included an account of how Geitir attacked Brodd-Helgi and killed him, and the text picks up again in the middle of the peace negotiations with Bjarni after the killing under the auspices of Guðmundr ríki. The truce holds, except that Bjarni kills Tjǫrvi, and he becomes Geitir’s closest friend and follows his advice in all matters. However, his stepmother Þorgerðr silfra is unable to accept this situation and goads Bjarni by showing him the blooded clothes that Helgi had been wearing when he was killed. Bjarni is forced to shoulder his responsibility for vengeance, and he hacks Geitir in the head at the March gathering at Þorbrandsstaðir, killing him. Bjarni immediately regrets what he has done.
- Droplaugarsona saga mentions Geitir in passing in chapter 2 among the details of his wife’s family (ÍF XI:141); all that is said here is that his father was Lýtingr and that he lived at Krossavík in Vopnafjörður. This, however, is rather more of an introduction than the one accorded to Hallr of Síða, who was presumably regarded as so well known that no details were necessary beyond his name. Geitir is involved in the action later in the saga when Droplaug sends her sons Helgi and Grímr to him for security after they have killed Þorgrímr torðyfill (‘Dung-Beetle’) (ÍF XI:146-7), but otherwise takes no part in the events described.
- In Fljótsdœla saga Geitir’s name first appears in chapter 3 among the information on the family of his wife, Hallkatla. Fljótsdœla saga offers the detail not found in Droplaugarsona saga that Geitir was a popular man ‘en forgangr Hallkötlu var einkar góðr. Þau áttu tvó sonu’ (‘but Hallkatla had particularly fine powers of leadership. They had two sons’) (ÍF XI:220). In the next chapter, Geitir receives Hróarr of Hróarstunga ‘vel ok ágætliga’ (‘well and handsomely’) (221) when Hróarr comes to offer to foster Geitir’s son Þiðrandi; Geitir replies that he ‘eigi nenna né vilja drepa hendi við svó miklum sæmdum’ (‘has no intention or desire to turn down so great a mark of respect’) (222).
- The only other ancient source to mention Geitir Lýtingsson is Þorsteins saga uxafóts in the Flateyjarbók manuscript.  This tale has stylistic affinities with the legendary sagas and mentions people at Krossavík who are unknown from other sources, such as Þórir inn hái (‘the Tall’), who it says was the original settler and the progenitor of the men of Krossavík. In the saga, a son is born to Þorkell Geitisson’s dumb sister Oddný and Þorkell has the child exposed, in the face of opposition from Geitir, who is staying with Þorkell at the time (287). The job is entrusted to a slave named Freysteinn but a neighbor rescues the boy. Seven years later the boy has grown into an exceptional child and turns up one day at Krossavík. Geitir is sitting there on the dais muttering into his cloak, and realizes at once that this must be his kinsman (288-9). Later it is said that he himself had brought the slave Freysteinn to Iceland (293).
Figure 4-5: Geitir Lýtingsson’s marriage relations according to Droplaugarsona saga
- Þorkell is mentioned at various places in Landnámabók described previously. The first citation appears in the addendum in the Þórðarbók ms. (using material from the lost Melabók) at S 257, H 221, concerning Brandr and Bergr, the sons of Glíru-Halli, who fell at Böðvarsdalur ‘ór liði Bjarna Brodd-Helgasonar, þá er hann barðisk við Þorkel Geitisson’ (‘from the followers of Bjarni Brodd-Helgason when he fought against Þorkell Geitisson’).
- The main text of Landnámabók at S 268, H 230 notes that Þorkell was married to Hallfríðr, daughter of Egill, son of Steinbjǫrn kǫrtr, who claimed land in Vopnafjörður and lived originally at Hof. This is the passage that Jón Jóhannesson (1950:27) believes was used, or rather misused, by the ‘author’ of Vápnfirðinga saga when introducing Þorkell into his saga (see above, p. 158). Þórðarbók (from Melabók) adds: ‘Brœðr Hallfríðar váru í liði með Þorkatli í Bǫðvarsdal í móti Bjarna Brodd-Helgasyni’ (‘Hallfríðr’s brothers were with Þorkell in Böðvarsdalur against Bjarni Brodd-Helgason’).
- Landnámabók H 233 mentions Þorkell at the end of a genealogy from his grandfather Lýtingr who ‘nam Vápnafjarðarstrǫnd alla hina eystri, Bǫðvarsdal ok Fagradal, ok bjó í Krossavík ok lifði hér fá vetr; frá honum eru Vápnfirðingar komnir. Geitir var son Lýtings, faðir Þorkels’ (‘claimed the entire east coast of Vopnafjörður, including Böðvarsdalur and Fagridalur, and built his home at Krossavík and lived there for a few years; from him are descended the men of Vopnafjörður. Lýtingr’s son was Geitir, the father of Þorkell’). There is no mention of Geitir and Þorkell at the corresponding place in the Sturlubók ms. but in Þórðarbók the line is traced on down to Markús of Melar.
The older redactions of Landnámabók, Sturlubók, and Hauksbók, thus display no more knowledge of Þorkell than they do of his peers among the chieftainly class of Vopnafjörður in the Saga Age.
- Þorkell first appears in Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana without formal introduction after Þiðrandi Geitisson has been killed at Njarðvík along with his foster father Ketill þrymr and Ásbjǫrn vegghamarr, when the Kórekssons go to summons Ásbjǫrn for debt after Ketill has taken him on as a farm laborer. Þiðrandi is with the Kórekssons on this mission since the Kórekssons have previously won his friendship through the gift of a horse. It is nowhere specified that Þiðrandi is the son of Geitir of Krossavík, but the saga does say that he went north to Krossavík when relations between him and Ketill broke down with the arrival of Ásbjǫrn vegghamarr (ÍF XI:198); the audience is presumably supposed to realize that Þiðrandi and Þorkell are brothers from their shared patronymic. Also with Þiðrandi and the Kórekssons on the mission to Njarðvík is Þórir Englandsfari (‘England-Traveler’), a friend of Brodd-Helgi’s, to whom Ásbjǫrn also owes money.  Thus it appears that relations between Hof and Krossavík are good at the time when Þorkell first appears in Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana seeking vengeance for his brother Þiðrandi. Despite his band of followers, Gunnarr and his companion Þormóðr manage to slip through Þorkell’s hands. During the subsequent winter Eyjólfr and Þorkell Ketilsson come under suspicion of harboring the two fugitives. Þorkell Geitisson manages to entice the brothers out of their farm and gets Eyjólfr to talk by making him think they have killed his brother and will do the same to him. But Gunnarr has been warned in a dream that Þorkell is on his way and makes his escape, although his companion Þormóðr is brought down by Þorkell’s spear. An exhaustive search now ensues at the home of the uncowed Sveinki at Bakki in Borgarfjörður. Ketill of Njarðvík had been a friend of Sveinki’s, so he hides Gunnarr from Þorkell and his search party, first under his fishing boat, then in a hayrick, lastly on an offshore island (see p. 226 below). Cheated of his quarry, Þorkell is forced to withdraw. As mentioned previously, Bjarni Brodd-Helgason is also involved in this manhunt after Sveinki sends Gunnarr on to Helgi Ásbjarnarson. Gunnarr is now declared ‘sekr á þingi, ok lét Þorkell Geitisson sœkja hann til sekða’ (‘guilty at the Alþingi, with Þorkell Geitisson bringing the charge against him’) (ÍF XI:209), and is passed on for safekeeping to Guðrún Ósvífrsdóttir, the heroine of Laxdœla saga. Þorkell rides ‘ofan í Njarðvík ok ætlaði at taka upp sekðarfé Gunnars. Þeir brœðr riðu í mót honum við nǫkkura menn, Þorkell ok Eyjólfr Ketilssynir. Eyjólfr mælti til Þorkels Geitissonar, er þeir fundusk: “Þú munt ætla at taka sekðarfé Gunnars.” “Þat er í ætlan,” segir Þorkell. “Bæði er féit mikit ok gott,” segir Eyjólfr, “en þat vil ek segja þér, at féit er allt á brottu af Íslandi, ok skaltu engum penningi ná.” Þorkell skilr, at þetta mun satt vera, ok skilja þeir við svá búit’ (‘down to Njarðvík, intending to impound Gunnarr’s goods against the fine. The brothers Þorkell and Eyjólfr Ketilsson rode with some men to intercept him. When they met, Eyjólfr spoke to Þorkell Geitisson: “I suppose you’re intending to collect Gunnarr’s fine.” “That’s the plan,” says Þorkell. “There’s plenty of good stuff,” says Eyjólfr, “but I’ll tell you this, that it’s all been got out of Iceland, and you won’t get a penny of it.” Þorkell realizes that this is presumably true, and at this they part’) (ÍF XI:209-210).
- Citing ‘saga Njarðvíkinga’ (‘the saga of the people of Njarðvík’) as its source, Laxdœla saga says that ‘Gunnarr hafði sekr orðit um víg Þiðranda Geitissonar ór Krossavík’ (‘Gunnarr had been declared guilty of the killing of Þiðrandi Geitisson of Krossavík’) (F V:202). As in Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana, Guðrún Ósvífrsdóttir and Þorkell Eyólfsson argue over whether she should shelter him. During the conversation, ‘Þorkell lézk því hafa heitit nafna sínum, Þorkatli Geitissyni, at hann skyldi drepa Gunnar, ef hann kœmi vestr á sveitir,—“ok er hann inn mesti vinr minn”’ (‘Þorkell said he had promised his namesake Þorkell Geitisson that he would kill Gunnarr if he turned up in their part of the country in the west,—“and he is a very great friend of mine”’) (F V:203).
Figure 4-6: Þorkell Geitisson’s relations through marriage to Snorri goði, Þorkell Eyjólfsson, etc., according to the addendum to Þórðar saga hreðu in Vatnshyrna, with (in bold) additions from Laxdœla saga and Ljósvetninga saga.
- In Droplaugarsona saga, Geitir Lýtingsson’s name first appears within the genealogical details of his wife, the sister of the Droplaugarsons’ father. No further explanation is therefore necessary to account for his readiness to shelter Helgi and Grímr Droplaugarson after they kill Þorgrímr torðyfill and Droplaug sends them off ‘til Vápnafjarðar í Krossavík til Geitis’ (‘to Geitir at Krossavík in Vopnafjörður’) (ÍF XI:146). Their visit places something of a burden on Þorkell Geitisson, who accompanies them to the assembly, arranges the settlement for the killing of Þorgrímr with Helgi Ásbjarnarson, pays off their fine, and instructs Helgi Droplaugarson in the law.
- Helgi uses his newly acquired knowledge of the law to pick quarrels with the clients of Helgi Ásbjarnarson, and it is in the context of such litigation at the Alþingi that Þorkell is next mentioned: ‘ok váru þeir Helgi Droplaugarson ok Þorkell Geitisson allfjǫlmennir. Var þar með þeim Ketill ór Njarðvík. Helgi Ásbjarnarson hafði ekki lið til at ónýta mál fyrir þeim’ (‘Helgi Droplaugarson and Þorkell Geitisson were there with a large band of followers. With them was Ketill of Njarðvík. Helgi Ásbjarnarson did not have enough men to have their case overturned’) (ÍF XI:150). Helgi Droplaugarson gets his way and emerges with his reputation enhanced.
- Things go rather less well the next time Þorkell lends Helgi his support in his legal adventures. Helgi has persuaded his mother Droplaug to get her slave Þorgils to kill Hallsteinn, Droplaug’s second husband, to whom her sons have taken a disliking. Helgi kills the slave immediately after he has killed Hallsteinn, but the plot is revealed and Helgi Ásbjarnarson pursues the case against his namesake: ‘Mál Helga Droplaugarsonar urðu óvinsæl, ok vildu engir honum veita nema þeir Þorkell Geitisson ok Ketill Þiðrandason’ (‘Helgi Droplaugarson’s cause became unpopular and no one wanted to help him except Þorkell Geitisson and Ketill Þiðrandason’) (ÍF XI:154). This support, however, is of little avail. Droplaug moves away to the Faeroe Islands and Helgi Droplaugarson is sentenced to three years’ outlawry and is otherwise fair game to his opponents if found anywhere ‘milli Smjǫrvatnsheiðar ok Lónsheiðar. Helgi Droplaugarson leitaði ekki við útanferð. Þá fór Grímr, bróðir hans, frá búi sínu ok til móts við bróður sinn, ok váru á vetrum með Þorkatli í Krossavík. Þeir fóru um allt herað til þinga ok mannfunda, svá sem Helgi væri ósekr’ (‘between Smjörvatnsheiði and Lónsheiði. Helgi Droplaugarson made no attempt to leave the country. His brother Grímr moved out of his home and went to be with his brother, and they spent the winters with Þorkell at Krossavík. They traveled all around the district, to assemblies and gatherings, just as if Helgi had been acquitted’) (155).
- ‘Um várit eptir sendi Flosi frá Svínafelli orð Þorkatli Geitissyni, at hann skyldi fjǫlmenna norðan til hans. Vildi Flosi stefna til óhelgi Arnóri Ǫrnólfssyni, bróður Halldórs í Skógum. Þann mann hafði Flosi vega látit. Þorkell safnaði sér liði, ok váru þeir saman þrír tigir. Hann bað Helga Droplaugarson fara með sér. Helgi sagði: “Skyldr ok fúss væra ek at fara þessa ferð, en krankr em ek, ok mun ek heima vera.” Þorkell spurði Grím, ef hann vildi fara, en Grímr lézk eigi mundu ganga frá Helga sjúkum. Síðan fór Þorkell með þrjá tigu manna suðr til Svínafells. Þaðan fóru þeir Flosi vestr í Skóga með hundrað manna’ (‘The following spring Flosi of Svínafell sent word to Þorkell Geitisson that he should gather support and come south to meet him. Flosi intended to bring a case against Arnórr Ǫrnólfsson, the brother of Halldórr of Skógar, whom Flosi had had killed, and have him declared an outlaw. Þorkell mustered a band of supporters, amounting altogether to thirty men. He asked Helgi Droplaugarson to go with him. Helgi said: “I would be honor bound and eager to make this journey, but I am ill, and I will stay at home.” Þorkell asked Grímr if he would go but Grímr said he would not leave Helgi while he was sick. So Þorkell took his thirty men south to Svínafell. From there he and Flosi went west to Skógar with a hundred men’) (ÍF XI:156-7).
- Landnámabók (S 330, H 289-90) has the following paragraph about Ǫlvir, the first settler at Höfði to the east of the river Grímsá: ‘Hans son var Þórarinn í Hǫfða, bróðir sammœðri Halldórs Ǫrnólfssonar, er Mǫrðr órœkja vá undir Hǫmrum, ok Arnórs, er þeir Flosi ok Kolbeinn, synir Þórðar Freysgoða, vágu á Skaptafellsþingi’ (‘His son was Þórarinn of Höfði, the half brother (same mother) of Halldórr Ǫrnólfsson, whom Mǫrðr órœkja killed under the rockface at Hamrar, and of Arnórr, who was killed at the Skaptafell assembly by Flosi and Kolbeinn, the sons of Þórðr Freysgoði’).
- In the famous scene from Njáls saga, just before Hildigunnr lays the bloodied cloak of her husband Hǫskuldr over her kinsman Flosi and spurs him to take revenge, she reminds him of the killing of Arnórr: ‘“Minna hafði misgǫrt Arnórr Ǫrnólfsson ór Forsárskógum við Þórð Freysgoða, fǫður þinn, ok vágu brœðr þínir hann á Skaptafellsþingi, Kolbeinn ok Egill”’ (‘“Arnórr Ǫrnólfsson of Forsárskógar had done less to your father Þórðr Freysgoði, and your brothers Kolbeinn and Egill killed him at the Skaptafell assembly”’) (ÍF XII:291). More can be deduced from Njáls saga about this feud, since it names Halldórr Ǫrnólfsson as a chieftain associated with Gizurr the White (ÍF XII:142) and later says that Mǫrðr órœkja (who according to Landnámabók killed Halldórr) was a kinsman of Þráinn Sigfússon and killed ‘Odd Halldórsson austr í Gautavík í Berufirði’ (‘Oddr Halldórsson at Gautavík in Berufjörður in the east’) (ÍF XII:220). This Oddr’s patronymic has tempted scholars (Sveinsson 1954:142; Benediktsson, J. 1968:333) to read the two sources in tandem and come to the conclusion that the two men killed by Mǫrðr órœkja, Halldórr Ǫrnólfsson and Oddr Halldórsson, were in fact father and son.
|Droplaugarsona saga||Landnámabók||Njáls saga|
|Flosi has Arnórr killed||Flosi and his brother Kolbeinn kill Arnórr at the Skaptafell assembly.||Flosi’s brothers Kolbeinn and Egill kill Arnórr at the Skaptafell assembly in revenge for wrongs done to their father.|
- In Droplaugarsona saga, while Þorkell is away supporting Flosi, Helgi and Grímr Droplaugarson have their battle with Helgi Ásbjarnarson in Eyvindardalur. Helgi Droplaugarson is killed and Þorkell is not mentioned again before Grímr has been secretly nursed back to health by Ásgerðr, the medical woman from Ekkjufell: ‘Síðan fór Grímr norðr í Krossavík til Þorkels Geitissonar, ok var honum þar vel fagnat’ (‘Then Grímr went north to Krossavík to Þorkell Geitisson and was given a warm welcome there’) (ÍF XI:166). Nothing is said of the way the brothers deserted their kinsman when he needed their support on his journey south to Flosi. A few years later it is said that Þorkell made ‘fǫr til Eyjafjarðar at sætta þingmenn sína, ok reið hann heiman, en Grímr var heima ok annaðisk um bú’ (‘a journey to Eyjafjörður to settle disputes among his clients and rode away from home, but Grímr stayed behind and took charge of the household’) (167-8).
- While Þorkell is away in the north, Grímr kills Helgi Ásbjarnarson. When Grímr gets back to Krossavík, Jórunn remarks that they can ill afford not to have their leader there with them with Bjarni Brodd-Helgason, Helgi’s brother-in-law, living so close at hand. She hides Grímr until Þorkell returns. ‘Nú kemr Þorkell heim ok fór til fundar við Grím ok spurði tíðenda ok um atburðinn um víg Helga’ (‘Now Þorkell comes home and goes to see Grímr and asks him his news and about the events surrounding the killing of Helgi’) (ÍF XI:173). Grímr answers his kinsman with three verses in dróttkvætt meter. Nothing is said of Þorkell’s reactions. ‘Þorkell reið þá til þings, en Grímr var í tjaldi í fjalli því, er Snæfell heitir, upp frá Krossavík ok þeir félagar’ (‘Then Þorkell rode off to the Alþingi and Grímr and his companions stayed behind in a tent up on a mountain called Snæfell above Krossavík’) (175). Þorkell offers compensation on Grímr’s behalf but Helgi’s nephew Hrafnkell goði refuses it, and so Grímr is forced to stay on into the winter up on the mountain. Some Norwegian merchants who are staying with Þorkell notice the tent. Þorkell realizes he can no longer keep Grímr’s presence secret and gets him off his hands by sending him to Ingjaldr of Arneiðarstaðir, Grímr’s father-in-law. From this point the saga follows Grímr, and Þorkell of Krossavík is not mentioned further.
- Þorkell Geitisson is mentioned only once in the A text of Ljósvetninga saga (in chapter 6) and not at all at the corresponding place in the C text, which in other respects is much fuller at this point. The passage in question describes a dispute between Guðmundr ríki and Þórir Helgason, who is a friend of Guðmundr’s brother, Einarr Þveræingr (i.e. Einarr of Þverá): ‘En um sumarit riðu menn til þings, ok fjǫlmenntu hvárirtveggju; ok var Guðmundr fjǫlmennari. Þorkell Geitisson var þar ok leitaði um sættir með þeim. En Guðmundr vill eigi sættask’ (‘That summer people rode to the Alþingi. Each of them gathered a large band of supporters, but Guðmundr had more. Þorkell Geitisson was there and tried to arbitrate between them. But Guðmundr refuses to make peace’) (ÍF X:38).
- Vǫðu-Brandr, a difficult and aggressive farmer’s son from Mýrr, has killed a man in Norway and arrives in Reyðarfjörður well on into autumn. At this point Þorkell Geitisson is introduced: ‘Hann bjó í Krossavík í Vápnafirði’ (‘He lived at Krossavík in Vopnafjörður’) (ÍF X:128). A man from Reykjadalur called Einarr, who is working for Þorkell at Krossavík, immediately takes fright when he hears about Vǫðu-Brandr and wants to get away, convinced that Þorkell will invite Brandr to come and stay with him. Þorkell asks Einarr to stay on and makes Brandr welcome. At first Vǫðu-Brandr behaves himself, but then he starts running riot among Þorkell’s client farmers and refuses to sit and drink with Þorkell as Þorkell wishes, preferring to go out womanizing. Brandr initiates a game called ‘Syrpuþingslǫg,’ a grotesque and unseemly travesty of court procedure. Þorkell objects to this and asks Brandr to lay off. Brandr takes umbrage and leaves and goes west to his father. There he injures a man at some games and, as mentioned previously (p. 147), is sent back to Krossavík to Þorkell—to Þorkell’s embarrassment, since he had previously out of pride refused to release Brandr from his terms at Krossavík when he first wanted to storm off.
- Þorkell offers to compensate Guðmundr ríki for Brandr’s misdeed but Guðmundr refuses and prepares to take the case to the spring assembly at Vöðlaþing. Þorkell goes east to Álftafjörður to his friend Þorsteinn Síðu-Hallsson (who is mentioned directly without other introduction) and they plan their defense of the case—which is to have it thrown out on technicalities and by strength of numbers. Þorkell and Þorsteinn ride together though the farmlands with only three companions on their way to the assembly but send their main band of supporters over the mountains and down into Eyjafjörður. Guðmundr fails to see through this deception, though he realizes there is a flaw in his own case, i.e. that as one of Þorkell’s household Brandr cannot be prosecuted at the Vöðlaþing assembly. The case is brought to the Alþingi and Bjarni Brodd-Helgason becomes involved: see above, p. 147. Þorsteinn goes behind Þorkell’s back and tries to thrash out peace proposals with Ófeigr Járngerðarson. They agree to go to Guðmundr’s brother, Einarr of Þverá, and seek to arrange a marriage between Þorkell and his daughter Jórunn. The conversation includes an excellent description of Þorkell as an ambitious but rather poor chieftain who is willing to support his own men financially in their legal disputes and ‘sitr hann yfir virðingum allra Austfirðinga’ (‘has a monopoly of power and status throughout the eastern fjords’) (ÍF X:136).
- Agreement is reached and nothing remains for Þorsteinn but to inform his friend about his prospective marriage: ‘“Eigi veit ek nú, at hverju verða vill, en konu hefi ek beðit í morgin til handa þér.” Þorkell mælti: “Mikit er um liðveizlu þína við mik, er þú gerir þat ekki síðr, er ek býð þér um eigi. Hver er sjá kona?” Þorsteinn svarar: “Sjá mær heitir Jórunn ok er dóttir Einars frá Þverá.” Þorkell mælti: “Þá mey vilda ek ok helzt eiga á Íslandi.” Þorsteinn mælti: “Þá er nú ráð at ganga til festarmálanna.”’ (‘“I don’t know how this is going to turn out, but I’ve made a marriage proposal on your behalf this morning.” Þorkell said: “There’s a lot to be said for your support for me, when you’re just as willing to do what I don’t ask of you. Who is this woman?” Þorsteinn answers: “The girl is called Jórunn and she’s the daughter of Einarr of Þverá.” Þorkell said: “That’s the girl I’d like to marry more than any other in Iceland.” Þorsteinn said: “So it’s time to get the wedding plans sorted out.”’) (ÍF X:137). Everything is arranged and the wedding is fixed for Þverá in a half a month’s time, before Guðmundr is even told of his niece’s forthcoming marriage. Þorsteinn starts off by telling him that Þorkell is betrothed and in Guðmundr’s reply we get another description of Þorkell: ‘“Sú kona er vel gefin, er honum er, því at hann er inn mesti hreystimaðr, þótt nú sé með okkr fátt. Eða hver er sú kona?’” (‘“That woman has a good husband who gets him, because he’s a man of great courage and fortitude, even if we don’t see eye to eye at present. So who is this woman?”’) (137). After this Guðmundr accepts the original offer of compensation and settles the claim for injury and Þorkell carries out his side in the case ‘svá, at báðum hugnaði vel. En þó eldi hér lengi af með þeim brœðrum. En Þorkell sat yfir sœmdinni allri’ (‘so that both were well satisfied. Even so, for some while there was some friction between the brothers. But Þorkell came out of it with all the credit’) (138). After the wedding at Þverá, Þorkell concedes the case to Guðmundr and then goes ‘heim með konu sína, ok þótti hann mjǫk vaxit hafa af þessi ferð’ (‘home with his wife, and seemed to have grown greatly out of this venture’) (139). As mentioned earlier (p. 148), Jórunn succeeds in reconciling the relatives ‘ok heldu þá sætt vel ok drengiliga síðan. Þorkell bjó í Krossavík til elli ok þótti ávallt inn mesti garpr, þar sem hann kemr við sǫgur. Vǫðu-Brandr fór austan ok bjó á fǫðurleifð sinni ok samðisk mikit ok þótti góðr bóndi ok þóttisk aldri fulllaunat geta Þorkatli Geitissyni sína liðveizlu ok góðvilja’ (‘and they kept the peace like men of honor after this. Þorkell lived at Krossavík until old age and was always considered a bold and brave man wherever people tell of him. Vǫðu-Brandr left the east and took over his inheritance from his father and calmed down a great deal and was considered a good farmer and never felt he could repay Þorkell Geitisson sufficiently for his support and goodwill’) (139).
- Much later in Ljósvetninga saga there is an account of how Hrólfr, son of Þorkell, son of Tjǫrvi, son of Þorgeirr of Ljósavatn, goes to Þorkell Geitisson and asks for his support against Eyjólfr, the son of Guðmundr ríki: ‘Ok er hann fann Þorkel Geitisson, mælti hann slíkum málum við hann. Hann svarar: “Þú mælir sannara, en eigi nenni ek at ganga í móti Eyjólfi”’ (‘And when he met Þorkell Geitisson he talked these matters over with him. He answers: “You have the better grounds on your side, but I have no wish to take on Eyjólfr”’) (ÍF X:101). No more is said of Þorkell in the saga.
- In Ǫlkofra þáttr, Þorkell Geitisson is named among a group of powerful goðar (priest-chieftains) that owns a wood near the site of the Alþingi at Þingvellir. The wood is destroyed in a fire which starts from Ǫlkofri’s charcoal pits ‘upp frá Hrafnabjǫrgum ok austr frá Lǫnguhlíð […] Þar brann skógr sá, er kallaðr var Goðaskógr. Hann áttu sex goðar. Einn var Snorri goði, annarr Guðmundr Eyjólfsson, þriði Skapti lǫgsǫgumaðr, fjórði Þorkell Geitisson, fimmti Eyjólfr, sonr Þórðar gellis, sétti Þorkell trefill Rauða-Bjarnarson’ (‘up from Hrafnabjörg and east from Lönguhlíð […] The wood there known as Goðaskógur burned down. It was owned by six goðar. One was Snorri goði, the second Guðmundr Eyjólfsson, the third Skapti the lawspeaker, fourth Þorkell Geitisson, fifth Eyjólfr, son of Þórðr gellir, sixth Þorkell trefill son of Bjǫrn the Red’) (ÍF XI:84-85).
- When Broddi starts casting aspersions at the goðar and Skapti the lawspeaker threatens him with dire reprisals, Þorkell Geitisson remarks that Broddi has got his overbearing spirit from the man he was named after, viz. Brodd-Helgi. To this, Broddi retorts that there is no reason to bring up an old family misfortune, and that anyway Þorkell’s father Geitir was made to pay for the killing of Brodd-Helgi, ‘en hitt ætla ek, ef þú leitar at, er þú munir fingrum kenna þat, er faðir minn markaði þik í Bǫðvarsdal’ (‘and anyway, I reckon that if you look you’ll see from your fingers how my father left his mark on you at Böðvarsdalur’) (ÍF XI:93). This angers Þorkell, but Broddi comes to him the next day and apologizes, blaming it on his youth, gives Þorkell a sword as a peace offering, and invites him to visit him during the summer. Þorkell responds favorably and makes up with his kinsman—Broddi needs all the support he can get against Guðmundr ríki, whom he accuses of cowardice and sexual deviance; later, on the way home from the Alþingi, Broddi only manages to evade Guðmundr ríki as he rides through the pass at Ljósavatnsskarð and on into Vopnafjörður because he has Þorkell and his ‘in-law’ Einarr with him. ‘Þat sumar fór Þorkell at heimboði til Brodda, frænda síns, ok þá þar allgóðar gjafar. Hǫfðu þeir þá ina beztu frændsemi með vináttu, ok helzk þat, meðan þeir lifðu’ (‘That summer Þorkell went and stayed as a guest of his kinsman Broddi and received fine gifts from him there. From then on they enjoyed the best of friendly family relations, and this is how it stayed as long as they lived’) (ÍF XI:94).
- In Vápnfirðinga saga itself, Þorkell Geitisson is first mentioned as the husband of Hallfríðr Egilsdóttir (see above, p. 158). When the feud between Brodd-Helgi and Geitir is at its height, after Helgi has killed Hallfríðr’s uncle Þormóðr of Sunnudalur, the saga says: ‘Þorkell, sonr Geitis, fór útan ok jafnan landa í millum, þegar er hann hafði aldr til þess, ok varð hann lítt við riðinn mál þeira Brodd-Helga ok Geitis, fǫður síns’ (‘Once he was old enough, Geitir’s son Þorkell went abroad and spent most of his time traveling from country to country, and was little involved in the affairs of Brodd-Helgi and his father Geitir’) (ÍF XI:43). After Bjarni has killed Geitir, it says: ‘Þorkell Geitisson var eigi á Íslandi, er faðir hans var veginn, en Blængr varðveitti bú í Krossavík með umsjá Egilssona, er þá váru mágar Þorkels Geitissonar […] Nú kemr Þorkell Geitisson út, ok ferrhann þegar til bús síns til Krossavíkr ok lætr sem hann eigi ekki um at vera’ (‘Þorkell Geitisson was not in Iceland when his father was killed, but Blængr [Geitir’s brother] looked after the farm at Krossavík with the help of the Egilssons, who were Þorkell Geitisson’s brothers-in-law at the time […] Now Þorkell comes out to Iceland and goes immediately to his farm at Krossavík and acts as if he does not mean to get involved’) (53). Bjarni offers Þorkell ‘sætt ok sœmð ok sjálfdœmi’ (‘reconciliation and honor and terms of his own choosing’) (53) but Þorkell turns a deaf ear, which people interpret as him having his mind set on vengeance.
- Þorkell tries to hunt Bjarni down in the mountains during the autumn roundup but Bjarni has received word of Þorkell’s intentions and no encounter ensues. Þorkell continues to look for ways of getting at Bjarni and, after a failed attack at the summer pastures on the heaths, sends for Helgi and Grímr Droplaugarson and tells them he wishes to attack Bjarni at home at Hof with fire and sword. The brothers are all for this, but when the time comes Þorkell cannot act because of ill health and refuses to send Helgi alone. Helgi accuses him of cowardice when push comes to shove and they part on bad terms.
- Things come to a head in Vápnfirðinga saga when Þorkell and Bjarni both go to the Fljótsdalshérað spring assembly. Þorkell is accompanied by Blængr, the Egilssons, Eyjólfr of Víðivellir, and nine others ‘ok fóru til Eyvindarár til Gró, ok annaðisk hon þat, er þeir þurftu’ (‘and they went to Gróa at Eyvindará and she saw to whatever they needed’) (ÍF XI:58). This Gróa is not introduced in any other way and it is clearly assumed that she is already familiar to the audience. On the way home, Þorkell’s party ride down into Böðvarsdalur and spend the night with Kári, a farmer client of Þorkell’s. Bjarni and his men try to sneak past the farm very early in the morning while Þorkell and the others are still asleep, but Þorkell wakes just afterwards and urges his men to chase after them to Eyvindarstaðir, where the kinsmen fight until the farmer Eyvindr and the women of the farm throw clothes over their weapons and stop the battle. Þorkell is wounded but Bjarni sends him a doctor who tends his wounds. With Þorkell incapacitated things go badly on the farm at Krossavík; at this point, a sentence is inserted giving the information that Þorkell’s wife is now Jórunn (see above, p. 169). One of Þorkell’s retainers goes to Hof and returns with an offer from Bjarni to feed and house all of Þorkell’s domestic staff or to send food down to Krossavík. Þorkell is bemused by this offer but Jórunn wishes to leave for Hof right away and her counsel prevails. Þorkell accepts Bjarni’s offer to appoint his own terms for the killing of Geitir and they come to a full and sincere reconciliation. The saga’s final comment on Þorkell is that he ‘var hǫfðingi mikill ok inn mesti hreystimaðr ok málafylgismaðr mikill. Fé gekk af hǫndum honum í elli hans, ok er hann brá búi sínu, bauð Bjarni honum til Hofs, ok eldisk hann þar til lykða. Þorkell var kynsæll maðr’ (‘was a great chieftain and a man of enormous prowess and a great expert in the law. His wealth dried up in his old age, and when he could no longer keep his farm going Bjarni invited him to live at Hof, and he grew old there and stayed there to the end of his life. Many fine men are descended from Þorkell’) (ÍF XI:65). The saga ends with the line of his descendants (see diagram).
Figure 4-7: Þorkell Geitisson’s descendants as named at the end of Vápnfirðinga saga
- In Njáls saga there is a certain parallelism between Þorkell Geitisson and his kinsman Víga-Bjarni Brodd-Helgason. Þorkell is introduced early in the genealogy of Hallr of Síða, who was married to Jóreiðr Þiðrandadóttir, the sister of the mother ‘Þorkels Geitissonar ok þeira Þiðranda’ (‘of Þorkell Geitisson and Þiðrandi, etc.’) (ÍF XII:239). (Bjarni is connected with this family later on: see p. 150.) On his journey through the east of Iceland mustering support, Flosi goes from Bjarni at Hof on to Krossavík: ‘Þorkell Geitisson var vin Flosa mikill áðr […] Þorkell kvað þat skylt vera at veita honum slíkt, er hann væri til fœrr, ok skiljask eigi við hans mál. Þorkell gaf Flosa góðar gjafir at skilnaði’ (‘Þorkell Geitisson was already a great friend of Flosi’s […] Þorkell said it was his duty to support him to the best of his ability and never let him down. Þorkell gave Flosi good gifts at his departure’) (ÍF XII:352-3).
- Þorkell is next mentioned in Njáls saga in a conversation between Bjarni and Flosi at the Alþingi when they discuss who they can get to defend them in the litigation following the burning of Njáll. The only person Flosi can think of from the east of Iceland is Bjarni’s kinsman, Þorkell Geitisson. ‘Bjarni mælti: “Ekki munu vér hann telja; þótt hann sé lǫgvitr, þá er hann þó forsjáll mjǫk. Þarf þat engi maðr at ætla at hafa hann at skotspæni, en fylgja mun hann þér sem sá, er bezt fylgir, því at hann er ofrhugi. En segja mun ek þér, at þat verðr þess manns bani, er vǫrn fœrir fram fyrir brennumálit, en ek ann þess eigi Þorkatli, frænda mínum. Munu vit verða at leita annars staðar á”’ (‘Bjarni said: “Let’s not count him; he may be skilled at law but he is extremely cagey. He’s nobody’s fool, and he will pursue your cause as well as anyone, as he is full of ambition. But I tell you this: it will be the death of whomever pleads our defense for the burning, and I don’t wish this on my kinsman Þorkell. We’ll have to look elsewhere’) (ÍF XII:364).
- There is a brief mention of Þorkell in the battle at the Alþingi when he is forced back by Þorgeirr skorargeirr, and he is named again when Sǫlvi soðkarl is describing the flight of the men of the east: ‘“Hvárt munu þessir allir ragir Austfirðingarnir, er hér flýja?” segir hann, “ok jafnvel rennr hann Þorkell Geitisson, ok er allmjǫk logit frá honum, er margir hafa þat sagt, at hann væri hugr einn, en nú rennr engi harðara en hann”’ (‘“What a load of pansies, aren’t they, these easterners running away like that?” he says. “Even Þorkell Geitisson is running, so there must be a lot of lies going around about him, when lots of people say he’s all heart and courage, and now no one’s running harder than him”). Sǫlvi is made to pay dearly for his words, for at that very moment Hallbjǫrn the Strong (an otherwise unknown in-law of Sǫrli Brodd-Helgason who was used a little earlier to force Eyjólfr Bǫlverksson into a seat between Bjarni and Flosi when he wanted to abandon their case) just happens to be passing by and picks Sǫlvi up and dunks him ‘at hǫfði í soðketilinn. Dó Sǫlvi þegar’ (‘headfirst into his cooking pot. Sǫlvi died immediately’) (ÍF XII:407).
- The biform of Þorkell’s name, ‘Þorketill,’ appears in a satirical verse by Snorri goði about the battle at the Alþingi, which includes the line ‘vegr Þorketill nauðigr’ (‘Þorkell is forced to fight,’ presumably because he cannot escape) (ÍF XII:411).
- In Fljótsdœla saga Þorkell is fully introduced in chapter 3 at his first appearance. After providing details of his parents, the saga describes Þorkell and his younger brother Þiðrandi: ‘Þessir bræðr vóru báðir vel menntir ok þó sinn veg hvór. Þorkell var jarpr á hár, dökkr maðr, lágr ok þrekligr ok kallaðr manna minnstr, þeirra sem þá vóru, manna skjótligastr ok hvatastr, sem raun bar á, því at hann átti opt við þungt at etja ok bar sik í hvert sinn vel’ (‘These brothers were both accomplished, though each in his own way. Þorkell had auburn hair, he was a dark man, small in stature and heavily built and reckoned to be the smallest man around at the time, very quick and alert and vigorous, as came out later, since he often found himself up against it but bore himself well on every occasion) (ÍF XI:220). The saga also says that Hróarr of Hróarstunga offered Geitir to foster Þiðrandi, in return for which he would leave Þiðrandi his ‘fé ok staðfestu ok ríki. En Þorkell taki þitt mannaforráð eptir þinn dag’ (‘wealth [or livestock] and lands and power. But Þorkell can have your chieftaincy when you are dead’) (221). The brothers are six and ten years old at the time.
- Þorkell is not mentioned again in Fljótsdœla saga until after the death of his brother Þiðrandi. The news is received by Þorkell, his kinsman Bjarni (Brodd-)Helgason of Hof, and Þórdís todda, the wife of Helgi Ásbjarnarson and Bjarni’s sister, ‘svó þeir bræðr Þorvaldssynir Þiðrandasonar, Grímr ok Helgi. Þeir vóru allir í eptirleit við Gunnar Austmann ok vildu allir Þiðranda hefna’ (‘as well as the brothers Grímr and Helgi, sons of Þorvaldr son of Þiðrandi. They were all involved in the hunt for Gunnarr the Norwegian and all wanted to avenge Þiðrandi’) (ÍF XI:267). Gunnarr gets away on this occasion and the following spring Þorkell sets off from Krossavík with nine others, picking up the Droplaugarsons at Arneiðarstaðir on the way, to go and search for Gunnarr. With them is Gunnsteinn Kóreksson, and by the time they arrived at Njarðvík Helgi Droplaugarson has become the leader of the party. He leaves Þorkell, the instigator of the expedition, behind at Njarðvík to keep a watch on Þorkell fullspakr (‘All-Wise’) Ketilsson until midday while the others continue to search for Gunnarr. Þorkell Geitisson is happy to get out of this game of hide-and-seek, saying to Helgi: ‘því at vér erum ófráir Vópnfirðingarnir. Mun hér lítils við þurfa. Þyki mér meiri hamingjuraun eptir honum at leita. Treysti ek þér betr ok þinni giptu eptir honum at leita’ (‘because we men of Vopnafjörður are slow on our feet. There is little we need to do here. It seems to be more of a game of chance to be off searching for him. I have more trust in you and your luck to do the searching’) (270). After a long manhunt, in which Gunnarr narrowly escapes with the help of a pair of brothers from Borgarfjörður with supernatural powers, Helgi turns back to Arneiðarstaðir with his followers. ‘Hitta þeir Þorkel Geitisson. Hann spyrr, hversu farit hafi, en Helgi segir alla atburði, svó sem gengit hafði. Þorkell kvað mjök vaxa ófrið, en ekki við meðalmenn at eiga, þar sem þeir vóru bræðr. Þorkell kvaðst þar hafa setit yfir nafna sínum til hádegis í Djúpahvammi’ (‘They meet Þorkell Geitisson. He asks how things have gone and Helgi tells him everything just as it happened. Þorkell said that things were now looking much worse, that they didn’t have just ordinary men to contend with in the case of these brothers. Þorkell said he had stayed there on guard over this namesake at Djúpihvammur until midday’) before eventually letting him go (281).Þorkell stays at home at Krossavík and takes no further action before he rides to the Alþingi and places ‘fé til höfuðs Gunnari ok fekk öllum höfðingjum umboð, at hann skulu höndum taka. Allir hétu góðu um þetta, en þeir þó mestu, er Þorkell átti heitast vinfengi við, ef hann kæmi því fram. Þat var Þorkell Eyjólfsson. Hann bjó vestr at Helgafelli ok átti Guðrúnu Ósvífursdóttur […] Hann hafði heitit Þorkeli Geitissyni at taka Gunnar af lífi, ef hann næði honum’ (‘money on Gunnarr’s head and gives all the chieftains a commission to have him captured. They all promised to do this, most of all the ones Þorkell had the closest friendship with, if he could manage it. That was Þorkell Eyjólfsson. He lived in the west at Helgafell and was married to Guðrún Ósvífrsdóttir […] He had promised Þorkell Geitisson that he would have Gunnarr executed if he could get hold of him’) (F XI:286). This is the last we hear of orkell Geitisson in the saga.
|Fljótsdœla saga||Þorkell grows up at Krossavík with his brother Þiðrandi.|
|As a youth, Þorkell teaches his cousin Helgi Droplaugarson the law before and during the years he spends traveling abroad (Vápnfirðinga saga).|
|After his father is killed, Þorkell returns home and becomes an assertive chieftain with his mind fixed on vengeance. However, he fails in his attempts to avenge his father (Íslendingadrápa). He is actively involved in legal cases well on into his twenties.|
|He fights a battle in Böðvarsdalur against his neighbor, Víga-Bjarni of Hof. Around the same time, the love of his early years, Hallfríðr Egilsdóttir from a neighboring farm, disappears from his life (Landnámabók, Vápnfirðinga saga) and he marries Jórunn Einarsdóttir, a chieftain’s daughter from the next quarter as a step in the expansion of his powerbase (Ljósvetninga saga C text).|
|Þorkell is now approaching thirty. He settles disputes in his own part of the country and protects his kinsmen the Droplaugarsons from the arm of the law. He goes south to support Flosi Þórðarson.|
Gunnars saga Þiðrandabana,
|He attempts without success to exact vengeance for the killing of his brother Þiðrandi. Þorkell is now around forty and is making his mark at a national level through agreements with the leading chieftains in the country to arrest Gunnarr Þiðrandabani and deny him any succor. Around the same time he hides Grímr Droplaugarson after the killing of Helgi Ásbjarnarson (Droplaugarsona saga).|
|Now in his forties, Þorkell is recognized as an accomplished lawman at the Alþingi during the litigation following the burning of Njáll.|
|Þorkell has now formed alliances of common interest with the most powerful chieftains in the country, based on bonds of kinship or friendship. He rides his luck by supporting his kinsman Skegg-Broddi when Broddi thwarts the chieftains’ persecution of Ǫlkofri but emerges with his reputation enhanced still further.|
Ljósvetninga saga A text
|Þorkell is mentioned as a negotiator in peace settlements.|
Ljósvetninga saga C text
|Þorkell is not heard of again until approaching ninety, when he refuses to support Hrólfr Þorkelsson against the sons of Guðmundr ríki, a man Þorkell had himself clashed with in his younger days. The sources state specifically that Þorkell lived to a ripe old age, either at Krossavík (Ljósvetninga saga C text) or with Bjarni at Hof (Vápnfirðinga saga); this lends some credence to the idea that he could still have been attending the Alþingi into his eighties.|
Literary Relations between Vápnfirðinga Saga and Other Sources
- Geitir is introduced with the words: ‘Geitir átti Hallkǫtlu Þiðrandadóttur, fǫðursystur Droplaugarsona’ (‘Geitir was married to Hallkatla Þiðrandadóttir, the sister of the Droplaugarsons’ father’) (ÍF XI:27). Jón Jóhannesson considered this to be evidence that the ‘author’ of Vápnfirðinga saga assumed that his readers would be familiar with the Droplaugarsons from their written saga, which he considered beyond question older than Vápnfirðinga saga (1950:27).
- The saga describes Geitir as going ‘heiman í Fljótsdalsherað til Eyvindarár á kynnisleið’ (‘from home to the Fljótsdalur lowlands on a visit to Eyvindará’) (ÍF XI:43). Jóhannesson notes that the ‘author’ is here assuming his readers will know who it was that lived at Eyvindará, viz. Gróa, who is not mentioned until later in the saga (cf. point 3 below).
- Þorkell Geitisson rides to the Fljótsdalur spring assembly and the saga says they were ‘fimmtán saman ok fóru til Eyvindarár til Gró’ (‘there were fifteen of them all told and they went to Gróa at Eyvindará’) (ÍF XI:58).
Heller notes, quite properly, that these points do not necessarily mean that the writer of Vápnfirðinga saga is referring his readers to the Droplaugarsona saga we know from Mǫðruvallabók. He points out that there are other possibilities: we know, for instance, from the fragment in AM 162 C fol. of a different version of the saga; and there might even have been an earlier saga about the Droplaugarsons, perhaps the source postulated by Jóhannesson and named by him *Ævi Droplaugarsona (‘Life of the Droplaugarsons’). A text of this sort would have provided the necessary background information to explain these three references in Vápnfirðinga saga where characters from Droplaugarsona saga are treated as already being familiar. Heller does not even mention the possibility that the writer of Vápnfirðinga saga might have had oral stories to thank for his obvious confidence that the Droplaugarsons, the nephews of Gróa of Eyvindará (who was the sister-in-law of Geitir of Krossavík), would already have been reasonably well known to his audience. The knowledge of people and families required here is hardly enormous or particularly abstruse, and so it would not have been unreasonable of the writer to expect his audience in the east of Iceland to be familiar with it without his, or their, having to read up on it in books. But on the basis of these and a number of other, less cogent, points, Heller eventually feels justified in concluding that: ‘Der Vápnf.-Verfasser hat die Dropl. gekannt und als Stoffquelle benutzt’ (‘the author of Vápnfirðinga saga knew Droplaugarsona saga and used it as source material’) (1963:146).
- Heroes remain silent and tight-lipped when taunted but later act decisively.
- Men are pierced with spears.
- Men fall ill.
- Men want to take the lead in expeditions of vengeance.
- Women weep when saying goodbye to men who will die shortly afterwards.
- Kinsmen encounter difficulties reclaiming the property of women who have separated from their husbands.
- Chieftains are spurred to take action when their clients start to desert them.
- People play board games.
- People possess silver.
- That the story of Melkorka in Laxdœla saga is derived from the story of Ketill þrymr and Arneiðr in Droplaugarsona saga (see below, p. 205 f).
- That the friendship between Brodd-Helgi and Geitir resembles the friendship between Kjartan and Bolli in that in both cases they are said to be ‘mjǫk jafngamlir’ (‘very much the same age’).
- That Jórunn in Laxdœla saga is based on her namesake in Vápnfirðinga saga.