GRETTIR THE STRONG
GRETTIR THE STRONG
Originally written in Icelandic sometime in the early 14th
Century. Author unknown.
This electronic edition was produced edited and prepared by
Douglas B. Killings (
) June 1995. Document
scanning provided by David Reid and John Servilio.
THE FAMILY AND EARLY WARS OF ONUND THE SON OF OFEIG
There was a man named Onund the son of Ofeig Clumsyfoot who was
the son of Ivar Horsetail. Onund was the brother of Gudbjorg
the mother of Gudbrand Knob the father of Asta the mother of
King Olaf the Saint. His mother came from the Upplands while
his father's relations were mostly in Rogaland and Hordland. He
was a great viking and used to harry away in the West over the
sea. He was accompanied on these expeditions by one Balki the
son of Blaeing from Sotanes and by Orm the Wealthy. Another
comrade of theirs was named Hallvard. They had five ships all
well equipped. They plundered the Hebrides reaching the Barra
Isles where there ruled a king named Kjarval who also had five
ships. These they attacked; there was a fierce battle between
them in which Onund's men fought with the utmost bravery. After
many had fallen on both sides the battle ended with the king
taking to flight with a single ship; the rest were captured by
Onund's force along with much booty. They stayed there for the
winter and spent the succeeding three summers harrying the
coasts of Ireland and Scotland after which they returned to
THE BATTLE OF HAFRSFJORD
At that time Norway was very disturbed. Harald Shockhead the
son of Halfdan the Black till then king of the Upplands was
aiming at the supreme kingship. He went into the North and
fought many battles there in which he was always victorious.
Then he marched harrying through the territories to the South
bringing them into subjection wherever he came. On reaching
Hordland he was opposed by a motley multitude led by Kjotvi the
Wealthy Thorir Long-chin and Soti and King Sulki from South
Rogaland. Geirmund Swarthyskin was then away in the West beyond
the sea so he was not present at the battle although Hordland
belonged to his dominion.
Onund and his party had arrived that autumn from the western
seas and when Thorir and Kjotvi heard of their landing they sent
envoys to ask for their aid promising to treat them with honour.
They were very anxious for an opportunity of distinguishing
themselves so they joined Thorir's forces and declared that
they would be in the thickest part of the battle. They met King
Harald in a fjord in Rogaland called Hafrsfjord. The forces on
each side were very large and the battle was one of the greatest
ever fought in Norway. There are many accounts of it for one
always hears much about those people of whom the saga is told.
Troops had come in from all the country around and from other
countries as well besides a multitude of vikings. Onund brought
his ship alongside of that of Thorir Long-chin in the very middle
of the battle. King Harald made for Thorir's ship knowing him
to be a terrible berserk and very brave. The fighting was
desperate on either side. Then the king ordered his berserks
the men called Wolfskins forward. No iron could hurt them and
when they charged nothing could withstand them. Thorir defended
himself bravely and fell on his ship fighting valiantly. The
whole ship from stem to stern was cleared and her fastenings were
cut so that she fell out of the line of battle. Then they
attacked Onund's ship in the forepart of which he was standing
and fighting manfully. The king's men said: "He bears himself
well in the forecastle. Let us give him something to remind him
of having been in the battle." Onund was stepping out with one
foot on to the bulwark and as he was striking they made a thrust
at him with a spear; in parrying it he bent backwards and at
that moment a man on the forecastle of the king's ship struck him
and took off his leg below the knee disabling him at a blow.
With him fell the greater number of his men. They carried him to
a ship belonging to a man named Thrand a son of Bjorn and
brother of Eyvind the Easterner. He was fighting against King
Harald and his ship was lying on the other side of Onund's.
Then there was a general flight. Thrand and the rest of the
vikings escaped any way they could and sailed away westwards.
They took with them Onund and Balki and Hallvard Sugandi. Onund
recovered and went about for the rest of his life with a wooden
leg wherefore he was called Onund Treefoot as long as he lived.
MEETING OF DEFEATED CHIEFS IN THE WEST AND MARRIAGE OF ONUND
There were then in the western parts many distinguished men who
had fled from their homes in Norway before King Harald for he
declared all who fought against him outlaws and seized their
property. As soon as Onund had recovered from his wound Thrand
went with his party to Geirmund Swarthyskin who was the most
eminent of the vikings in the West. They asked him whether he
was not going to try and regain his kingdom in Hordland and
offered to join him hoping by this means to do something for
their own properties for Onund was very wealthy and his kindred
very powerful. Geirmund answered that Harald had such a force
that there was little hope of gaining any honour by fighting when
the whole country had joined against him and been beaten. He had
no mind he said to become the king's thrall and to beg for
that which he had once possessed in his own right. Seeing that
he was no longer in the vigour of his youth he preferred to find
some other occupation. So Onund and his party returned to the
Southern Islands where they met many of their friends.
There was a man named Ofeig nicknamed Grettir. He was the son
of Einar the son of Olvir the Babyman. He was a brother of
Oleif the Broad the father of Thormod Shaft. Another son of
Olvir was named Steinolf the father of Una whom Thorbjorn the
Salmon-man married. A third son of Olvir was Steinmod who was
the father of Konal the father of Alfdis of the Barra Isles.
Konal's son was named Steimnod; he was the father of Halldora
whom Eilif the son of Ketil the One-handed married.
Ofeig Grettir married Asny the daughter of Vestar the son of
Haeing. His sons were Asmund the Beardless and Asbjorn and his
daughters were named Aldis Aesa and Asvor. Ofeig had fled from
the wrath of King Harald into the West over the sea along with
his kinsman Thormod Shaft and all their families. They ravaged
far and wide in the western seas. Thrand and Onund Treefoot were
going West to Ireland to join Thrand's brother Eyvind the
Easterner who had command of the Irish defences. Eyvind's
mother was named Hlif; she was the daughter of Hrolf the son of
Ingjald the son of King Frodi while Thrand's mother was Helga
the daughter of Ondott Crow. The father of Eyvind and Thrand was
Bjorn the son of Hrolf of Ar. He had had to leave Gautland
because he had burnt in his house Sigfast the father-in-law of
King Solvi. Then he went to Norway and spent the winter with
Grim the Hersir a son of Kolbjorn the Sneak who wanted to
murder him for his money. Thence Bjorn went to Ondott Crow who
lived in Hvinisfjord in Agdir. There he was well received
stayed the winter and went campaigning with Ondott in the summer
until his wife Hlif died. Eventually Ondott gave Bjorn his
daughter Helga and Bjorn then no longer went out to fight.
Eyvind had taken over his father's ships and become a great chief
in the western parts. He married Rafarta the daughter of the
Irish king Kjarval. Their sons were Helgi the Lean and
When Thrand and Onund came to the Southern Islands they found
there Ofeig Grettir and Thormod Shaft with whom they became very
friendly for each thought the others had risen from the dead
their last meeting having been in Norway when the war was at its
worst. Onund was very silent and Thrand when he noticed it
asked what was on his mind. Onund answered with a verse:
"No joy is mine since in battle I fought.
Many the sorrows that o'er me lower.
Men hold me for nought; this thought is the worst
of all that oppresses my sorrowing heart."
Thrand said: "Why you still seem as full of vigour as ever you
were. You may yet settle down and marry. You shall have my good
word and my interest if you will only tell me whom you fancy."
Onund said he behaved nobly; but said there had once been a time
when his chances of making a profitable marriage had been better.
Thrand said: "Ofeig has a daughter named Aesa; we might mention
it if you like."
Onund said he would like it and soon afterwards Ofeig was
approached on the subject. He received the proposal favourably
saying he knew the man to be of good lineage and to have some
wealth in movable property though his lands were not worth
much. "But" he said "I do not think he is very wise. Why
my daughter is quite a child."
Thrand said that Onund was more vigorous than many a man whose
legs were sounder.
So with the aid of Thrand the terms were settled. Ofeig was to
give his daughter a portion in cash for neither would reckon
anything for his lands in Norway. Soon afterwards Thrand was
betrothed to the daughter of Thormod Shaft. Both the maids were
to remain plighted for three years.
Then they went on fighting expeditions in the summer remaining
in the Barra Isles during the winter.
FIGHT WITH VIKINGS VIGBJOD AND VESTMAR
There were two Vikings from the Southern Isles named Vigbjod and
Vestmar; they were abroad both summer and winter. They had eight
ships and harried mostly round the coast of Ireland where they
did many an evil deed until Eyvind undertook the defence of the
coast when they retired to the Hebrides to harry there and
right in to the Scotch firths. Thrand and Onund went out against
them and learned that they had sailed to an island called Bot.
Onund and Thrand followed them thither with five ships and when
the vikings sighted them and saw how many there were they
thought their own force was sufficient so they took to their
arms and advanced to the attack. Onund ordered his ships to take
up a position between two rocks where there was a deep but narrow
channel open to attack from one side only and by not more than
five ships at once. Onund was a very wily man. He sent his five
ships forward into the channel so that as there was plenty of
sea room behind them they could easily retire by merely backing
their oars. One ship he brought under an island lying on their
beam and carried a great stone to a place on the front of the
rock where it could not be seen from the enemy's ships. The
Vikings came boldly on thinking they had caught them in a trap.
Vigbjod asked who they were that he had hemmed in. Thrand
answered that he was a brother of Eyvind the Easterner and the
man with him was his comrade Onund Treefoot. The vikings
laughed and said:
"Trolls take the rascal Treefoot
and lay him even with the ground.
Never yet did I see men go to battle who could not carry
Onund said that could not be known until it was tried. Then the
ships came together. There was a great battle in which both
sides fought bravely. When the battle was thick Onund ordered
his ships to back their oars. The vikings seeing it thought they
were taking to flight and pushed on with all their might coming
under the rock just at the moment when the party which had been
dispatched for that purpose arrived. They launched upon the
vikings stones so huge that nothing could hold against them. A
number of the vikings were killed and others were so injured
that they could fight no more. Then the vikings tried to escape
but could not as their ships were in the narrowest part of the
channel and were impeded both by the current and by the enemy's
ships. Onund's men vigorously attacked the wing commanded by
Vigbjod while Thrand engaged Vestmar but effected little. When
the men on Vigbjod's ship had been somewhat reduced Onund's men
he himself with them prepared to board her. On seeing that
Vigbjod spurred on his men resolutely. He turned against Onund
most of whose men gave way. Onund was a man of immense strength
and he bade his followers observe how it fared with them. They
shoved a log under the stump of his leg so that he stood pretty
firm. The viking dashed forward reached Onund and hewed at him