THE BOOK OF ROMANCE - online children's book

King Arthur, His Court and Knights in the Age of Chivalry, by Andrew Lang

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372 STORY OF GRETTIR THE STRONG
the opposite side of the sound up which they had sailed, and fell to talking and wondering whether by possibility any man might fetch that fire. Grettir said little, but made ready for swimming; he had on but a cape and sail-cloth breeches. He girt up the cape and tied a rope strongly round his middle, and had with him a cask; then he leapt overboard and swam across. There he saw a house, and heard much talking and noise, so he turned towards it, and found it to be a house of refuge for coasting sailors; twelve men were inside sitting round a great fire on the floor, drinking, and these were the sons of Thorir. When Grettir burst in he knew not who was there, he himself seemed huge of bulk, for his cape was frozen all over into ice ; therefore the men took him to be some evil troll, and smote at him with anything that lay to hand; but Grettir put all blows aside, snatched up some firebrands, and swam therewith back to the ship. Grettir's comrades were mightily pleased, and bepraised him and his journey and his prowess.
Next morning they crossed the sound, but found no house, only a great heap of ashes, and therein many bones of men. They asked if Grettir had done this misdeed; but he said it had happened even as he had expected. The men said wherever they came that Grettir had burnt those people; and the news soon spread that the victims were the sons of Thorir of Garth. Grettir therefore now grew into such bad repute that he was driven from the ship, and scarcely anyone would say a good word for him. As matters were so hopeless he determined to explain all to the king, and offer to free himself from the slander bv handling hot iron without being burned. His ill-luck still pursued him, for when all was ready in the church where the ceremony was about to take place, a wild-looking lad, or, as some said, an unclean spirit, started up from no one knew where, and spoke such impertinent words to Grettir that he felled him with a blow of his fist. After this the king would not allow the ceremony to go on: ' Thou art far too
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