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As they rowed home, the thrall, Glaum, made such outcries that they were tired of his noise, and on reaching the mainland they slew him.

One morning, Thorbjorn Hook rode with twenty men to Bjarg, in the Middle-frith, with Grettir's head hanging at his saddle-bow. On reaching the house he dismounted, and stalked into the hall, where Grettir's mother was seated with her servant. Thorbjorn flung her son's head at her feet, and sang:—

"Flitted I from the island,
With me the head of Grettir; «
That yellow head, which women
Weep; with it I am standing.
Look you! the peace-destroyer's
Head lyeth on the pavement;
Look you! it cannot moulder
Now that it well is salted."

The lady sat proudly in her seat, and did not shed a tear; but lifting her voice in reply, she sang:—

"Milksop! no less than sheep
Flee before the fox,
Would you have fled before
Grettir strong and hale!"

After this the Hook returned home, and folk wondered at Asdisa, saying that none but she could have borne such sons as those twain who slept in Drangey.

I must detain the reader for awhile with a few remarks I wish to make on this story—a very touching one to me, who have followed the brave man from cradle to grave, and have watched his character unfolding, in all its stem beauty. The death of Grettir is mentioned in the Icelandic annals, under the date 1033, as also in the Landnama, or Icelandic domesday book.

Some incidents in Grettir's eventful career are related in other Sagas, and the brave outlaw is mentioned in several genealogies. The persons spoken of in the Gretla are

of, again and again, in numerous other Sagas, and in no case is there an anachronism.

Grettir was once captured by several boors, and would have been hung, had not a rich lady interposed to save his life. This incident is also related in the Fostbroethra Saga; and there is a curious incidental expression in a fragment of the Thorthar Saga, printed in Nordiske Oldskrifter XXVII., which seems to bear on this point. Thorth is related to have blessed the Middle-frith in these words: "This I say, that the man who grows up in this vale, shall never be hung!"

The Gretla mentions a certain Gisli, a boaster, who vowed that he would slay Grettir. The outlaw stripped the man, whipped him, and sent him home with a flea in his ear. The Viga-styr Saga, the earliest of all Icelandic Sagas, casually speaks of this very Gisli, and, without relating this incident, gives him precisely the character which is attributed to him in the Gretla. The murder of Atli, brother of our hero, and the consequent revenge, are spoken of in the Barthar Saga. The circumstance of Grettir having lived in a cave near the farm of Bjorn Hitdcelakappi, is alluded to in the Bjarnar Saga. In the Gretla, mention is made of the squabbles which took place between Bjorn and a certain Thorth. The Bjarnar Saga gives an account of this feud. In our Saga, Grettir is spoken of as meeting Viga-Barth wounded and exhausted, after a hard fight in which he had revenged the death of his brother: the Heitharvigum Saga gives the details of the murder and the expedition to revenge it. Thus one Saga explains and supports another.

I have mentioned only a few instances out of many, to show the reader the authority we have for regarding these stories as historical. But these are not the only testimonies to the truth of the narrative; there are geographical details in the Saga which will bear the closest scrutiny. In the account of Grettir's life among the Eagle tarns, his hut is said to have been situated near a spit of land which projects into the Great Arnarvatn, and he is spoken of as swimming along the side of this spit without being observed by a hired assassin, who was on the look-out for him, standing on the end of the promontory.

Now the appearance of the lake itself bears out the statement of the Saga in the most emphatic manner. The only grassy spot along the shore of the lake faces the south, and is close to a tongue of land covered with herbage, rising about nine feet abruptly from the water's edge with an almost overhanging scarp; so that any one swimming close along the side would necessarily be hidden from the person on the top. Near the same lake is a cleft in the rock, in which Grettir defended himself against a band of men, led against him by Thorir of Garth. A friend of the outlaw, named Hallmund, stationed himself behind him, and guarded his back, without being himself visible. The description in the Saga of the way in which this support was given is puzzling; but on seeing the rift where the conflict took place, all the difficulty vanishes. There is a nook like a sentry-box in the side of the cleft, and it was in this that Hallmund ensconced himself, so that he could hew down any one who attempted to pass through the chasm, whilst he remained completely screened from observation.

There remain, it must be allowed, some incidents in the narrative which are undoubtedly fabulous, and which have been inserted to fill up and adorn the story; but these are easily distinguishable from the facts. For instance, it is told of Grettir that he broke open an old vikings-cairn, and, after a hard struggle with the tomb-dweller, despoiled him of his sword and treasures. This same adventure is found in the Floamanna, Holmverja, Hromundar, Barthar Sagas; also in those of Olaf Geirstafa-alfs and the elder and younger histories of Olaf the saint. It is unquestionably a myth which has suffered anthropomorphosis, and represents the descent of the sun into the grave of winter, to return after having despoiled it of its prey—the fruits of the earth.

The belief in vampires is so widely spread, that I hardly like to dismiss the story of Glamr as a fable; it is, moreover, susceptible of an explanation. The Vale of Shadows was always famous for being a stronghold of robbers and menslayers, so that Glamr may have been simply a freebooter, who was invested with a supernatural character by the fears of the inhabitants. The witchcraft in the account of Grettir's death is easily explained away. It was the interest of Grettir's friends, and of Thorir his enemy, to circulate the story that Grettir came by his death through unhallowed means; thus the outlaw's kindred were able to bring an action against his slayer, and Thorir was freed from the necessity of paying the price he had offered for his head.

The Saga writer is careful to tell us that the thrall informed Thorbjorn's companions of the cause of Grettir's sickness, before he was killed. That the outlaw wounded himself whilst chopping up wood is by no means improbable, and that his condition of body was so unhealthy that the wound modified, is likely enough, as his food had been confined to sea-birds and fish.

This sickness was connected with Thorbjorn Hook by the fact of Thorbjorn having a foster-mother who Jhad always been accounted a witch; and thus the supernatural portion of the story was engrafted on the main body of fact.

The Saga has undergone embellishments, but the main facts are indisputably true. Perhaps no better idea of its relation to pure unadulterated history can be obtained than through an incident related to me by the priest of Hvammr in Northrardalr. He said that there had lived an old farmer at Langadalr within the memory of man, the same who had transcribed the volume of Sagas which I saw at Underfell in the Vatnsdalr. This farmer had been enthusiastic in his admiration of the Gretla. One night he saw, or dreamed that he saw, a tall figure approach his bedside, and at once he recognized Grettir the Strong.

The old man's face brightened up, and rising in his bed he held with the hero a long conversation, of which only this is reported.

Said the farmer: "Tell me, who was the strongest man in Iceland: was he Orm Storolfson?"

"Orm Storolfson!" exclaimed the apparition, with contempt; "I tell you, I have seen stones in Norway which Orm had lifted, and I could toss every one of them."

"Then, who was Iceland's greatest hero?"

"Egill Skallagrimson! He was unsurpassed."

"Tell me next, Grettir! whether the story of your wrestle with Glamr is true?"

"That was a bad business," answered Grettir, shaking his head. "Ask me no more on that subject."

"And about your descent of Gothafoss, after a tussle with a Troll woman?"

"It is true that I strove with something there, but what that thing was I cannot tell, as the struggle took place at night. I did swim beneath the falls."

"Is the Saga about you quite true?" asked the bonder.

"It is touched up," answered the strong man; "but it is for the most part quite trustworthy."

To his dying day the farmer protested that this interview really took place.

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