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The Saga of Aron Hjorleifsson
Translated by John Porter
Published by Pirate Press circa 1975
This saga was written around 1340 and deals with events from the first half of the 13th century. It follows the life of Aron Hjorleifsson, who was a follower of Bishop Gudmund Arason at Holar, one of Iceland’s two bishops. Bishop Gudmund, who has his own saga, got into conflicts with the leading chieftains of the island, leading to open warfare. This saga narrates a battle that took place just off of Iceland, and then goes on to follow Aron’s exploits as he roams the country as an outlaw.
This translation was published in 1975 with very copies printed. We have republished the entire translation.
It is the beginning of this saga that King Sverri, the son of Sigurd Haraldsson, ruled over Norway, as men know. At that time the bishops in Iceland were Bishop Pall Jonsson in Skalholt and Bishop Gudmund Arason at Holar. These were the men of authority among the lay people: Jon Loptsson and Saemund, his son; Gizur Hallsson and Thorvald, his son, and Magnus, who later on was bishop at Skalholt; Snorri Sturluson and his brothers Thord and Sighvat. There was a man named Hjorleif and he was the son of Gils. His wife was named Sigrid, and she was the daughter of Hafthorir. They were both well born. Hjorleif was a handsome man, both in stature and looks and strength, so that his equal was scarcely to be found in his time. Aron was the name of his eldest son, and this saga is mostly about him. Their second son was named Ofeig, the third Bard, the fourth Olaf, who was afterwards abbot at Helgafell. Hjorleif lived first in Bjarnarhofn, and then in Miklaholt. He was a most generous man with his goods. There was no lack of wealth at that time. He was popular and widely renowned. Sigrid, his wife, was beautiful, and skilled in handicraft, and many benefited from this, both relatives and those outside the family. Still more was said about how even-tempered she was in disposition, for it may be declared that every child loved her wholeheartedly. Aron grew up with his father and mother in Miklaholt. At an early age he was already well-grown, clever and good natured towards his friends. It was evident that he was contentious in all matters which he found not done to his liking, as will be told later in the saga, though he always acted manfully and with moderation. Hjorleif had many other children besides these sons who were named just now. Yngvild was the name of Hjorleif’s mother, and she was the daughter of Halldor, the son of Brand the Open-Handed, who was famous both at home and abroad, Hafthorir, Sigrid’s father, was the son of Aron, the son of Bard the Black from Selardal. These were the brothers of Hjorleif Gileson: Solvi the priest, a noteworthy man; the second Thord; Helgi the third. They were all men of mettle, noble-minded, strong and handsome. Their dispositions followed suit, so that their like was scarcely to be found. But Hjorleif was ahead of them in many things. One token of Hjorleif’s strength was that with one arm he could hew the head off any ox that was brought forward, and off two oxen if he used both arms.
There was a man named Thorlak, the son of Ketill, who lived in good style on the farm at Hitardal, and was very much an aristocrat. His wife was named Gudlaug, and she was the daughter of Eyjolf. She was an outstanding woman. Thorlak Ketilsson was a close kinsman and good friend of Sigrid, Aron’s mother, and so Sigrid visited him when she gave up the farm at Miklaholt. Two of her sons, Aron and Bard, went there with her. Aron was well-grown by then, but Bard was one year old. Thorlak received them well and nobly. Sighvat Sturluson had many sons: Tumi, and Sturla, and Thord, and more besides, though they are not named here. Thorlak and Sighvat were firm friends, so Sturla Sighvatsson was fostered with Thorlak for a long time, treated both well and affectionately. Sturla was a most handsome man, both in build and appearance. Aron and Sturla were counted to be the same age. So they were like foster-brothers. And things went very well with them at that time though their games were rather vigorously fought. But when the two companions began to fall out more, then Helgi, Aron’s uncle, invited him to stay with him. And Aron accepted that. And when Helgi went west, to the fiords to collect his debts, his kinsman Aron travelled with him. They came to Flatey in Breidafjord. A famous man lived there – Eyjolf Karsson. He was married to a woman named Herdis, the daughter of Hrafn. She was Aron’s close kinswoman. They invited Aron to stay with them if Helgi should go abroad in the summer, as he had vowed. Aron.accepted this, was two winters with Eyjolf, and was treated affectionately. Eyjolf was a great friend of Bishop Gudmund of Holar, so that he staked his life for his life as soon as he needed it. At this time it looked as if there would be a great quarrel in the north between Bishop Gudmund and Sighvat Sturluson. The brothers Sturla and Tamil along with many other chieftains, supported their father in this. This plotting caused great harm to many men in the north, for many lost property and security and got exile instead, and some lost their lives on account of the tyranny of Sighvat and his sons, because they persecuted Bishop Gudmund with injustice, so there was much violence and danger. Now it happens that they collect a force and claim as a cause that they thought the bishop too stubborn, and they thought themselves unable to commit all the villainy they wanted, and were therefore eager for revenge on the bishop’s men, for he looked after his friends bravely. And when the bishop became aware of their intent he grew very concerned, but adopted a bold and wise plan. He sent word to his friends that they should join him to discuss the crisis. The first man he summoned was Eyjolf Karsson. He responded well to the bishop’s message, and went quickly to meet him. This expedition was the first one that Aron made with his kinsmen Ejjolf, of which there is any report. All the bishop’s friends came to Holar at the end of summer, and they laid their plans together. And it seemed clear to most that the bishop would be too short-handed to rise against or contend with so many chiefs. The bishop too was of the same opinion. And while they sat planning, the enemy bands had got underway for Holar. The bishop has a force collected around Skagafjord, and it seemed advisable to withdraw. There were reports that they intended to take the bishop into their power and repress him with hard terms, or take over the episcopal buildings, which they did. Now the bishop steered out along Skagafjord to Malmey, and they settled down there, and all-told they were nearly seventy men. Now it is to be told that when the enemy bands came to Holar and found the bishop gone, and all the ships away, then they decided to disperse the strongest bands. Then Tumi established himself in the episcopal buildings, appropriated the property of the saints as though he were heir to it, and drove away all those men whom the bishop had put in charge. Tani organizes the household routine in such a way that he had a strong watch on the place and a mounted guard outside the village. Tani had many men, though some hardly fit to bear arms. Now he stayed for a while, so that neither side attacks the other.
Now it is to be told about the bishop and his men that they camped in Malmey and collected provisions. Eyjolf Karsson was with the bishop and was a leading adviser, and second was Aron, whom Eyjolf valued very highly. Aron was mostly in charge of forays for supplies, and chose men after his own kind to go with him. They always had to go to the mainland for supplies. And when Tumi found out about this, then he had guards. posted on the coast, so that there was nowhere they could make a landing. Now the bishop again suffers great anxiety from severe trials, and it was an open plot on his life. The leaders made it plain in their discussions that they would run the risk of great danger to avenge their own and the bishop’s disgrace.
Now life begins to get hard on-the island, and the weather worsened, and now food becomes scarce. They stay like this for a time. Now the winter wears on. And when they saw that it could not go on that way, then Eyjolf and Aron plan, with Bishop Gudmund’s consent, to run some risk of life to seek provisions where they thought they had most right to them, and that was at Holar, from where they had lately been driven off. Now they intend not to let the chance of great feats escape, if it is offered. Christmas passes now, and it was put off so long because they thought that Holar would be proof against attack on account of the guard and the crowd of men. There is a man named Audun, and he was called Cripple-Hand. He was a little man, nearly a half dwarf. They sent him to the mainland after Christmas to get some news. They told him that he must stay for as long a possible at Holar between Christmas and Lent. Tumi received strangers hospitably then. He should also find out the household arrangements and the beds of the more important men, and also discover whether Tumi slept in the outhouse or the hall. He was to sleep less by night than by day, and act as though an attack by the bishop’s men were a certainty, and that it would be by night rather than by day. And at that time when it was drawing on to Candlemas, stormy weather set in. It is told that one evening, when
Tumi had come to table, that he called his watchmen to him, and gives them leave for the night, and they took it. And the same evening Bishop Gudmund said to his men, Eyjolf and Aron, that he had a foreboding that on this night would fall the best chance to relieve their trouble somewhat, even though they might think it not without danger because of the storm. They now wished immediately, on Bishop Gudmund’s direction, to go to every length, because what he said to them always seemed to be highly prophetic.
Now it is to be told that they gather the followers together and want to find out who seems best suited for this expedition, and there are thirty-five men who did not refuse, and wished to say nothing against the plan. The leaders of the raid are Eyjolf and Aron. Einar was named as a third; he was nicknamed Short-Seal. He was a kinsman of Bishop Gudmund and had suffered great trials from the Sturlungs in loss of men and damage to property. Now they start quickly and push the ships out to sea and carry stones aboard, for they thought that because of the gale it would not be possible to sail in unballasted ships. The bishop’s men did not stop before they reached land. They went to the farm named Osland, and there learned the news that Tumi was at home and slept in the outhouse with fourteen men, and most of those were picked for their usefulness with weapons. Now Eyjolf and his men put on their armour and set out eagerly and reached the cathedral establishment shortly before day, taking everyone unawares. It was one night before the feast of Saint Agatha. After that Eyjolf and Einar arranged their troops for the attack. The bravest fighters were picked to attack the outhouse, and some to guard the exits from the dwelling houses, and they fixed bars in front of them. Now this sets up a great din, and those who were in the outhouse spring up and get into their clothes, and they all laid hold of some weapon. And at this moment the attackers were carrying logs to the outhouse door, for strong iron locks-fastened them, and they had to give way, and inside there was a thick array of hardy men. And there was no lack of bold defence, and it lasted long. At that moment they rammed the doors and Aron got into the outhouse, and four men with him, and blows are exchanged. And then Tumi got a great wound, and it was attributedto Aron, but he neither denied nor acknowledged it. Now all the lights went out in the outhouse. Aron and his companions go back out to their men, for it seemed hard to gain the advantage. They wanted to look for other ways of capturing the outhouse. They had a big fire brought and set it to the wood which they had dragged up, But all the time they kept up a skirmishing attack, and seldom has a harder struggle gone on as long as this, according to men’s reports. Now the wind quickly kindles the fire, and the flame gushed up, and the smoke increased, Tumi and his men now see that they are beaten. Tumi now asks to come out, and for quarter, and offers a specious settlement, and they were allowed to come out if they dropped their weapons, but no quarter was promised them. Then they gave them a thorough beating in military style. Five or six men went out before Tumi and were all seized. Then this verse was recited:
Battle-hardy chieftains made fierce
battle with the sword in winter at
Holar. When the weapon-skilled warriors
attacked Thorgeir, the nobly-born Tumi
was felled to the earth with Bergthor.
It was now clear daylight. They made what terms they pleased with those who were left. They explored the household and took free possession of the churches and the bishop’s property, provisions, and clothing, and their reason for this was a sufficient need, and they made away with some haste when they thought the time best. They were now glad and cheerful. At Holar the men put out the fire. The bishop’s men had now changed cargoes, loaded the ship with good stores and thrown out the stones. The weather calmed, too, as soon as they were out at sea. They took to the oars, and the voyage was altogether easier than they thought likely. They came back to Malmey on the following night. Eyjolf and Aron went straight home from the ship, and came to the room which Bishop Gudmund slept in. He was at his prayers, and welcomed them first, then asked for news, and they told him what had happened, and he thought it great tidings, but said he expected that their dealings had gone according to God’s foresight. Then this verse was recited:
With great risk the battle-skilled
warriors attacked Tumi at Kolar; I
say that the brave warrior fell. Aron
went first into the outhouse; he made
the weapons red with warriors’ blood.
It is now to be told of those who were at Holar, that they thronged around the dead men and took care of them. This news reached Sturla and Sighvat, and they thought themselves hard hit. And then the news spread around the whole country. Now the Sturlungs swelled with a great anger, and many a man paid for it afterwards. Now Sighvat mans the cathedral a second time, and nothing noteworthy happens. Both parties sit quiet fora long time during what was left of winter. But when the winter was drawing to an end food was needed but none was available and there were many men. Then Bishop Gudmund’s advisers felt that they should not put up with this. They were always of good courage, and firm about what they wanted done, and they now sailed north to Grimsey. Nothing is told but that the voyage went well. They now settle down there. A man named Gnup lived there on the island, and he was the man of most standing. It was usually the case that there were enough catches on the island, and there was enough to provide for many men, even though there was great shortage on the mainland. Another reason why the bishop wanted to go there was that he felt it his fluty, as it was, to examine the people’s religion and to improve the state of Christianity as far as he could and where it was most needed, and to do what pertained to episcopal office. At Easter, it happened that Einar Short-Seal fell ill with haemorrhage, and his nostrils bled. Einar was the bishop’s kinsman and firm friend, and a man of high standing. Therefore it seemed a great loss if he were to die. The bishop himself went to staunch his bleeding, and it sufficed at first. But the haemorrhage came upon him yet again, so fiercely that men say that blood spurted out from both mouth and ears. Then Bishop Gudmund said that this disease would cause his death. He said he thought so because the bleeding was so fierce. Yet he managed to staunch it for a second time, according to what people say. And when it did not come out of his nostrils or other organs, then it sprang out between the shoulders. After that his strength grew less. A little later Einar died.
Elsewhere, it is to be told that Sighvat and his son Sturla thought they had had bad treatment, and have suffered severely by the death of kinsmen and friends. Many agreed with them that this was so. After that they had men gathered, and they formed a great crowds directing all their enmity against those men that had been at the slaughter at Holar, and they thought there was much else to draw them one. Now they hear that the bishop has come to Grimsey, and no meeting with him, or his men will be made unless an expedition is sent to the island. So Sturla and Sighvat have ships seized wherever they could, small and large. More men came together there than had most often before been in Iceland, apart from Assemblies. It has been said that they had thirty-five ships on this expedition. The bishop’s men had guards out, for they had no need to doubt that attack was certain. Sturla was more the leader than Sighvat on this occasion, for he was full grown. Sturla was a most precocious man, as all those who have seen him have said that he was superior to other men. Sighvat took the main share in their planning. They set off from Iceland in good weather as soon as they were ready. And when the bishop’s men on the island saw the coming of the ships at sunrise they immediately gave Eyjolf warning. Then each one tells others, and they all spring up very bravely and put on such armour as there was, which was very little. Men do not shrink from facing that they must deal with an attack. The bishop dressed and goes to church with his clerics, Then he says some fair and grateful words for his men, for there was no time to say as much as he wished. After this Eyjolf and Aron and their men move down to the sea and draw up their forces at the harbours for which the ships were heading. They saw that they were very short of strength, and it seemed likelier to most men that not all who were there among them would be alive to tell the news that evening. Aron was put in command of the defence at the best landing place on the island. Most thought it very likely that some of the leaders would try to make a landing there. They were drawn up in front of the landing places, and wanted to put up a brave defence in battle. Eyjolf bore himself very valiantly that day, as all reports witness Aron had seventeen men with him where he war, positioned. Eyjolf thought they had got a fine leader there. The ships still had a long way to sail to land.
Then Aron looked at the troop arranged around him, and thought it poorly equipped with weapons. Great lack of money was the cause of this. Then he spoke to Eyjolf and asked whether any man in his band was carrying Tumi’s weapons. Eyjolf said they were at home, that few were fit to use them, and said that he himself did not need them. “It seems to me that Sighvat and his son are in an angry enough mood without such signs of provocation being made, seeing the difference of numbers there it to cope with.” Aron says that it was unthinkable that his men should be “weaponless and naked against the sword-blades of my armed enemies,” and that they should not dare to wield weapons which were the greatest treasures. “I think I shall live as long even though I do bear them; what’s more, there is still time to fetch them.” He now hands his weapons over to the men whom he thought likely to make best use of them. He turns back quickly and meets the bishop in the churchyard, and greets him cheerfully. The bishop answers Aron affectionately, for he loved him more than most men, as seems to have been proved later on. Now Aron goes and a himself with the trusty mail-coat and helmet. The third weapon was a large and heavy sword, and was an excellent weapon. Then he goes outside. The bishop is once again before him, and approves his action, “and now I wish, my son,” says the bishop, “that you go to.confession with me.”
“There is no time for that now, my lord,” says Aron, “because the defences will not be too thickly manned, and a man’s help is always something.”
“That is well spoken,” says the bishop, “but you should always be as devout as possible, my son, and do your best for the poor.” Now the bishop blesses him, and says, “I have a presentiment, my son, that you will be harshly treated the Sturlungs, but even so I expect that we shall meet again later.” And that is thought to have been very prophetic, for it seemed most unlikely at the time and for long afterwards. Aron turns away and the bishop bids him farewell.
Now the fleet of ships draws towards the land. Aron comes to the position he had been assigned. It was not a broad harbour, but there was very deep water close to shore. Above it there was also a line of seaweed. There were cliff on both sides too, and it was not easy to get ashore, even with only a few men ready for defence at the top. Men generally estimate that there were four hundred and eighty men with Sighvat and Sturla, and there were seventy against them. Now Aron tells his men to draw their weapons and give as manly a resistance as the means allow. Eyjolf said the same to his men and says that each valiant man wins himself a generous pardon on this day as at other times, if his conduct and deeds display great heroism before the battle ends. Now seven ships come to land in the place where Aron was defending, and Sturla is in command of them. He was easy to recognize, for he was standing up. Also, he greatly excelled other men in both strength and looks and build, so that most men could not compare with him. And when they were almost ashore Sturla searches for where the leaders were standing, and wants above all to attack there. Now when he sees who is standing in front he speaks in this way: “There stands that devil Aron; attack him boldly now, and kill him quickly.” Aron answered, and brandished Tumi’s drawn sword in his hand. “Here you may see cowardly friend, the sword of Tumi, your brother. Attack now as you please. We shall wait unshaking and defend ourselves like warriors.” Thormod the priest-poet said this about it:
The open-handed warrior, he who spoke
hard words of hate to Aron, was standing
on the ship. But, in the hearing of all,
the truly famous fighter flung back much
the same biting reply to the chief.
Now Sturla swells with rage, and they leapt from the ships and up on to the line of seaweed. Now Aron turns to him immediately and thrusts Tumi’s sword at Sturla’s middle with all the strength he had. And because the sole of his shoe was smooth and the seaweed slippery, Sturla staggers and falls. So says Thormod the priest:
Sturla, strong in strife, went ashore
where sturdy Aron defended the land
with fine men. But the generous man
struck at Sturlats body so that he
fell – that was a mighty deed.
And again he said thus:
Hjorleif’s son dealt wounds to men on all
Sides with his sword; the warrior wielded
his arm. Many a man sank down with
bloody wounds; swords were broken; at
last the famous hero sank near the cool sea.
Now as Sturla fell on to the seaweed Aron hews at him immediately with both hands so strongly that it would have finished him completely if there had been only two in the fight. There is a man named Sigmund Peg. With great haste he threw a shield over a Sturla, and the blow struck it, and Sturla sprang up. Then there was nothing to question about the attack on Aron and all those who were with him. The defense was very keen, but not lengthy, since there was a great difference in numbers. Some men quickly lost their lives there, and some fell to the ground badly wounded. Aron fought on much longer than most other men who had been alongside him. A rather remarkable thing happened, for it is said that Sturla himself, and many other man, thought he had overcome him in his attack. And for a long time the spears stood so thick on Aron that some of the spearheads supported him while others were thrust at him. But the mail-coat was so stout that nothing went in, and so he could not fall as quickly as he would have done otherwise. Aron got three wounds, but not mortal ones. One thrust pierced the cheek and lodged in the palate on the other side, and that was a painful gag. He got a second wound in the outside of the thigh, and the third on the instep, and this defence of his was very famous. Then it ended in this way, that Aron grew exhausted by weariness.and loss of blood, so that he fell at last, though it was later than was expected. Now although Aron showed more manliness in this defence than seemed likely, it is attributed more to God’s mercy and Bishop Gudmund’s prayers than to any special prowess of his own, though he was in all ways the bravest man; and another thing helped, that those who were defending Bishop Gudmund had less to answer for before God than those who attacked him. This was composed about it:
Sturla fought a battle on Grimsey,
where the good farmers fled. The
warrior hewed off heads.
Aron went forward full of wrath in
the fierce fight against Sturla, for
he did not fear; he split men rather
Now after that Sturla wants to find out about his father, and how his encounter with Eyjolf has turned out. Their dealings had gone much according to expectation. Eyjolf had put up the bravest defence, just as he was accustomed. There were many men fallen there, some dead and some wounded. And other men had gone to the church, thinking to get some help from there for life or limb. Sighvat and his son thought that Eyjolf would have gone with them. They now make their way to where the bishop was. He was in the church with his clerics, and at his prayers. But when the bishop hears the din he goes out in front of the church doors. And when Sturla arrives outside, then rather harsh greetings were chosen for the bishop and his men. The bishop answers all boldly, though with fine calm, for great troubles had now come to hand. Sturla and his men ask if Eyjolf is in the church, and for the other man, Einar Short-Seal, his brother’s killer, whom they hated greatly. Then they were told that Eyjolf was not there, and Einar’s death was also announced, with the true details. But Sighvat and Sturla had not heard about that. Now they would not rely on the greatest danger of attack for the time being, Arni the priest looks at Aron’s wounds, and three blade-wounds are found, and his body was extensively blue and gashed. They steep the wounds in water blessed by Bishop Gudmund, and after that they bandage them. Now nothing is told of their journey until they come to the mainland. They beached their boat where they thought it would be best situated. They went now to the nearest farm and asked the farmer for shelter for the he night, and the farmer offered them some sort of lodging. They went in after that, and soon sat themselves down, for they were very way-weary, and for some there was yet more reason. Then the farmer asked carefully for news, and they tell him most clearly about it. They are there for some nights. After that, Arni the priest unbinds Aron’s wounds, and all the clotted blood was loose in the wounds, as though the best ointment had been applied. Aron said there was little pain from his wounds, considering what might be expected. He attributed it first to Almighty God, and then to Bishop Gudmund’s blessing of the water. Nor had he any other treatment for his wounds than the water which Bishop Gudmund had blessed, and they healed both well and more quickly than usual. And afterwards they struck a bargain with the farmer, and gave him the boat, and took in return horses and such other things as were most needed. After that they set off, and each of them went pretty much his own way to wherever seemed most favourable. They gave Aron the horse which they thought would endure best, and one man on foot. And after that they parted, and Arni the priest is out of this saga.
Aron journeyed to the eastern fiords by the usual paths until he came to Vapnafjord. From there he turns into the Fljotsdal district, intending to make for the southern parts. It is told that he stopped one evening for lodging at the farm called Valthjofsstadir. A farmer named Thorarin lived there, and he was not at home, but his wife received Aron well, and saw clearly that he was in need of hospitable treatment. He was made welcome there for some nights. Then he was eager to be away, but the housewife offered him the choice of staying longer. Nothing is told of his journey until he comes to the farm called Svinafell. A farmer named Orm lived there, and he was called Svinfelling, and was considered a great chieftain at that time. Aron supposed he would be welcomed hospitably there, but he was deceived in that because dangerous spies from Sturla and Sighvat had arrived there ahead of him. It was late in the evening when Aron arrived. Men had eaten, and Orm had gone to the bath, and you had to go outside to the bathhouse. There were guards in front. Aron rode up to the men who held the watch. His horse immediately threw himself down from exhaustion. Men greeted him and asked for his name. He tells his own and his father’s and thought that would not spoil his case. Then a man turns quickly into the bathhouse and tells Orm who has come. “There is the man,” says Orm, “who will not be able to tell the news himself if things go the way I plan take him to the Sorli hut and put a guard on him there.” This man goes outside now to his fellows and says that they are to seize Aron. This came as a great surprise to Aron, and he asked why he should be treated like that. They tell him the reasons, and what they were ordered to do. He said there was no need to lay hands on him. He said he would go with them wherever they wanted, and says that in time hard threats may change, and better things may yet come. Now they go to a little hut, and bolt the door behind them, and Aron was shut in alone. He hangs up his weapons above him, and thinks himself not as welcome as he expected. But he had to put up with it. There were many men at the farm who were opposed to this reception, but it seemed hardest to those who knew something about his ancestors, though few said anything about it. And when Orm came out of the bath he asks what they have done with Aron, and they said where he was. They said that they think he would not give in easily, were their numbers equal on either side, “but we left him as you ordered.” Orm was well pleased with their actions.
There is a man named Thorarin; he was the son of Jon, and was Orm’s brother. He was not such a great friend of the Sturlungs as was his brother Orm. He had come there for a feast. He learns of this plan. He now gets up out of his bed and goes to his brother’s bed. Orm greets his brother well, and asks his errand. “Only a small errand, as it happens. I want to find out about the reception given to Aron, and whether it is as unpleasant as I have heard, for it is very much against my liking that he should be treated like that, considering that he has come here a complete stranger, a child in years, and hardly healed from his wounds.”
“You often make a good speech, brother,” says Orm, “but you should know that I intend to have my way.”
So they separate now, and each holds to his own view. Thorarin goes away. He makes for the little hut with one of his followers, turns the lock at once and goes in. Aron was sitting on the dais, and has Tami’s sword in his hand. Aron greets the man. Thorarin took his greeting, and then spoke quietly to his companion. The man goes out immediately, and is away for a time, and Aron asks the name of the man who remained. He tells it. Aron quickly recognizes him, and feels he hardly knows what his business might be, and he has some doubt about the other man’s disappearance, and what the outcome of it would be.
Now Thorarin asks for news. Aron tells him what he asks. And while they were talking to each other the door was opened and the same man came in. He had bedclothes of eiderdown in his arms, and laid them on the bench. Next he brought a small table. Then a woman came in with food, and Thorarin tells Aron to start eating, and then lie down and sleep, “whatever may happen after; and I must go away, but my man will sleep here tonight.” The night passes, and morning comes. Thorarin is early afoot, and so is his follower. Then he wakes up his men and tells them to get up. They do so. He sends a man to Aron and tells him to get up and dress and be ready for whatever comes to hand. Aron gets up quickly, and when Orm wakes, then Thorarin goes to his brother and asks if Orm has had any change of mind about Aron’s case during the night. Orm says not.
“Then I must tell you,” says Thorarin, “that this will be called the worst act of villainy here in Iceland, and unworthy of a chieftain, and I would suspect the Sturlungs themselves of this deed.”
Then Orm replies: “I see, kinsman, that you plead this case strongly, but I have firmly resolved it.”
Then Thorarin says: “I must make clear what I have in mind, and hide it no longer, that there will be more news to tell of here today than about Aron’s death, for we will all stand together. It may be, if you want to attack, that some men will be rubbing sore sides before both Aron and I are dead.”
Orm answers: “You put great stubbornness into this, brother, as always, and I will not fight with you unnecessarily in order to gain one man’s death. Take the man in your charge now, and do as you like with him.”
Then Thorarin thanks his brother, and it is not told that this caused any discord between them. Thorarin was well thought of for this, and it will long be remembered. Thormod the priest says:
Thorarin was the name of the wise warrior
who bravely helped Aron at Svinafell, in
danger and urgent need. Aron had to suffer
terrible menace and great peril from Orm.
The hardy man therefore prepared to guard
the skilful warrior from his brother.
Thorarin now takes Aron into his charge, and they both stay there together for some time, and go away at the same time. Thorarin gives Aron a good escort, called Gudmund, who was the son of Olaf. He was later with the sons of Hrafn at the turning of Thorvald of Vatnsfjord. These verses were composed about Aron’s arrest at Svinafell.
Morn dawned on the warrior; Aron then faced
a real trial. He was marked out for battle
death by Svinafells Orm. The warrior met
peril well. It has since become renowned.
Generous Thorarin helped him most.
Aron, strong in honours, rode from the east
across the fiords, with swollen wounds. The
generous warrior needed food at Svinafell.
They seized him and he was soon threatened
with death. The guards locked him in a dark
Their journey was well-planned though they had to travel secretly, and more by night than by day- They had to keep a sharp look out for their lives., There are no reports about their night-lodgings until they came to Borgarfjord to the farm called South Raudamel. Solvi Jorundarson, the priest, was living there then, Sigrid, Aron’s mother, was with him. It was about the time of the Assembly. They came to the farm at morning, and most men were asleep. Two boys had gone out to the horses, and they were outside when these men rode to the farm. One of the boys was Bard, Aron’s brother, and the other was named Orm. They greeted the strangers and asked their names. They tell them, but not the true ones, and led the horses behind the house, and took the boys there, and tell them to go in quietly to the bed of Sigrid, Hafthorir’s daughter, and. tell her that some men had arrived outside who wanted to find her. The boys do as they were bid, and she asks what the men were like. They say that they were big and well-armed. She got up then, but tells the boys to sleep and keep quiet about it all. Then she goes out, and one of the men turns straight to her and kisses her, and now she had so much joy at their meeting that at first she was unable to utter a word, and she tells them to go off the main path, and she goes in to Solvi the priest’s beds and tells him what is happening. He springs up quickly and goes out, and the kinsmen meet. He hurriedly gives them advice, and a little later they were taken to a cave which was in the lava-field a long way from the farm, and it is called Aron’s cave. Afterwards provisions were brought there by their trusted friends, so that they could keep alive. They stayed there for a time.
A little later men come from the Assembly, and the news was announced that Aron was outlawed, and fifteen of the bishop’s men. Aron had a heavier sentence than the others, for he was made a full outlaw; unhallowed, and not to be furthered or counselled with any food or shelter, or granted any help whatever, and there were heavy penalties for all those who gave him any assistance. They were now in their cave for some time. And as time drew on they began to act unwarily. Sometimes they came home at night to Solvi the priest. And one evening when they were going to the hot spring, one of Thorlak Ketilsson’s house servants from Kolbeinsstadir was standing out of doors, and,saw men with weapons by th spring, and he thought this a curious sight. But the spring was not on the public way. He tells the housewife, Gudlaug, about this, and she rumours it around. She was always indiscreet with news. But Thorlak called her to him, and spoke quietly to her and told her to hold her tongue, for he thought he knew who the rumour must be about. He was a wise man and true to his friends and always sought out for advice. He gave word to Solvi the priest and Sigrid of the rumour which had come up about Aron’s movements, and says things will not do that way, and told him to go away and seek shelter in a place where his enemies could not lay hands on him. They took this sound advice and went away from there secretly, and in great danger of their lives, and came the farm on Skogarstrand which is called Bardostrand, and rested up with various kinsmen. But he stayed longest with Eyvind and Tomas. But they thought they had no means of sheltering him long, on account of the big bucks who were looking out for him, and they journeyed from there to Arnarfjord, to the farm called Eyr.
At Eyr in Arnarfjord lived two cultured brothers of noble family. One was named Einar, and the other, Sveinbjorn. They were the sons of Hrafn, the son of Sveinbjorn. He was given a good welcome there. Aron asked them for some help and protection. Einar says it is not too easy, since his affairs had come to such an unfortunate state. They realised that revenge would follow, “though being attacked is no harsher than going to law.” But they did not want to refuse, and thought it incumbent on all of them, for kinship’s sake. They took him in their charge that winter and looked after him resolutely. Sturla hears of this and grows very hostile towards the sons of Hrafn, and so the winter passed. And in the following spring the Hrafnssons went to Vatnsfjord, and Aron was on that expedition. News reached Thorvald, and he hurriedly escaped by sea. Then great skirmishes took place; two farmers were killed; one was named Imi, the other, Snorri; and one man had his foot cut off. And with that they went away. In the same spring Sturla came to the Westfjords intending to seek redress from the sons of Hrafn. He felt they had done great damage to his honour and reputation.. Sturla stayed in Selardal and had a small detachment of men. Sturla sends a message to the Hrafnssons. They went quickly to meet him, and had laid such careful plans that they did not have to submit their entire fate to Sturla this time. Aron was back at Eyr then. Things took a rather cool turn between them at first, and there was some struggling. But the end of the matter was that they made a settlement. Sturla was to have such goods as he wanted, and sixty hundreds were to be paid. They tried to get reconciliation for Aron, but the chance of it became remoter the more they pressed for it. They were no longer to shelter Aron in the face of Sturla’s hostility; and they established their friendship before they separated. The sons of Hrafn went home and told what had happened. Aron said that such was to be expected, and says it is his first duty to keep them under censure no longer. But they still gave him some aid. There is a farmer named Johamar. He lived at the farm called Geirthjofsjford’s Eyr. He was the brothers’ tenant. They sent him there with tokens that he was to stay there so that no one should know about it. The farm is well away from the main route. Johamar took Aron in. He stayed there a long time during the summer in secret. Sturla went home and set men to spy on Aron, and some after his head. Sturla sends twenty men to the Westfjord after Aron’s life, and they divided themselves between two places. Some went to the northern fiords and others to the west fiords. He thought that then there was the least chance of failing to find Aron. The man leading those who went west was called Rogavald, and he was the son of Kar. He was a most valued man. The second man who
travelled with him was named Thorvald Sveinsson, and the third was Dansa-Berg, both admirable men and well-armed. Now it is to be told about Aron, that the farmer owned a damaged boat, scarcely sea-worthy, and he rather depended on it for his livelihood. Aron took it in hand to mend the boat for him over the summer. Something happened one day, which had not occurred before, that two men came walking toward Aron, well-armed. Aron had put down all his weapons except for the steel helmet. He turns towards the men and greets them. They return his greeting warmly. He asked their names, and one said he was called Sigurd, and the other Egil. They ask his name. He tells it, and does not conceal his identity. He asks them for news, and where they have come from. They said they had come from the west out of the dales, and are messengers of Thorvald of Vatnsfjord, and they asked Aron why he was acting so rashly, since there was promise of danger for him on all sides. He said that he could not take care of everything. He asked them what recent news they had to tell. They said it was little, “but we met three men cased in mail yesterday, and it seemed a mystery to us, but we have come by certain news that they are set on your head, and it seems likely that this day will not come to an end before you and they meet, if you intend to wait in this spots but we do not call that a good plans.” Aron thinks over their words now, and hardly knows what he should make of it, for the men were strangers to him. Then he thinks of the old proverb: “Have a sound plan, whatever its source”, and sees that it will not do to hesitate, even, though the men might seem undependable. Then Aron says: “Sit down, and I will tell you my dream.” They do so. “I dreamed,” says Aron, “that a man came to me in a priest’s cloak. I saw little of his face because the hood was hanging low. The dream man says: ‘You shall go to confession with me, if you will.’ ‘I have not made it a daily custom,’ I said. He made the cloak ready and I seemed to go inside it, and just when I awoke I seemed to recognize the man, and I thought it was Bishop Oadmund.”
They call it a good dream and not unlikely to mean something. Then Egil says it is time for them to go, “for the day is drawing on. It may be that later on we will think it cowardly to leave him, if their meeting comes about.” Sigurd says there is still plenty of time for going. Egil then said it was not his choice to run into trouble with them, “but even so, it has seldom happened that I have run when you have stayed. Will you be unwavering in support of Aron, if he needs it?” But Sigurd makes no reply. And the day drew on. Aron’s mail-coat lay on the prow of the boat, and Sigurd picked it up and admired its quality, and takes off his steel helmet and.puts on the mail-coat, and says it fits him very well. Egil had gone out and up on the scree, and sees three heavily armed men riding. He turns back to the boat house and tells what is going on. Then Aron says to Sigurd: “Give me my mail-coat, friend; it may be that I shall need it quickly.” Sigurd wanted to get out of it immediately. Then Aron thought he knew that they would not trick him. Now he asks whether they wanted to give him backing in the fight, or go away, “but I shall stay on this spot.”
“Egil shall decide,” says Sigurd,
“Reproach will fall on us,” said Egil, “if we both leave him like this.”
“Your words please me,” says Sigurd, “but this is only half-prudent.”
Aron thanked them for their speeches. Aron was wearing a long jerkin and a good steel helmet, with a shield and Tami’s sword in his hand. Next, three men rode down the slope, and to the boat-house. They dismounted. Rogavald recognized Aron, for they had seen each other on occasions. Then Rognvald asks whether he recognized Sturla’s outlaw correctly. Aron told him not to shrink from it. “Then it is well met,” says Rognvald, “for we have been looking for you for a long time.”
“Then you must explain your errand with me,” says Aron.
“That’s short work,” says Rognvald, and leaps at Aron and thrusts at him with a spear, and each of them fights another. Aron parried with the shield, and with the other hand hacks the shaft off Rognvald’s spear. And now they all fight briskly for a while. It falls out in this ways that Thorvald goes against Aron, Egil against Rognvald, and Sigurd against Berg. Thorvald fell quickly with many wounds. And men thought Thorvald got no honour from this. Aron.comes to the spot where Egil is almost beaten. There was no long wait for help. Aron used the trick of striking from behind with the back edge of the axe under the steel helmet. Rognvald.was stunned by it, for the blow was heavy, and the helmet falls down over the eyes and bares the neck. Then Aron hews, two-handed, at the neck with all his might, so that the head flies off. Berg sees this from where he and Sigurd are fighting, and he feels that Aron strikes heavy enough blows, and turns hurriedly away to his horse and does not want to risk how Aron will deal with him when he reaches him. Thorvald has already mounted, with such scratches as he had. Berg managed to reach his horses and Aron bounds after him. Berg is the faster, in that he managed to get one foot in the stirrup, and rides thus across the horse’s back, and Thorvald spurs the horse on under him and up onto the scree. Aron chases hard, and wished to lose neither of them. Then Thorvald calls aloud: “Up, Sturla; here’s the devil Aron running after us.” Aron thought it not unlikely that this was true, and stopped short, and by this ruse Berg gets mounted, and Aron turns back and parts with then there. But it was a thorough lie that Sturla was near. Aron now goes to his fellows. They are sitting on the ground and are both badly wounded. Aron. turned to where Rognvald’s corpse lay, and takes up the body and the head and throws them out to sea, but he strips the mail-coat off him first. But because the wind was blowing onshore, the body was washed up. Aron launches the boat, and lays the body out in it, and rows out from shore for a short while, then puts the body overboard, and plunges the sword into the breasts and said that Sturla would have to look for his henchman there if he wanted. After that Aron makes his way to where Egil and Sigurd are, and asks if they are at all able to walk to the farm. They say they surely can. They now come back to the farm and tell the news. The farmer thought his problems had grown because of such great troubles, and hung his head. Aron told him to bear up well. “We shall take up some plan or other so that your troubles will not increase from here on.” They go in after that, and Aron binds up their wounds with bandages, and they are there overnight. And as soon as evening comes Aron tells a man to accompany him. Egil and Sigurd ask what he is planning.. “I shall go a short way,” says Aron, “and return quickly.”
They told him to take care. They make their way now on to the ridge at Mosdal. They get themselves a boat and go to Eyr. Aron sends his companion to the farm and says that he wants to find the brothers. The messenger comes to Einar’s bed first, and wakes him and says that Aron wants to see them. He dressed quickly and goes to his brother and tells him to get up..After that they go to meet Aron. He greeted them well. They welcomed him too, and ask the news, and he tells what has happened. They said they could not condemn
that, “but what is your errand here now?” Aron says it is to ask them yet again for some help. They said there could be little aid from them now, on account of their firm promises to Sturla, “but what are you asking?”
“I want you to take in Sigurd and Egil,” says Aron, “and I do not want you to part with them before they are able to go home to Vatnsfjord.” They said they will do it. They said they enjoy giving Aron support. This verse was composed about their fight in Geirthjofsfjord:
Aron made dangerous sword-play
against the men; the stern warrior
split steel in Geirthsjofsfjord.
He dashed at his foe and dealt
Rogavald a bitter death.
It is not told that the brothers gave Aron any aid this time. They part now, with matters thus arranged. Aron returns to Geirthjofsfjord’s Eyr and tells Egil and Sigurd this plan. They say they are well pleased with it. And as soon as night fell they all get ready for the journey. Aron takes them to Mosdal as the brothers had arranged, and the farmer who lived there was to take them to Eyr. And when they arrived there they were received hospitably. Men acted as though no news had been heard, and asked them for news. They tell it in the clearest way. Then Einar asks if they are wounded at all, and they say they have scratches here and there. “You will want to stay here the night if you think you need to recover.” They take off their clothes, which were thick with blood. Sigurd was wearing the fine mail-coat which Aron had given him. Sveinbjorn binds up their wounds and bids them stay there for a while, and says they will have to enjoy the courage they had shown shortly before. And they did not leave there until they were healed. Then they went home to Vatnsfjord, and although Thorvald was scarcely fond of Aron, he was well pleased with what they had done. These tidings became widely known around the country.
Now it must be told about when Thorvald and Berg come home to Saudafell and announce Ragnvald’s death and the facts of the event. Sturla was cold towards them and says ill-luck has fallen on this expedition. “I would give a great deal of money for Rognvald to have come back and for you two to have lain behind buried.” They now got along worse together than before. Now to tell about Aron, it is said that he makes ready to leave Geirthjofsfjord’s Eyr. He has himself ferried over Arnarfjord by night, and to the farm called Lokinhamrar. A man named Helgi lived there, and he was a good man. His. wife was named Thurid; and she was the daughter of Hrafn. Aron was there for a while, and with various kinsmen during the winter. There was a man named Hafthorir, the son of Snorri, and he was Aron’s uncle. He had been looking for him for a long time, and there was a joyful meeting between the kinsmen during the winter. They both stayed together in secret. This same summer Sturla came to the west fiords and seeks claims against those men who have helped his outlaw. For this they had to suffer many hard terms in loss of property. Men estimate that he will have become richer by two hundred hundreds. Sturla now has a great search made for where Aron has gone to ground, but they do not find him this time. Aron and Rafthorir go away to various islands in Breidafjord, where it seemed most likely they might avoid a meeting with Sturla. Aron thought himself very ill-prepared to meet him. Most of the summer now passes, and they go to the mainland at Skogarstrondt and to the farm called Valshamar, A man called Vigfuss lived there. He was Aron’s friend. He had stayed there once before during his outlawry. They find the farmer, with few men knowing about it. He welcomed Aron, and took him to a secret place, and said that the responsibility for keeping themselves hidden during their stay there would rest, with Aron, and they agreed to that. They were there until it drew on close towards Christmas. Sturla was at home at Saudafell, and kept spies out after Aron’s movements. Sometimes Aron goes into the room where the women who were in his confidence sat working, and he thought it less dull to be there. It so happened that one evening a tramp had come there from outside the district, to whom nobody had given any mind. He made as though he was sleeping when they came into the room, and listened to the conversation, and heard Aron named. And when they were ready they all left together, and Aron and Hafthorir went to the lodging which they used for sleeping in, which was a lamb-shed. And some time after the housewife had lain down, the outer door was opened. She asked who was going out, but she got no answer. And most men were asleep at the time. The night passes, and people get up in the morning. And when they come into the room the tramp had gone. Now they thought that either the tramp must have stolen something or that he must be a spy, which was nearer the truth. Now the farmer goes to Aron and tells him, and urges them all to keep watch together. He said that Sturla would act immediately if the news reached him. Aron said he would soon take to flight, but it was not certain what the tramp would do with himself, and things were quiet during the day and the following night, And when the next day came they go out of.the enclosure to where they thought men least likely to be, and look to see if anything curious would come in sight. But when they had gone a short way they halted for a while and heard manta voices in the wood nearby, and it sounded as though there were not altogether few. Then Aron said to Hafthorir: “It maybe now, kinsman, that the tramp has proved bad.” And just then eleven men came forward together out of the wood. They were all armed. Then Aron said: “Let us go back for our weapons; it is likely that they will be needed if these man are hostile.” Now they go to the lamb-shed, where their weapons were. At the same time the men rode up to the farm and jumped straight down from their horses.
Now it must first be told about the newcomers. They enter the farm in no very peaceful fashion, had many men seized, and beat some. Vigfuss got a blow with the edge of an axe on his head, and so did another man called Pall. About Aron and Hafthorir it is to be told that Aron was putting on the mail-coat, but Hafthorir went to the door as soon as he was ready. Aron told him to wait for him, so that they could both go to the farm together. It looked to Hafthorir as though all the men had gone in, and he went quickly up to the buildings, and stopped by the sitting room and takes off his steel helmet and listens at the skylight-window, and when he hears what is going an inside, he jumps down from the building, and that at this moment a man runs at him and hews with both hands at his head, so that he soon meets his death. This man was named Eirik, and was called Birchleg, He rushes inside after this, shouting, and says he has killed one of them, either Aron or Hafthorir. Sturla said it made a lot of difference, which one it was. Aron reaches the buildings now, just when Hafthorir has fallen, and spoke: “You were too speedy in the attack, kinsman,” says Aron, “but can you speak at all?” Then the lips moved, but he got no answer. He stretched out his fingers, and Aron fancied that he was motioning him away. Sturla and his men come out at this moment. Aron sees them and turns quickly away. Then Arni Onundarson calls out, and asked who was there, taking such big strides. Aron looked at him and spoke: “Believe what you see,” says Aron. Sturla said: “Chase him hard now, and let him do no more damage from now on.” Two men jumped on horses and raced after him, and all the others raced as fast as they could. Aron was the fastest of runners, even when he was less severely tired than now. The horsemen soon headed him off, and then they surrounded him. And men who were there have said that Sturla wanted to have Aron seized, and intended him more pain in dying than just a blow or two. Aron was now placed in as great danger as may be heard of, but with all this he does not lose his nerve; he flings up the shield, but there was no time to draw the sword. He raises it in his two hands and runs at a follower of Sturla’s called Bjorn, and strikes at him with both hands, and the blow hits the steel helmet so that he fell immediately as though he had been out down dead. Aron runs over him at once and out of the ring of men. And it is common opinion that Aron seemed the boldest of men to have escaped from such fierce fighters as there were to deal with there. This verse was composed about the encounter between Sturla and Aron:
Battle-strong Aron broke out of
the ring of men at Valshamar; he
acted toughly against the bold
warrior. He escaped bravely from
savage death; Bjorn sank like a stone
before the brisk man.
Now Sturla eggs his men on hard to pursue him. It happens at the same time that driving snow comes down and evening falls, and he got away from them this time. Aron thought he would make hands and feet save his life. He had a wound in the calf, where a spear was hurled after him. Sturla now goes back home and is ill-pleased with his lot. About this Olaf Hvitaskald said:
There was a dangerous encounter
when the two bands of warriors met
one day at Valshamar; before,
fight-strong Sturla was severe, A
strong ring was formed by men around
the warrior before Aron fled from Sturla.
Aron does not know exactly where he is going. The weather begins to worsen, and a snowstorm comes on. He can see his way only at intervals. He realizes that he has come on to the heath called Flotur. Aron now has a hard journey; the rivers are all difficult to cross, and frost gets into his wound, but he does not break his journey until he reaches the farm called Hofdi. A woman called Tofi lived there. She was a great friend of Sigrid, Hafthorir’s daughter. So Aron stopped there and had good hospitality. Then Sigrid was sent for to come and heal her son, and she does so gladly.
Now to return to Sturla. It may seem arranged by God’s grace that as soon as Aron broke out of the ring of men, such a thick and fierce storm drove down that they were immediately separated. Men remembered that storm for a long time. It is said that the weather was much milder where Aron was travelling. After that Aron went away from Hofdi to Raudamel, and found his mother. She tells him the news which she thought most important to relate, that their stay together would be short. “Thorlak has given me word that Sturla has surely heard you are in hiding here. Thorlak says that your staying here must not be risked, so that your enemies may not lay hands on you.” And at this news Aron lies down flat on the ground and spreads himself in the form of a cross. First he sang the psalm Benedicte, and Ave Maria. Then he stood up and said that some good would yet lie ahead. Sigrid said: “From whom have you learnt this saying of prayers, my son?” Aron says that Bishop Gudmund had taught him this practice, that he should use these prayers and that procedure when things oppress him, so that God and the Holy Mary might hear his prayers. Aron stayed there a short time-with few men knowing of it. He wonders to himself what he shall do.
There is a man named Sigmund Peg. He had been a follower of Sturla in Grimsey, and it seemed to Aron that Sigmund has been hostile to him. Sigmund was living at Eydihus that winter. Aron came along there one day. It turned out that Sigmund was killed without much ado, because Sigmund was standing outside. What led to this deed was, among other things, that Aron thought Sigmund had planned to kill him. He also felt that he could not allow the slaying of his kinsman, Hafthorir, to go unavenged. The killing of Sigmund was settled later with his sons, and the case was judged by Bishop Heinrek, and Brand, who was afterwards Bishop at Holar. That winter Aron traveled very much by stealth, and went south to Rosmhvalanes. He stayed there for what remained of the winter, in the care of Einar Snorrason, his uncle. In the following spring Aron journeyed over the south of the country, and visits a distinguished man, Harald Saemundarson, and his brothers, Vilhjalm and Filippus. They received him well. There, as in other places far and wide, he benefitted froth his friendship with Bishop Gudmund, for they had long loved him. They got Aron on a ship, with a good band of traveling companions. This ship sailed to Norway, and the voyage went well. They landed at Trondheim, the place that Aron would have most preferred. Bishop Gudmund was staying there, and so was Hjorleifi Aron’s father. They welcomed him joyfully, and thought they had got him back from hell. At that time Skuli was earl over that third of the country. He was thought to be a very noble man, and best disposed towards Icelanders. He had heard of the difficulties Aron had been in Iceland, and thought he had acted bravely against such chieftains as there were to contend with. That winter the earl offered to make him his retainer, and Aron accepted it. A change had now come about in his circumstances. The earl and all the retinue acted well towards him. The winter passes by in this way, and summer comes. Aron puts a request to the earl, that he would like to travel abroad, and says
he has sworn himself an oath to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The earl was reluctant. Bishop Gudmund pleaded the matter, and so did Aron’s father, and had no success. They concluded that Skuli thought Aron no worse off close to him than farther away. Aron found it much against his liking to break his promise on so important a matter; but the earl had his way with all those who were bound to him by oath. With this they break off their talk. That summer Hjorleif went to Iceland, and the voyage was fraught with many dangers and unusual events. And on the voyage he and many other brave men lost their lives. Men say that he died of exhaustion from the assistance which he gave in the shipwreck.
Now Aron was with the earl in the following seasons. Then he thinks to himself that he is obliged not to take back his promise to God, though it seemed unwise to most to go away without leave. But he risks that, and gets himself an Icelandic companion, who was named Eyjolf. Now they set off. The journey went well for them but it was dangerous, because of unrest and many other things. They were sixteen together for a time. Sickness came upon their band, and some died. But those who lived through it did not stop until they came to Jerusalem, and then they explored the town as they wished. Afterwards they turned back on the road, and it is not told that anything notable happened on their journey. Aron came safely back to Norway, and Eyjolf with him. They found King Hakon east in Vik, and went before him and greeted him. The king received them well, and invited them to rest themselves, and then asked for news. And they told what they knew. One day Aron asks the king whether he wanted him to go and find the earl. The king answers: “I want you to hold to your oaths with the earl, and it may be that through our intercession he will show his approval when we meet each other.” There was a man named Olaf, and he was the son of Thord. He composed a verse about Aron and his journey abroad:
The spear-hurler, he who won honour
And fame, fared to Jerusalem. I
Praise the man’s great courage.
With great spirit the wise warrior
Fully cleared his outlaw’s name out
By the glorious Jordan.
That summer the king and the earl met, and the king accepted a feast from the earl in Trondheim. And one day the king spoke with the earl: “Will you now take back your retainer Aron? And whichever place he is in seems to me to be well-manned. He wants to atone for what he has broken with you, and he has now greatly improved his soul.” The earl answers rather abruptly and said Aron had played him such a trick, “that we shall not long share the same roof.” The king spoke, and said that no entreaty would be made in this matter, “and it may be that Aron will lose little by this.” The king was displeased. After that the king took Aron into his charge and made him his retainer. And Aron was with him for nearly thirty years.
Now the king goes home from the feast. They parted with matters left thus. The king sailed south to Bergen, and stays there for what remained of the summer. The king was good to Aron. And a little later the king provides him with a good match. The woman was related to the king and was named Ragnhild and was a widow. The king gave Aron a piece of land so large that he could easily build a house on it, and it was close to the king’s court. And the king gave Aron yet another piece of help, which he set great store by; it was two bathing-rooms. There the king should take baths in one, and he and his men should undress in the other. They were so large that every service was possible there, even though fifty man were in each room. The king also stipulated that each man was to give one pennyweight of silver if he wished to take a bath there, and this grew to a large sum of money. And there was need of this, for Aron always had heavy expenditure. It was a token of the benefits that the king granted to Aron that he made a place for him on the very ship which he used himself, and yet another small token, that Aron’s sword should lie beside the king’s sword, but few others. This is also to be told, that things began to worsen between the king and the earl, though it had been drawing on that way for a long time. But worse things came after, as is found written.
During this time Sturla Sighvatseon came out from Iceland. And when he reached Bergen King Hakon was there, and Aron with him. And when Sturla came into Bergen it is said that he asked nothing before whether Aron was in the town. And he was told that was so, It happened that Aron had gone to the bath, and some of his mess-mates with him. It comes to this, as people say, that many a man had a friend among his enemies. There was an Icelander on the ship who was named Hunbogi, He was related to Aron. He gets news of Sturla’s enquiries and goes ashore, and gives Aron warning. Aron says he has been more than a little ill-prepared for a meeting with Sturla. Then he got out of the bath, and dressed, and his men with him, and they go thus equipped on to the street in front of the house-doors. And when Sturla had confirmed Aron’s whereabouts, he calls Thord Gudmundarson and two other men along with him. None of them had any weapons besides his sword in his hand. But the crowd of men was so great that none were able to harm the others, even though it was in their minds. But it is the opinion of most men that had the watchers been fewer, neither of them would have been alive to tell the news. Sturla halted as soon as he saw Aron, and stared long and keenly at him. Aron said: “How do you like your outlaw now, Sturla, since you stare at him so long, or how do I seem to you to have changed since we parted last?” But Sturla made no reply, and went away to his men. And it is finished telling about him in this saga.
An event took place one summer, as can often happen, that there was a horse-fight. There is a man named Gaut of Meli, an aristocratic man by birth and by many another deed. He was a great friend of the Sturlungs, and had received a fine horse from Sturla. And many men reported that this was the best horse in Norway. There is a man named Arni the Unready, an Icelander. He had sent the king the horse which he reckoned to be the best in Iceland, and these horses were to fight. A great crowd came to it. And when the horses were led forward both of them looked very promising. They were let loose, and clashed together and it was an excellent fight, both vigorous and long. But when the contest was wearing on the king’s horse grew laggard. The king was displeased. It was plain to see that the king thought neither one better. Gaut now walks around the ring of men and looks up rather well with the one eye he had left. Aron was standing nearby, with a man next to him named Thorarin, his kinsman. They were ill-pleased when the horse was beaten. Aron was a friend of Arni, but no friend of Gaut. He thinks he can see what the cause is. Now, as they see that the king is paying no attention to his horse, they go in front of the king. Then Aron spoke: “Do not heap shame on the horse, my lord, for he will be the greatest treasure of a horse, but he is not getting the treatment he is used to.”
“How is that?” says the king.
“A man goes along with each horse that is led forward,” says Aron, “and has a staff in his hand, and strikes the horse on the rump, and goads the horse-with it when he rears up.”
“If you think it will steady the horse, Aron,”ays the king, “then go and do it.” Now Aron and Thorarin take off their outer clothes, and pick up pieces of wood, then go the king’s horse where he was standing in the outer part of the ring of men, and prodded him with their staves, and he started up, as though he seemed to know what they had come for, runs at Gaut’s horse, who comes to meet him, and they clash together. Gaut’s horse now had a hard time of it, for the king’s horse was goaded vigorously. And it was a saying that such things are among the best. And when the day drew on, Gaut’s horse was unwilling to fight, though he would neither retreat nor run away. Aron and Thorarin drove their horse on all the harder, until Gaut’s horse throws himself down from weariness and heavy struggles and never stood up again afterwards. Gaut was quite unable to keep calm about his champion, and claimed that Aron had killed the horse for him, and he was very displeased. But it was plain that the king was delighted. Next, other horses were led out, and ther is no account of them. Aron and Thorarin strolled around the field and watched the actions of the horses. The next thing was that Aron’s shoulders were grasped and a voice spoke: “I would give all my clothes and gold for you to be as near to Sturla now as you are to me.” Then Aron twisted round and spoke: “You could pray more useful prayers, Gaut,” says Aron. “How is that?” says Gaut. “That the Devil does not take your second eye like he took the first before.” Gaut changed colour a lot and did not say much after. There was already coolness between them, though it was worse afterwards by far. It was seen in Aron’s words how headstrong he was, even though he was dealing with greater men.
At this time Thord Sighvatsson, who was called Kakalij was abroad, and had been in Norway for two years. He was a courageous man and well-accomplished, but not too wise with drink, and so the king was not as friendly towards him as he would otherwise have been. He was in the house called Hallvadagarth. Hallvard the Black owned the building, a king’s retainer and a most arrogant man. And things were cool between Thord and Hallvard because jealousy broke out between them. A short distance away from there was Aron’s houses though there were few dealings between Aron and Thord, indeed there is always coolness where there is disparity. That winter, Bard, Aron’s brother, was staying with him, and was always with Thord for his entertainment, for his way lay towards Iceland, and he wanted to get into favour with him. And Thord took it well, but Aron said nothing about it. Thord kept himself and his men in a liberal styles and it grew costly for him, and a lot of money was used up. With him then were Hrani Kodranssonq his follower, and Thord Thumb; the third was named Petry the fourth was a page named Eystein. It happened one evening that Thord was drinking in an inn, where the drink was potent. And as the evening wore on the moderate men went away. But Thord stayed behind as did some of the retainers. And as the night passed they fell to arguing and brawling, so that they fought with drinking horns and lanterns. Thord was a tough man and very strong. The opponents came off much the worse, and got both bruised and bloody. They were parted at last, and everyone goes to his lodging and sleeps off the night. After that the morning comes, and when the service was over those who had been worsted go before the king and tell him. The king now grows cold towards Thord, but puts the matter right.
Now the summer passes, and Thord’s money-matters quickly start to become unsettled, and all that is available is used up in expenses. Now when some of the winter is gone .a ship comes from the-west out of the Orkneys, with a king’s bailiff aboard named Finn. That same day Bard, Aron’s brother, went to find Thord for some entertainment. Thord and Hrani were sitting at chess. They invited Bard to sit down at the table, and he does so. Next, Hallvard came in there, walking quickly. There were no greetings from Thord. Bard greeted Hallvard and asked where he had come from. He said he had been at the king’s court.
“What was the news there?” says Bard.
“There is no lack of news about your kinsmen from Iceland, great battles and death of chieftains, and a heavy loss of men.”
“Which chieftains have died?” says Bard.
“Sighvat and Sturla and all his sons.”
Then Thord left off playing chess and answers the news thus: “More Icelanders slaughtered than just one cow, if it is true.”
Thord went to the king’s court and wanted to hear the news. And when he came there the same tidings were told him. With those events many ordeals of grief came to Thord, firstly in men’s deaths and the loss of such noble kindred, and furthermore he had become penniless, so that he was unable to retain his followers, and moreover he had fallen into disfavour with the king, which many men think the gravest thing to happen. All his men go from him now, except his page. He acted well.
Aron hears this news now, and for him it was no sorry tale, as was to be expected, though it was plain that he thought Thord was in a sad plight. And when Bard noticed that, then he said to his brother that he should let Thord know that Aron Hjorleifsson was a rather more worthy man than most, just as many said. Ragahild, Aron’s wife’ sided with Bard in this plea. Aron did not respond much, and said he did not know how Thord would receive an approach from him, and said he thought too much would have been done if Thord should – take it unfavourably. But Bard said that he was prepared to ask Thord about it. Bard went to find Thord. They had talked together for a short time when Bard, asked Thord how he would take it if Aron wished to have a word with him.. And Thord said he knew no quarrel with Aron, and said he thought that against his kinsmen he had only done what need had driven him to. “One thing has displeased us about Aron.” Bard asked what that was. “He had something to say against it when I was made a retainer, and he did not want to be my comrade.” After that they ended their talk, and Bard went back and reported Thord’s words and answers to Aron. Aron paid little heed to it. Now the night goes by and day comes. Ragnhild had found out that Thord had pawned the only thing he owned in order to get some money. It was a cloak of scarlet, lined with white furs. She tells Aron where it had got to. Both she and Bard urge him not to delay any longer if he wants to take a part in the matter. Aron sprang up then, and went with two other men to Thord’s loft. He was there alone, and the page with him. And as soon as Aron entered the loft, Thord stood up and greeted Aron, and took him by the hand. Thord spoke quietly to the page, and he went away, and next the mead cask came in, and they drank merrily through the day. Thord said he would like Aron to remain there for the day, even if he wished to stay no longer. Aron said he had come there in order to invite him to his lodgings, if that would be rather more cheering than what he had before, and they make plans for that. Thord said then that he has no other honourable offers, and said he will not refuse. “Entertainment seems to have become dull for me now.” Aron immediately sends and has the cloak taken from where it lay in the square. Now they all go to Aron’s house. Thord had good hospitality there. Thord was there for three weeks altogether. And in addition to that, Aron offered to share the same fate with him, for as long as Thord wished to accept it. He reacted well to that, and spoke many words of praise to Aron. And some time later they went to the king and wanted to bring Thord into greater friendship with the king than had been the case before, and it proved difficult, and they left off for a while. And a little later Thord tells Aron that he will not approach the king again about this. Aron said that should not be so, “for the lower must always yield when there is a difference in men’s rank, and it always brings great honours.” “You shall have your way, Aron,” says Thord, “for I always notice your genuine goodwill towards me, and you can see many things clearly.” And one day shortly before Christmas, they went to find the king, and greeted him. Aron began to speak in this way: “My lord, here is Thord, come to find you, and we wish to bring his case into a happier state than it has been before, and we wish to ask this, that you resolve on some plan for him which might be to his honour.” The king was silent. Then Thord spoke: “I wish, my lord, for you to give me leave to travel out of the country to Iceland and look for other chieftains.” The king refused it, and with that they went away. A few days later men come from the king’s court to Aron and told him the king’s message, that they should drink with him during Christmas, and they accepted that. Their brows lifted at this, and they thought that greater honours would follow on. Now they drink there over Christmas, and on the day after they go before the king and thank him for a fine feast. Then the king spoke: “Will it not be fitting, Aron, that I back you up somewhat, and Thord shall remain here with us?” Aron said he would choose that above all. And now Thord and Aron part for the present, and were always good friends. Thord was with the king for some years afterwards. Men give clear testimony since, to what good fortune Aron enjoyed in helping many men, and how greatly the king valued his word: Lord Hakon, the king, firmly bound the friendship between Thord and Aron, and entrusted Aron to Thord’s keeping in case he should travel to Iceland, for Aron was eager to go out then to meet his kinsmen and friends. And when they reached Iceland Thord held Aron in very high favour, and supported him well and bravely in all the disputes which Arm seemed to have with various men. All his kinsmen welcomed him and held him to be a man of honour. He managed to get reconciled and acquitted then, with the support of Thord and his kinsmen. Aron went back afterwards to Norway to find King Hakon. He welcomed him happily. And he was again with him for some years in the same esteem as before.
In this time a legate of the lord Pope came to Norway on an errand to crown King Hakon and Queen Margaret. And he furthered many other good causes there. He consecrated Bishop Heinrek to the see at Holar in Hjaltadal in Iceland. And when Bishop Heinrek went to Iceland Aron ventured on the journey with him, and was with the bishop that winter. In the following summer Aron planned a voyage abroad with Eystein the White, but the ship was wrecked in the autumn off Hofshead in Flateyjardal. All men perished there, except for Aron and two other men, and Aron saved them, with God’s grace. Over the following owing winter Aron was with Bishop Heinrek, and again enjoyed good renown. During the next summer Aron was reconciled with the sons of.Sigmund Peg. Bishop Heinrek and Abbot Brand made the settlement. And then Gizur and Thorgils Skardi made pledges for Aron. And after that Aron was reconciled with all men in Iceland. The next summer Aron went abroad, and the voyage went well, and he made land at Bergen, and went straight to find King Hakon. And he received him well, as he was accustomed to do. Then Aron was not long in Norway before he caught a severe illness. Daring this illness the king came to him, as to his intimate friend or kinsman, and men thought that a very great honour. And Aron received all the holy sacraments, and after that he died. And when his body was carried to the church, the king himself and all his retinue went with the body, and stood over his grave himself, and spoke some words of praise there. These words are preserved: “This man, Aron, our retainer, traveled widely, and proved himself well in many dangers, and has stood in great risk of his life and we would like to end with this statement,” says the king “that here has died one of the best swordsmen among our thanes.” His funeral was conducted with great honour. And it is expected that his soul has found a good resting place, both through the intercession of his friend, the good Bishop Gudmond Arason, and especially through the grace of our most gentle redeemer, whose pilgrim he may justly be called, because he visited his most holy grave, and many other holy places.
And there ends the saga of Aron Hjorleifsson.