Warfare in Thirteenth Century Iceland

The collapse of Iceland as a self-governing country in the mid-thirteenth century is highlighted by several conflicts between various powerful chieftains. The various sagas and histories that make up the Sturlunga Sagas were written soon after the events they record, and their descriptions of some of the battles that took place on the island are among the most interesting medieval accounts of warfare.

Battle of Breiðabólstað

This battle, fought in 1221, is described in the Saga of the Icelanders. The leaders of the two sides were Sæmund Jonsson and Bjorn Thorvaldsson.

Both sides made great preparations in weapons and gear. Einar Gislason was at Breiðabólstað for some days repairing the weapons of Bjorn and his men. He was a friend of Loft; he said that he meant to be with Loft at the time agreed upon, and would do whatever harm he might to the others. As the day of meeting drew near, each side assembled its forces. With Loft were the three sons of Sæmund-Harald, Vilhjálm, and Andréas; the three sons of Þorstein Jónsson: Andréas, Amundi, and Cunnar. There were also Guðlaug from Þingvellir, the son of Eyjolf Karsson, the brother of Keldna-Valgerð, his brother Ingibjorn, and Finn Þorgeirsson, his kinsman. Guðlaug was foremost among Loft’s men as a leader and he had the best possible group of men, not less than one hundred.

Bjorn had with him seventy men; among them were Markus Marðarson down from Gnup and Pal from Steinsholt. Árni Magnusson had also come to stay the night. Bjorn and his men had prepared themselves south of the church, had laid heavy timbers in front of the posts which were at the juncture of the church porch and the main part of the church, and placed some others where the choir joined the main part of the church, south along the churchyard itself; they stationed themselves in the middle, some facing east, some west. When Loft rode into the home-meadow, he spoke this strophe:

Here rides Gryla
Down to the yard;
Holding their places,
Heroes fifteen.

They rang the bell for Mass as the men rode into the farmstead.

Sæmund had come there from Oddi – they all sat there on horse back – and had over two hundred men with him. He sent men into the churchyard to say that all those men who would come to join his group, whether they did so sooner or later, would be given quarter. Furthermore, he especially offered quarter to Árni. But Árni said that he had eaten with Bjorn in the evening and that he would spend the day there.

Loft also asked, before they began the attack, whether there were any friends or kinsmen of Orm Svínfelling or of Snorri Sturluson, and said that quarter would be given to all of them.

Then Árni óreiða answered: “I see the hallmark of my family in this offer; still, I will not leave Bjorn at this moment.”

Bjorn said that it wasn’t yet clear which of them would have to issue the peace terms that day.

They now threw themselves into the fight and both sides had a hard time of it, for both fought long and vigorously. Loft came at them from the east, but Guðlaug from the west, straight against Bjorn’s position. He wore a thick coat-of-mail and fought most valiantly. The defenders had gathered stones for themselves and these they now hurled at their opponents. Loft ordered his men not to throw them back again, but wait until their opponents ran out of stones. One of Loft’s men died early on in the fighting. Bjorn was very tired from the defense and told Árni óreiða to defend both their positions vigorously while he went up into the churchyard and rested for a bit. Everyone, but especially Steingrím, held back a little from Árni during his defense. Bjorn took off his coat-of-mail, because he was hot; when he came back, Gu8laug ran forward and struck at Bjorn with his spear, which was called Grasiða, which Gisli Sursson was said to have owned. The point penetrated his throat and Bjorn turned back up to the church and sat down.

Guðlaug went to Loft and told him that Bjorn was wounded. Loft asked who had wounded him.

“Grasiða and I,” he answered.

“How badly wounded is he?” asked Loft.

Guðlaug showed him his spear, which was bloody far up the blade; it seemed clear to them that it was a fatal wound. Loft was then asked whether they thought they ought to continue the attack, and he replied, “Just until Steingrím has his turn.”

Then they made another vigorous attack; Steingrím defended himself bravely, but fell there. After that, many of the men ran from the churchyard to receive quarter from Sæmund’s group, Markus and Pal among the first. Then it went very hard for Bjorn’s men, because, when they had turned their backs, they were struck between the shoulders by stones from those who faced Loft’s group, and couldn’t strike the stones to the ground with their shields. Heðin the priest, and in all seven men, died there with Bjorn.

Árni óreiða laid Bjorn’s body in the churchyard and asked Sæmund to receive his kinsman, saying, “Matters are now worse than before.”

Kolskegg auðgi was there with Bjorn. And when he ran to Sæmund’s side to receive quarter, Andréas Þéorsteinsson struck him across the shoulders with the flat of his bare sword and asked him how high a price he’d pay now for a hundredweight of food.

“The market price,” said Kolskegg.

Quarter was then given to all the men. Loft went to Sæmund, asked what assistance he would give them, and Saemund asked what he was expecting. Loft and his party said that they wished he would ride home to Oddi and keep his forces there. Loft himself with some others would then go to Skarð to stay until the Þing, where their following would come later to find out which side was the stronger. Sæmund was unwilling to do this; he said that he hadn’t assembled his forces together to quarrel with his kinsman Þorvald. Loft and his men reproached them greatly before they parted; then Loft rode home with his troop.

Battle at Orlygsstað

This major battle was fought on August 21, 1238, when the forces under Kolbein the Young and Gizur Thorvaldsson surprised the army of Sighvatr Sturlason and Sturla Sighvatrson .

Kolbein ungi rode away from the district, as was written earlier, with one hundred and fifty men. He rode south from Kil, when he had freed those among Sturla’s men who had been taken at Valadal. When he came down from the fell he rode to meet Gizur. He stayed at Hroarsholt in the summer, and had had the stores which he had seized from Dufgus brought there. When the kinsmen met one another, they at once decided that men should be sent down over Mosfellsheið and all around Gizur’s district. That was so managed that all the men went who were thought fit for war service; a large force quickly assembled. They sent to Rangarvellir for men, but of the brothers there none would join the forces except Bjorn. He came with four other men; they stayed at Tunga for the feast day and gathered a force there. After the mass-day they went to the fell. Kolbein sent men ahead to the north to his friends, summoning all those who were willing to support him to meet him there.

Gizur and his men went on until they reached Kiðjaskarð in the north. Many Vatnsdalers and many men from the west joined them there; horstein from Hvamm and Þorstein Hjalmsson were at their head. They had so arranged the march from the south that Gizur rode in the rear and was to watch out that no one turned back, while Kolbein rode at the head and directed his scouts. The scouts were so organized that some were continually coming to Kolbein, while others, who had arrived earlier, were at Gizur’s side. They rode on in this order to Skiðastaðalaugar. Then Brand Kolbeinsson rode off with some men. He had been south with Kolbein his kins–man. He rode into the district, gathered men from around Sæmund–-arhlið, Langaholt, and Hegranes, and from east across Heraðs–vatn, as well as many more from below Flugumyr; in this way he collected a large company. They had nine hundred men from the south; when they were near Reykjalaug they were nearly thirteen hundred. They arrived there on a Friday evening and Brand arrived there early on Saturday morning with one hundred men.

Before the events which are now to follow, there were many premonitions, although few are recorded here.

Brynjolf was the name of a man at Kjalarnes, who dreamed that he saw a huge man with the back of his head struck off and a wound in his neck. He spoke this verse:

Homes stand empty and waste.
Storms wreathe the world;
Harshly men meet on the heath:
We are all struck down.
I too awaited Njorð’s hell
When I fell at the northerners’ side
The gray spear spills the mighty,
Wounded men fall to their death,
Wounded men fall to their death.

The priest Hafliði Ljotsson heard this recited in Halleyjarhol:

Let us all ride on
To the battle ahead,
Kinsmen in enmity;
Wherever men fight,
Mighty men fight.

Þorarin Gilsson dreamt that a woman spoke this:

Now will I go
To heave my rocks
Where Bjorn and Sighvat
Are struggling to win.

Einar kláp dreamt that this was composed:

Dead is our leader.
Dead our champion,
Dead the companions,
As flames are prepared for me,
Flames are prepared for me.

There was a man named Snæbjorn who lived in Sandvik out from Hofðahverfi. He went out one night before Christmas, in the winter before the battle at Orlygsstað. Then a woman came into the home-field; she was big and strong, dreary and red of face. She wore a dark blue kirtle, and a linked belt; she spoke this verse, turning towards him:

Slayer of men will I here become.
Savage the strife throughout the land.
A plague I will be now for you
As vengeance for many impels me.
Death and destruction will not miss our foes
But come ever closer to all who are fighting.
The voice of the dead calls out loudly;
The voice of the dead calls out loudly.

And this also she recited:

Raging I fare away
To savaging battles.
I wing over holt, over heath
In the paths of black ravens.
I come to the vale where all is dark,
The valley of death which awaits me.
Sorrow-harmed I hurry ahead
To endure the torment of famine,
The torment of famine my fate.

Halldora was the name of another woman; she was Þorð’s daughter, and lived in Fljot. She dreamt in the summer before the battle at Orlygsstað that a man appeared to her and spoke this:

The heavens darken,
Blood rains down.
The helmeted head
Is struck from the body.

This verse was spoken in his sleep before Ormstein the priest, also before the battle at Orlygsstað:

Mist shrouds the earth,
Dark are the skies.
Now tell of the arrows
Shafted in poison.
Ever alarums, clamor renewed,
Where men are fighting,
There men are numbered

West in Svartardal this verse was spoken to a woman, when a big, ugly man appeared to her:

Summer will spawn
Never-ending . . .

Jon Grettisson was the name of a man who dreamt that a man appeared to him and spoke this:

Beware! beware!
For the wind blows high.
Blood will rain down
On men’s bared bodies.
Point and edge will share
All men’s inheritance,
Now that the sword-age
Cuts sharply upon us.

This was spoken to Sturla Sighvatsson at home at Sau5afel in the summer, before he went to Orlygsstað. A woman came to him and said:

Neither to you nor to others
Is it given to foresee
Who will be victor,
Who conqueror there.

And it seemed to Sturla that the woman spoke sobbingly.

In the summer, also before the battle at Orlygsstað, a woman named Þurið at Fellsendi in the Dales dreamt that she thought Sturla Sighvatsson came to her and spoke this:

Who washes me
In warm blood?
Tell me, O tell me
Who wounds me in the play?
Worthy men trust
And Tumi well knows,
I rejoice, I rejoice
That I’ll repay Gizur.

This single verse was spoken to Sturla Þorðarson also before the battle:

Where the men are slain,
Blood wells from; the brave.
Where hawk slits the warm vein,
There must I go.

This verse was recited to a man named Berg:

Now northerners will tell over
Such woes or worse
For Sighvat’s sons.
Bloodied, banefully wounded
We will venture ahead
Roughly in conflict,
To redden our sword,
Where swords must be reddened.

This was recited before a woman a short way from Þingeyrastað in bright daylight, but she did not see the man, although the verse was recited aloud:

There’s sport in the north
Where the warriors play.
They’ll sweep round Gizur,
Embrace him with spears.
They can sweep round Gizur
And embrace him with spears.

Þorgeir was the name of a priest who dreamt before the battle that a woman came to him and spoke this:

I pass through men’s hearts
Through the world’s darkened homes.
Men will grievously pay
For this grim passage:
Wound will requite wound
Where men fell one another.
Each savage assault will breed another
Which men are shortly to bear.

Sigurð Styrbjarnarson dreamt before the battle at Orlygsstað that it seemed to him he saw two ravens, each of whom spoke his line in the following verse:

Whom will the warrior attack?
Who is most ready for battle?
Who of the champions will fall,
Kolbein’s father or Sturla?
Swiftly battle-fear bruises,
Sword severs limbs.
The greatest of men, most beloved,
Are those who fall in such battles.

Eyjolf forna dreamt, when he was sleeping, near Skytja in Skagafjorð, that a woman spoke this:

Sleep while you can,
For fire flames around you.

When Sturla came to Miklabær late on Friday, he rode up to Saurbær to meet his father; they talked together for a while. When he rode down, he came to Viðivellir. His brother Kolbein went outside with his men, a handsome company and well equipped.

Sturla mentioned this: “You have a fine company, brother.”

“I think so,” said Kolbein.

“So it is,” said Sturla, “and so it needs to be; for they are to be the first to ride forward when they come down from the tongue of land between the rivers. I advise you to go straight up to the house, for it is a good vantage point, and we will come there quickly to help you.”

“Everything will be done as you have arranged,” said Kolbein.

“That is good,” said Sturla and rode off to Miklabær.

He posted watchmen there as usual. Sturla spent the night in his locked-bed with the priest Illugi Þórarinsson near him. In another locked‑bed lay Sturla Þorðarson with Einar osið near him. The hall was entirely taken up by the men.

Gizur and his men spent the night at Reykjalaug; early in the morning he and Kolbein arose and wakened their men. Gizur told Kolbein and Brand his dream, for he and Brand had come before they were all dressed.

“I dreamt,” said Gizur, “that it seemed to me that Bishop Magnus, my father’s brother, came to me and spoke as follows: `Stand up, kinsman,’ he said, `I will follow you: Then I woke up.”

“That’s well dreamt,” said Kolbein, “don’t you think?”

“It seems to me better dreamt than not dreamt,” said Gizur.

Kolbein went to confession at Reykir with the priest Þórð, and gave into his seeping a good sword which he owned, but kept a halberd in his hands.

Gizur then spoke to his forces to spur the men on to attack. “I don’t want you,” said he, “to use me as a cover from the swords’ points ahead of you, as the Skagafirðings used my kinsman Kolbein Tumason when he fell at Viðines. They themselves, however, at the beginning of the battle at once ran off so frightened that they did not even know when they were running across the Jokulsa; and when they thought they had their shields on their backs they bore their saddles there! Try to follow the example of valiant men; men who bravely followed King Sverri or other chieftains, and whose fame and great valor will live forever. Doubt not that I shall be near you, if you fight well, for I expect the best from you. It is also true that that man will never be thought a hero who does not drive back this band of rovers. And now, may God protect us all,” said Gizur.

All the men loudly applauded the speech. After that they rode east over Tungusveit, and at the same time all their other forces arrived. They stationed themselves at the river opposite Viðivellir.

Sturla woke up shortly after sunrise. He sat up and his face was sweating; he stroked his chin with his hand and said, “There’s not much meaning in dreams.” After that he got up and went to the outhouse; Illugi the priest was with him. When he came back he lay down for a little while, until a man came into the hall and called out: “The group of southerners is riding in now, and it’s a whole army!”

At once the men ran to their weapons. When Sturla came out of the door and saw the army of Gizur and his allies he said, “They are not so few as they are paltry, so let us gather our forces, and call the stable hands to drive away the horses.”

The horses were scattered around the moor down to the river. Sturla went to the church then, took a scroll from his small bag, and recited the Augustinian prayer while the men were getting ready. Afterwards they went up out of the yard and stationed themselves on the upper side of Viðivellir.

When the southerners were riding toward Jokulsa, a man named Þorleif spaði fell off his horse – he was then living south, at Hrutsstað – and men cried out to him. Gizur bade them not stop shouting and that became their war cry. Sturla and his men were silent until Kolbein came up to meet them with his force. Then they all shouted and turned up into the enclosed field named Orlygsstað. A sheep house stood in the field. But the field was low-lying, so that it was not good for defense.

When he came south around the house Sturla took up his position between the house and the rim of the field. He wore a blue woolen cloak, until Hall Arason threw over him a russet-flecked one with sleeves, and a little byrnie. Some of Sturla’s men went forward to the yard and took up their positions; there was meadow between them and where Sturla stood. Their shields were bound in their packs and they were not loosened. One shield only was freed, on which the crucifix had been marked. That was meant for Sturla, but he didn’t take it.

Gizur rode with his force to Viðivellir; there they dismounted and proceeded on foot. Kolbein ungi and the greater part of his force were on horseback and they went nearer the side of the hill. Sighvat then rode down along the side of the hill with his troop. Gizur and his men took up their positions southwest of the enclosure; but Kolbein ungi and his men rode right up to the yard before they dismounted.

Then a man who was standing by the yard said to Sturla: “Shouldn’t we run at them right now, while they’re dismounting?”

“No,” said Sturla, “here we will stay, nor will we run from here.”

Nevertheless, some men did run out of the field against them Svarthofði Dufgusson and the sons of Skarð-Snorri, Barð and Sigmund, Orm kistil, Hall of Jorva, seven in all. But they turned back quickly.

Kolbein’s men turned boldly to meet them, and Morð Eiriksson ran back to the field first. Then many followed him and eagerly egged each other on to drive back those few enemies in flight. At that moment Sighvat rode down into the field, but two of Kolbein’s men killed two of his men before they got off their horses – those who rode last, including Þórð Kolsson, his homeman. Sigurð Eldjdarnsson killed him. Then Kolbein and his men turned up alongside the yard; right up among the foremost with him were his followers Einar dragi Illugason, his brother Þorstein golt, Jon kjappi, Olaf Hoskuldsson chaim, Sigurð Eldjarnsson, Þoralf Bjarnason and many others, and they made a heavy attack.

Kolbein said, as he led his men in attack on the field: “May things now turn out according to God’s will.” Kolbein and his men advanced so swiftly along the yard that there were no men behind them when those in the forefront had attacked and met a most vigorous defense.

Gizur attacked the yard from the southwest; Sturla’s men turned to meet them, and there met strong resistance. Sturla took up a stone which Gizur’s men had thrown into the field, and threw it back against Gizur and his force. Narfi Svartsson was in front, and it hit his steel hat above the skull; he fell backwards so fast that his feet nearly flew up over his head. He sprang straight up because his skull was not hurt, and was then very angry.

A man in Gizur’s force spoke: “That’s one Borgarfjorð man who will know, before the sun goes down in the evening, whether or not the southerner is a coward.”

Eirik birkibein, who wore a white coat-of-mail, threw a stone at this man; it struck his buckler and he fell backwards. He stood straight up then and wheeled around at Sturla’s men, but many of them wounded him and he fell. Gizur’s men began to hurl stones at Sturla’s men, but Gizur said: “Don’t throw the stones at them now or you will receive hard blows from those very stones when they throw them back at you.”

Askel, the son of Skeggi Arnason, had been with Sturla and had gone out to see to the horses in the morning. He was in such a dangerous spot that he had to run among the southerners’ forces and move with them toward the battlefield. But when the forces came together he got over to his own men and there found his companion Þorkel, and said: “Well, my ruse succeeded. I have been in among the southern men so that they didn’t know it.”

Then one of the southern men said: “You won’t need to keep boasting about that any longer.”

Askel’s steel hat was askew on his head and the cheekpieces unfastened. Þorkel said, “Set your hat on your head better while I am protecting you.”

But just then a stone struck Þorkel and he turned to face his attackers. One man struck him with a spear, but he cut it off at the shaft. Then the man drew a sword, but Þorkel struck his arm, and many others also struck him. Þorkel came out of the fray alive, but Askel fell there. At that moment a shout went to Sturla’s men that their enemies had come up behind them, and Kolbein and his men were there. Sturla’s men turned then to meet them but they were in the narrow pen and had to deploy their force north into the field. Ogmund Kolbeinsson fell in the pen; then Kolbein Sighvatsson and his men came on in flight from the yard.

The men of Eyjafjorð had come into the field by then, and Guðmund Gislsson struck Hall Þorsteinsson of Glaumbær so that he fell to the ground. Sighvat then moved southwards, back toward the yard, to meet the men of Skagafjorð. He was wearing a blue kirtle and had a steel hat on his head; he was carrying an old inlaid axe called Stjarna in his hand; he held it by the shaft down below the eye, with the edge turned away from him, and was swinging it by the shaft. A man who saw him coming out of the field said to him: “Don’t go out there, Sighvat; for your enemies are outside there.”

Sighvat made no answer but went straight on. Þorvarð from Saurbær was with him and Sighvat Runolfsson, with Sam, one of Þorvarð’s housecarls. Arni Auðunarson went forward with Sighvat, striking out on both sides. Kolbein’s men asked why he, an old, small man, was conducting himself so rashly.

“I do not intend to leave this field,” he said.

Sighvat with his three companions fell south of the enclosure. Bjorn Leifsson from Ás came up, held a shield over Sighvat and supported his head with both hands, for Sighvat was exhausted with weariness although he had few or no wounds. Kolbein ungi came up and asked: “Who is that hunkering by the enclosure there?”

“Sighvat,” they said.

“Why don’t you kill him?” Kolbein asked.

“Because Bjorn is protecting him,” they said.

“Then kill him first,” Kolbein said.

Bjorn fled. Kolbein struck Sighvat with a spear, at the junction of his neck and shoulders; but it was a slight wound, for the point of the spear had been broken off.

Sighvat said: “Let us talk with one another for you have the upper hand now in our affair.”

But then Einar dragi ran up and struck Sighvat in the head; that was sufficient for a fatal wound but many others wounded him besides. When Sighvat djakn saw this he threw himself down on top of his namesake, and he also was slain there. Sighvat Sturluson had seventeen wounds. He was in his sixty-eighth year.

Árni Auðunarson there met his death with great renown. Þorvarð from Saurbær was wearing a byrnie which was called Full‑trui, which no spear could penetrate. This protected him until Kolbein gave him his life. Sam fell there. Árni was past seventy. They stripped Sighvat then of all his clothes except for his undertrousers.

At the same time it is told of Sturla that he was severely attacked and that he defended himself nobly. Markus Þorgilsson was the name of one young man who jumped from Sturla’s group on top of the wall early in the battle. He was thrust through by a spear yet he defended himself afterwards as best he could. Then he got another spear through him so that his bowels fell out, and he died. Sturla retreated from the pen below the sheephouse and so to the west. Lauga-Snorri went ahead of Sturla, covering him with a buckler; he held his sword under the buckler as men do when they fence; Sturla had his own buckler over Lauga-Snorri’s head. The attack on Sturla was severe, but Snorri covered Sturla, not himself, and therefore received many grave wounds before he himself fell. Sturla defended himself with his spear, which was named Grasiða, an ancient, inlaid, but not very strong spear. He continuously laid about him so hard with this spear that men fell before him, but the spear bent and several times he had to straighten it out under his foot.

Hunroð, the son of Magnus Hunroðarson, thrust his spear at Sturla but Sturla made a counter thrust so that Hunroð fell. He was a little man with a good byrnie and was not wounded. Then Koran Svarthofðason sought out Sturla and struck at him with his spear.

Sturla said to him: “Are you here too, you devil?”

Koran answered: “Where else would you expect to see me?”

Many men said that Sturla hadn’t a scratch at that time. Then Hunroð stood up, struck his spear into Sturla’s right cheek so that it bit into the bone. Sturla burst out: “Now the lesser devils are tormenting me.”

Then two men attacked Sturla at the same time. Hjalti the bishop’s son struck his left cheek and the spear cut its way out at his tongue; that was a wound to the bone, Boðvar kampi, the son of Einar Nautbæling, struck his spear into Sturla’s throat and ran it up into his mouth. Sturla struck at Hjalrn of Viðivellir, and killed him.

When Sturla was wounded three times, he said to Hjalti: “Give quarter, kinsman.”

“You shall have quarter from me,” said Hjalti.

Sturla was by then exhausted to death and losing blood badly. He steadied himself with his arm on Hjalti’s shoulders, and so they walked out of the field; Hjalti put one hand to Sturla’s back and supported him that way. Sturla threw himself down when he had gone a short way from the field; his speech was indistinct, but Hjalti thought he asked for a priest. Hjalti went away then, and Olaf tott, a kinsman of Flosi the priest stood by; he held his shield over Sturla, and Gizur’s kinsman Jatgeir Teitsson held his buckler over him. Then Gizur came up, threw off these protections and also Sturla’s steel helmet, and said: “Here am I to do the work.”

He took a broadaxe from the hand of Þórð Valdason and struck Sturla mightily on the head from the left, behind the eye, a deep but narrow wound. The men who were near said that Gizur leapt into the air with both feet when he struck Sturla, so that they saw the sky between his feet and the earth. Klaæeng Bjarnarson struck Sturla in the throat in the wound he already had there, and up Into his mouth. All these wounds were so wide that one might put three fingers in them. Then Einar Þhorvaldsson came up and told of the death of Sighvat.

“I don’t find that cause for sorrow,” said Gizur.

Onund the bishop’s kinsman cut away Sturla’s purse and gave it to Gizur. Another man pulled from his finger the gold ring which he had had from Saemund in Oddi; it had a dark stone and was engraved with his seal. Gizur took Sturla’s ring and weapon. Markus Marðarson struck his spear into Sturla’s belly on the right side above the navel. He had three wounds on the left side in his chest. A man by the name of Nadd struck Sturla in his windpipe. Of all the wounds after Gizur struck none bled.

Þorarin Sveinsson was always near Sturla and bore himself well; Gizur gave him quarter when he recognized him, for the sake of his relationship to Groa, Gizur’s wife. Þorarin washed Sturla’s body and wrapped it about, when they had stripped him naked. Martein Þorkelsson fell a short distance from Sturla.

Kolbein Sighvatsson and the greater part of the fleeing host took their position on a stony mound under the hillside above the field. Gisli of Sand came up there with his company; he was mounted and men begged him to come down to help those still in the pen; he told the Vestfirðings to urge on their men. Then Mani of Gnupufel came down there and said that both Sighvat and Sturla had fallen; he told Kolbein to seek whatever refuge he could. Kolbein ran to the church at Miklabær with all the men who fled, some into the church, some into the house. A little later Gizur came up to the church.

Gisli from Rauðasand and Tumi Sighvatsson fled up into the mountains with many men, and on to Eyjafjorð. Markus Sighvatsson was wounded to death in the field. Afterwards he was taken to Viðivellir, laid himself face down and received extreme unction. Brand Ulfheðinsson sat by him. Gizur sent word to Simon knut and Gizur glaði to kill Brand; Bork, the son of Þorbjorn stol Sigurðarson, killed him.

Þórð Guðmundarson defended himself from the doorway of the house at Miklabær, until his adversaries sought to get behind him by a secret doorway. Then he retreated into the room and defended himself there long and manfully, until he was overcome. Gizur glaði struck him fatally with a two-handed blow.

When Gizur reached the church, quarter was offered to the men, and first to the Eyfirðings. Gizur and Klæng offered quarter to Sturla þorðarson; he stipulated that Asgrim BergÞorsson should be granted quarter with him, which was swiftly granted. Quarter was extended to the sons of Dufgus at the pleading of Olaf Svartsson. Svarthofði Dufgusson and Kolbein gron were up on the church. In the end quarter was granted and peace was promised to all but six of the men.

Sturla asked Kolbein Sighvatsson whether he wanted them to go out. Kolbein asked them to go out and said that it would help most of all if they would make some space in the church for people were about to suffocate.

Kolbein asked them to seek quarter for him when they came out, and to offer in his name all that he might in honor give for has life; he offered to go to Norway and never return. But they would not even consider his offer and threatened to burn down the church – which, they said, was not consecrated – if they did not come out. They were there until sunset that evening. Then Kolbein asked that they be allowed to go out to the privy, and that was granted. It was growing dark when they came out of the church; they went through the hall, which was full of wounded men and those to whom quarter had been granted. They were all glad that Kolbein and his men had come out unscathed but Kolbein said, “That certainly is fortunate; nevertheless, no quarter has been given to us.”

When they had finished at the outhouse, they came back outside and Kolbein spoke to those who were inside the hall: “Do you want to see a mighty stroke?”

But they could not speak a word. Kolbein said to Gizur when he came out, “I want you to strike me down before my brother Þórð.

Gizur said that it should be so. Einar koll struck Kolbein. Þórð was led up to be slain. A man with Kolbein ungi said, “Aren’t you going to ask quarter for the boy, your kinsman Þórð?”

Kolbein said, “He who has just died is a far greater loss.”

Brand Þorleifson killed Þórð. Hrafn’s sons were slain there – Krak and Sveinbjdrn; Herstein, the son of Berg the priest, slew them. Þorir jokul was killed by a man who thought thus to avenge his brother whom Þorir had slain at the battle in Bær. þorir spoke this verse before he fell beneath the blow:

You must climb the keel,
Though cold the sea-drift;
Cast your heart high
Though here you must die.
Old you are, and heavy your brow,
Still, scowl not at these showers
For long you’ve shared in maidens’ love,
And one day every man must die.

Then Hermund Hermundarson was led to death. He had a very handsome head of hair and said that he would fasten his hair up so that it would not get bloody. So he did, and was looking up at the sky when Geirmund Þjof slew him. Klæng had given the order to him. They were all slain with Sighvat’s axe, Stjarna. The bodies of Sighvat, Markus, Sturla, and Þórð were taken to Þvera, but Kolbein’s body was taken to Grenjaðarstað.

These men died at the battle of Orlygsstað, counting those who died of their wounds: from the west: Sturla Sighvatsson, Arni Auðunarson, Snorri Þórðarson, Vigfus Ivarsson, Orm Halldorsson, Martein Þorkelsson, Markus Þorgilsson, Gizur Þorarinsson, Hermund Hermundarson, Þorir Steinfinnsson, Valdi and Askel Skeggjason, Bersi Þorsteinsson; from the West Fjords: Krak and Sveinbjorn Hrafn’s sons, Markus Magnusson, Helgi Sveinsson, Þórð Guðmundarson, Eindrið smið, Þórð Hallkelsson and Amundi, Ogmund Kolbeinsson, Jon kaupi, Dalk Þorgilsson; and from the north: Sighvat Sturluson, Þórð and Markus his sons; Sighvat Runolfsson, Ingjald stami, Þórð daufi, Einar Ingjaldsson, Bjorn Gizurarson, Bjorn Þorarinsson, Eyjolf, Guðmund Halldorsson. Sam, Þórð Eysteinsson, Eirik Þorsteinsson, Bjorn horgrimsson; and from farther north: Kolbein Sighvatsson, Pal Magnusson, Þorgeir Bjarnarson, Odd Karsson, Skeggi Hallsson, Sigurð Guðmundarson, Brand Þorkelsson, Brand Einarsson, Ljot, Loðin Helgason. These died on Gizur’s side: Jatgeir Þorarinsson, Sigfus Tofason, Þorlak Barkarson, Þorgils Steinason, Þórð Snorrason, Þorbjorn, Þorodd, a housecarl of Teit Þorvaldsson.

On Sunday most of the men went away out of Skagafjorð, those who could travel despite their wounds. Again men from the west were plundered at Jokulsarbakka by Kolbein’s followers, and some were beaten. They might have received the worst possible treatment there if Þorstein Jonsson and the Vatnsdalers had not helped them. Kolbein was in every way more savage than Gizur after the battle. Many wounded men lay behind in Skagafjorð, including the sons of Skarð-Snorri, Sigmund and Barð; to both these men their wounds brought lasting mutilation, and they lay all winter at Silfrastað. The Stolungs had wounded them; Barð had fallen south of the yard and Sigmund at the northwest.

Battle of Floi

The forces of Þórð Kakali, the son of Sighvatr Sturluson, and Kolbein the Young met in Iceland’s largest naval battle on June 25, 1244, at Hunafloi Bay. The Sage of Þórð Kakali gives this detailed account of the battle.

When Kolbein was ready to set sail it was reported that men had come to him from the south and told him that Gizur Þorvaldsson had returned to Iceland, at Eyr in the south, and demanded a meeting with Kolbein. But Kolbein said that he had now made his preparations for an expedition which he would not give up at any cost. On the Eve of the Feast of St. John, Kolbein sailed out past Skagi and so west across Floi. He had twenty ships and almost one hundred and ten men of the fourth hundred of men. Kolbein himself commanded a ship which was almost too big to be seaworthy, was diverted in three parts by cross-beams and also had a shelter up by the mast. Asbjdrn Illugason commanded another ship. Sokku-Guðmund was in charge of a large transport-ship, while Ketil Gnupsson and the men of Grimsey also had a large ship. Hjalti Helgason from Leirhofn commanded a large transport; Hrani Koðransson was also in command of a ship, while Einar dragi commanded a ship of his own. Ottar, the bishop’s kinsman, had a transport-ship; Viga-But commanded a large transport; and although we are not counting up all the ships’ commanders from the north Kolbein still had many of the most valiant men for each ship. One might also note that all of Kolbein’s ships were fully equipped, with shields forward by the mast. No man in our country had seen ships so fully prepared for battle. Kolbein sailed west then across Floi intending not to land until they were west of Horn.

It is now to be reported that Þórð sailed from the west across Floi; when his fleet reached the middle of the bay a man named Þorgeir but known as kornasylgja, on Ketil Guðmundarson’s ship, said he had looked out across the water and discovered there were seals lying on the ice floes. When other men looked out, they too said Kolbein’s ships were sailing out there. They dropped their sails then and took counsel. Many men said they ought to row out at once against those others, for now there was no wind. But to some this seemed out of the question, for they could all see that they were greatly outnumbered. The advice of wise heads was then that they should make some vow, so Þórð prayed to God Almighty, to Mary the Holy Mother of God, and to St. Olaf the king for assistance; the promise made was that all the men then with Þórð would fast on bread and water every Friday for the next twelve months, would fast every Saturday to the beginning of winter, and would further have twelve months’ tithes purchased for the soul of King Harald Sigurðarson. This vow was made fast by shaking hands on it. Þórð then ordered his men to make ready to row; they decided at once which ships were to set sail and as soon as they were ready began rowing across Floi to meet the enemy. When Kolbein’s men saw Þórð’s ships rowing out from the bay they reefed their sails and drew their ships together by means of ropes – this was nearer Skagi than Horn and it was then the hour of morning when the sun had just risen. Kolbein stationed his ship almost in the center of the fleet; Sokku-Guðmund’s ship lay on the wing opposite Skagi and nearest to Horn. Kolbein and his men now turned their ships’ prows to face the land. When Þórð came within range of Kolbein’s ship he bade his men lash their own ships together and then row ahead. This was done in such a way that Ognarbrandrin, which Nikulas Oddsson commanded, was nearest Horn facing Asbjorn Illugason’s ship, and next to them Þórð stationed his own ship. Then came Helgi Halldarsson’s ship, then Teit Styrmisson’s. On the other wing facing Sokku-Guðmund’s ship was Sanda-Barð’s. And other men placed their ships in between these wherever they felt bold enough to move in.

Þórð now went forward on his ship and when there was quiet he spoke; he offered a truce to the Eyjafirðings and to all the men from north of Oxnadalsheið. But when Kolbein’s men heard where the speech was tending they thought it not unlikely that some of their men might lose heart – those whose kinsmen had died at Orlygsstaðir and were still not compensated for. One of Kolbein’s men now replied; he bade their foes be still, declaring that they would never be reconciled:

“You will walk the same path your brother Tumi walked last spring at Holar, but yours will be rougher since you show you are marked for death.”

Each side now raised its war cry and battle was joined. Kolbein’s men opened the fighting by hurling missiles and stones. The attack was furious until the ships came close together, then each fought stem‑to‑stem.

Hard fighting now began, at first with missiles and stonethrowing. Þórð’s men threw so furiously that Kolbein’s men could do nothing for a while but protect themselves. The battle now went against the men from the north, largely for two reasons: Kolbein’s men had only a small supply of stones on two ships, while Þórð’s men had loaded every ship with stones; secondly, on Kolbein’s ships there were only some few men who knew anything about what they were expected to do on a ship, while on Þórð’s ships each man was an even more knowledgeable seaman than the next. It is therefore understandable that in such circumstances victory in a battle between chieftains may be determined by fortune. This, however, was not because either side lacked the finest choice of men.

Before the hail of stones was ended almost all of Kolbein’s men had fallen back by the mast on each ship. Þórð exhorted his men to board them, and Eyjolf Eyjolfsson, Nikulas Oddsson, and Sigmund Gunnarsson were the first men up on Kolbein’s ship; when Kolbein and his men saw this they pressed forward and drove them all overboard at the point of the sword. They were pulled out of the sea and into their own ship. Now the battle began to engage all the forces; men fought savagely, especially those near the mast where the supply of stones was most depleted. The toll of men who died grew longer, particularly in Kolbein’s forces. None of Þórð’s men fought as boldly as he himself, as Ingjald Geirmundarson says in his Atloguflokkr, which he composed about this sea fight in Floi. And this is noteworthy because Ingjald was present at the battle and composed his poem in the winter immediately following:

Stones rained against Þórð,
Thundered on men,
Shields sundered in battle
A tumult of fighting.
That warrior split shields
Sword deep in men’s bodies,
Spear reddened by blood,
Weapons ravaged by war.

Shields reddened from stone-blows
Spears gutting the fallen
Men maimed by stone-casting
Mistar’s strong blasts
Ships ravaged and ruined.
Bodies fell lifeless
In the bloody water,
Dulling the bright shield of Odin.

And this:

Wherever spears clashed
Þórð was the winner;
Sighvat’s bold son
Among thundering shields.
This brave warrior, I know,
Stood fearless in battle
While many men’s blood
Ran down in the sea.

Each ship now moved as near as possible to the next for close fighting. The battle now turned against Kolbein and his men for the large ship on which he himself was fighting could not be moved forward nor could many another of their largest ships; there was therefore some disorder in their rank and that very same moment the battle turned against Kolbein’s men. He himself had taken little part in the fighting all day, primarily because he was not very strong and thought he was hardly fit for great labors. But everyone knew that Kolbein was a very brave man and supremely skilled in the use of arms. He stood at the masthead of his “castle” and directed the battle from there. When he saw that it was not certain they could win this way he called to his men, telling some of them to leave his ship for those which lay alongside and thus get away. But Hjalti Helgason from Leirhofn bade him move his ship stern-end to Þórð’s ship and ordered the other commanders to move theirs stern-end to the ships of the men from the west, and thus encircle them:

“For it would be a great disgrace,” he said, “if they defeated you with so few and such small ships as they have against the enormous fleet we have brought together here.”

They loosed the ships from the ropes and moved off as Kolbein had ordered. The battle had now reached the stage where the foremost of Þórð ‘s men had managed to board, and others were just about to board, ships in Kolbein’s fleet. Many things now happened at the same time, and they are all important to relate, but still they must be recounted one at a time.

This attack did great harm to Kolbein’s forces before, the keenest of his men attacked Þórð’s men on the flank at a moment when Þórð and his companions had left the sterns of their ships quite unprotected, and when the greater part of their group had all moved forward to the mast. By the time the shout reached Þórð’s ship that they were now being attacked from both sides they had no choice but to face both attacks. Þórð now went aft on his ship, as did many of his men, but he had too small a force to be able to divide his company. He urged them to drive back the enemy by threatening their rear, and just at this very moment to attack most vigorously. Then he at once ordered them to board Hjalti’s ship, and here there was little resistance before they succeeded in boarding. The man named Aron, the son of Halldor Ragnheiðarson, was first to board and next was Þórð himself. Þórð struck Hjalti right through his byrnie and his body so that he nailed him dead to the ship’s side. That ship was so completely ravaged that nearly every man was killed or driven overboard. And few were helped up from the water.

While Þórð was engaged in this Kolbein’s men had brought grappling-hooks to his ship and dragged it out from among their other craft. An Askelsson, Snorri Loftsson, and Steinolf Þorbjarnarson fell by the mast on Þórð’s ship for none of them was minded to flee. A fourth man named Klemet also fell there, wounded by both Kolbein’s and Þórð’s men. But all the others fled to whichever ship was nearest. There was now a wide gap between the ships. When Kolbein’s men boarded Þórð’s ship a hard fight faced those who were on the nearest ships. At the same time Kolbein gron, Teit Styrmison, and many others had succeeded in boarding Kolbein’s own ship. But when Kolbein’s homemen whom he had sent forward against them came up, Teit and Kolbein gron were pushed back and driven overboard; only with difficulty did they get back to their own side. The battle now increased greatly in fury; Kolbein’s men got grappling-hooks on Teit’s ship and dragged it forward among their ships. In this struggle Teit and Asgrim baulufot were wounded and the majority of the men on board fled the ship. Teit then ran to Kolbein Dufgusson’s ship which was then so overladen and crowded that water was pouring in over the prow and the rowlocks. The greater part of them then dashed to Sanda-Barð’s ship.

The battle now began to break up and men ran frantically from ship to ship. When Þórð intended to go aft in his ship he found that it was deserted and that he had no men with whom to mount an attack. He moved over to Svarthofði’s ship where he stayed for a time, but when he saw that Nikulas Oddson and Eyjolf and all their company were driven back to the mast-head on Ognarbrandrin, and that the enemy was about to board, he sprang up on their ship and vigorously exhorted the men to take heart. He himself ran forward first of all to the prow, holding his shield over his head and a sword in his left hand. The most valiant men now followed him and there followed a furious encounter in which both sides suffered injury. Kolbein’s men had earlier fixed an anchor at the prow of their ship. Þórð and his men now pressed forward so vigorously that in the struggle the anchor broke loose.

All the men from the north now recognized Þórð and each urged the others not to let him escape now that he was so nearly in their hands. Þórð said, “You have the right idea – attack us briskly now, for indeed the leader of the West Fjords will show himself undaunted before you this day. Furthermore, my mind tells me that never again will you have so favorable an opportunity to attack me.”

The northerners now attacked in full force while at the same time the boldest of Þórð’s men came up from other ships. This struggle came to an end in such a way that none of those who went forward with Þórð escaped injury. Those who were aft in the ship suddenly discovered how the bilge water was rising and Sigmund Gunnarson ordered them to bail it out. The fighting on the ships now gradually abated, and all the ten-oared boats cut themselves loose from the ropes except for Helgi Halldorsson’s. Jon from Alftamyr was first to escape, a little afterwards Bars Hjhrleifsson, and next Sigurð vegglag. Svarthofði called out to Sigurð and bade him wait; he did so and Svarthofði went on board along with Hrafn snati and some other men. Svarthofði bade his kinsman Hrafn accompany him, and Hrafn asked what he knew about Þórð’s situation now. He said he knew nothing about him, and Hrafn then told him to go off wherever he wished, “But here is Ottar snoppulang who killed your brother.”

Svarthofði said that was no concern of his and added that this time victory had gone to those who were destined to win. Svarthofði had then received a severe wound but Hrafn did not know this. Svarthofði and his companions now rowed away to land. When Teit had fled from his ship Kolbein’s men climbed up on it; on Kolbein Dufgusson’s ships men were so overborne by their enemies’ weapons that they couldn’t hold their positions; everyone then deserted the ship entirely and Kolbein stood alone.

His men seized him and began to drag him backwards toward them from one ship to another; but in the course of this he received four wounds – three in the thigh (two of these right through the thigh), and one in the side of his foot, so that the stroke sheared right down to his big toe, a severe wound.

Ketil Guðmundarson and Almar Þorkelsson pressed forward quite fearlessly, while Bjarni Brandsson and Pal gris also held their ground valiantly; the retreat came to a fortunate end for them. Sanda-Barð had the highest ship and kept it well forward so that most of the men to whom it seemed the best shelter sought it out. Barð and his companions did not meet there until the ship was so laden that it was about to sink beneath them: At this moment the battle consisted mainly of men’s hurling short swords and pole-axes from one ship to another while they also hurled spears, seal harpoons and whale harpoons, striking with whatever they could get their hands on, even with sail spars and oar handles. Most men were by then playing a pretty rough game, and most of them were beginning to grow rather tired from the contest; a great many of them tried therefore to keep out of the gravest danger, but in such a way that they didn’t lay themselves open to the charge of cowardice. On the ship where Þórð and his men were they were steadily bailing out water but were nearing the point when they could carry on no longer. They now discovered that the ship was damaged below. Sigmund and Nikulas begged them to put out the oars and row away, but when Þórð heard of this he bade them not incur the shame of fleeing from battle. They replied that some ships had already fled, “and this ship is damaged almost beyond use.”

All the other ships, they said, were ready to take to flight and sail away. But Þórð did not believe them until he himself went to see the bilge water. Meanwhile they had the ship turned back by using the oars and next turned right around. As soon as Þórð’s forces on the other ships saw that he was giving up, each commander ordered his men to pull out of the line of battle, and each ship sailed off as soon as it was able. About this Ingjald composed a verse:

Long since to the sea
Shield-warrior had fled
From this harsh storm of spears,
This tempest of swords
Had his sea-steeds’ riders
But moved with more speed.
Odin’s shield was reddened,
Was wet with their blood.

Ingjald now spoke also of how many among Kolbein’s ships were destroyed in this sea battle:

Warriors fought savagely
And Þórð, honor-bound,
Hobbled their sea-steed
Men knew this.
I’ve learned that the victor
Granted life not death,
Though Hjalti of Leirhofn
Paid dear for this gift.

And Ingjald also reported this about the odds in this battle:

“My fleet split in two,
Struck by swords’ lightning;
War ravaged our weapons.”
This, I have learned,
Forced the brave shield-wielder
Odin’s champion in arms
To free his torn forces
From Gunnar’s harsh chains.

When Þórð’s ship had turned about he called to Hrafn Oddsson, asking him to bring him some men. Hrafn said it looked as if each one would be one too many; then he jumped aboard with Þórð and four men followed him. They held in towards land as did every other ship when ready. There was much discussion on board Þórð’s ship about how long the battle had lasted, and they were agreed that the sun was by now about in the middle of the southern part of the land, but that when they had joined battle the sun had just risen.

Þórð was very anxious because it seemed by now certain that Sanda-Barð’s ship and also Trekyllir, which Bjarni Brandsson commanded, were missing. Men thought the reason Kolbein had not pursued the ships which fled was that he had those two in his hands. Barð and his crew had lost all but one of the oars from all four ships. Bjarni now went alongside them and took off nearly thirty of their crew, he got for them as many oars as they needed, and they now all rowed away together. Kolbein’s men rowed after them in two small ships but dared not attack when they came near; they turned back then to their fleet. Kolbein stayed in the bay awaiting an onshore wind because, the transport-ships were difficult to row.

Þórð and his men rowed as hard as they could and steered in below Reykjanes, thinking that was the shortest course to land. They stood in there and disembarked; they brought water back to the ship, for many of them had grown very thirsty; it was then three in the afternoon. Þórð bade Hrafn Oddsson go to his ship and row ahead into Arnes where he was to have all the horses in the neighborhood of Trekyllisvik seized.

“I want those men who are most seriously wounded,” he said, “to be able to escape from their enemies with the aid of horses; but those men who are perfectly able to walk and can escape on foot are not to have horses. The rest we will carry up onto the fells.”

Hrafn now carried out this order while Þórð moved on more slowly. When Þórð reached Trekyllisvik he recognized Sanda-Barð’s ferry and also Trekyllir which they were then rowing in from sea. There was very great rejoicing when they met each other. They mustered their men and discovered that they had lost only a few men, but that almost every man who had been with Þórð was wounded to some extent; but in general the men were not severely wounded.

Þórð assembled his forces and held a council. He thanked his men for their valiant support and went on to speak of this in many fair terms:

“I expect that now, today, it will seem to you that luck has turned toward us and away from Kolbein, now that we know how very large a force, as I see it, the enemy had on their side in comparison to ours. But now I ask you, my brave warriors, each to suggest what you think best for us to do; for our position is such that as soon as Kolbein gets an onshore wind he will sail west, and it seems to me that we are unlikely to succeed in escaping by ship inasmuch as we have lost all the wooden equipment from most of our ships. Therefore I want you to consider this situation with me.”

Men now all gave quite different opinions. Most of those who owned ships urged that they should not leave them, but those who did not own ships cared more for what seemed to them least dangerous to do, and thus the debate went back and forth on these same arguments. When Þórð saw that there was little to be gained from a council of so many men he spoke:

“You have now shown me such loyalty, my good companions and kinsmen, and have today supported me so nobly, that there will scarcely be found in our whole land another example of men’s having to face so superior a force and fighting against it so valiantly – may God reward you! But I do not mean to reward you for this by leading you now into new danger for my sake, for one brave man seems to me of greater worth than all those ships. There is no need to be long-winded about this let men clear their ships and take all the fittings and any other belongings into the church. Furthermore, all those men who are wounded and who cannot go on with us are to go into the church. But those men are to go along with us who we think will not be granted the sanctuary of the church.”

By the time of the evening meal this was all accomplished and Þórð turned on his way up along the fell from Ames. Teit Styrmisson, Egil Solmundarson, Kolbein gron, Asgrim baulufot parted from him there along with all those who he thought were in no condition to accompany him. He arranged for horses for them and unwounded men to accompany them; they were to go down to Steingrimsfjorð. When they had gone but a short distance on the fell Asgrim became so exhausted from his wounds that he could go no farther; he was left behind there with Gunnar nautatik and some others. But Þórð and the group with him went on up along the valley which is a short way above tunes. When they had gone that far his company called for a rest.

Now it is time to report how Kolbein and his men remained behind in the bay. He now had his ship cleared in order to find out how many had fallen or were so severely wounded that he did not Want them to remain with him. He found that many had fallen and a host of men had been wounded. He now arranged for two ships, fully equipped with able-bodied men, to move the dead and wounded north to Skagi. Then they gave some thought to how many of Þórð’s ships lay behind, and discovered three. Four men had fallen on Þórð’s ship but none of them had yet died. Quarter was granted now to Snorri Loftsson and to An Askelsson, because the latter gave his name as that of Þórð, his brother. Steinolf Þorbjarnarson was killed outright and thrown overboard, while Klemet smið was also killed out of hand in the forward part of the ship. An was then led up into the ship which belonged to Einar Jonsson, called lang.

Kolbein’s men rested now and ate while they were waiting for a fair wind; they estimated carefully how many men they had lost in the battle and reckoned that about eighty among them had died, including those who died later of their wounds. These were the most distinguished of the men who died: Sokku-Guðmund, Hjalti Helgason, Illugi’s sons Einar dragi and Þorstein, Snorri Þoralfsson and Sigurð Rognvaldsson.

Kolbein now spoke to Einar Jonsson saying that he should take Snorri Loftsson in with him. “You know best,” he said, “who everyone is in the West Fjords.”

They saw that the battle was now at an end. When Snorri came up on Einar’s ship and recognized An Askelsson he at once said, “God be praised that I find you alive, An, my friend!”

When Einar Jonsson heard this he said, “Is this that devil An – the man who has done us the most harm?”

He had An seized at once and killed, and then thrown overboard. Snorri thought this deed so terrible that he profoundly wished he had kept silent, or else had lost everything he owned, for he thought himself greatly to blame in this; still, he could not do anything about it now.

Kolbein then ordered them to raise the mast and hoist sail: “I announce to you all now,” he said, “that we are going to sail west across Floi and pursue Þórð until we find him; then let us fight it out between us. If we don’t meet him, then we will sail to the West Fjords and there make raids, burn homesteads, kill men, and so lay waste the habitations that Þórð will never again be able to muster a force against us. My mind tells me that I will not be lucky enough to cut short Þórð’s life, since the chance has escaped me this time. I have a foreboding that fortune has now shifted to Þórð’s side, away from us. Therefore, steer your course from now on so that if you do sight Þórð and his men you can row away.”

They sailed away, those first who first were ready, west across Floi.

All three excerpts are from Sturlunga Saga, edited and translated by Julia H. McGrew (New York: The American- Scandinavian Foundation, 1970) This work is copyrighted by The American-Scandinavian Foundation. We thank them for allowing us to publish this section.

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