|The Story of Rolf and the Viking's Bow|
|by Allen French|
|Relates the thrilling exploits of Rolf in the land of the Vikings: how he becomes an outlaw, and a thrall, and at long last gains his freedom and avenges the unlawful slaying of his father. Through his trials Rolf is challenged to grow in manliness, developing courage, self-control, patriotism, and perseverance, and in the end rising above the feud that has consumed him for so long. The story, inspired by Icelandic sagas, serves as an excellent introduction to the prevailing values of the Viking era. Ages 11-14 |
OF THE COMING OF EARL THORFINN
OLF shut the storehouse door,
and Frodi held it until it was
barred. The Scots could move
neither Frodi nor the bars, and knew not
what to do. All within was dark, save
for light from the crack of the door; and
when the Scots who stood before the
crack felt Frodi's bill, they stood back.
Then Rolf shot arrows out through the
crack, and the Scots stood aside, so that
those within could do no more. They
heard the Scots say that no time should
be wasted for three men.
"Now," said Frodi, "they will go away."
"Be not too hopeful," said Grani.
 When smoke began to puff in, they
knew that the thatch had been fired over
their heads. "So," quoth Frodi, "I shall
be burned in the Orkneys after all.
Seest thou, Grani, why no Icelander loves
They sat there a while and the place
grew hot; then Grani began to pace up
and down. "Would that I," he said at
last, "had never seen the Orkneys!"
"What is this?" asked Rolf.
Grani said after a silence: "I shall
never speak again to my father, whom I
have not seen these many years." Next
he said: "My sister must be almost a
woman." After that said he: "Peaceful
was our home."
Frodi tried to comfort him, but Grani
would not listen. "Let us die in the
open," he cried, "and give an account of
But when they tried to leave that
 smothering place, they found the Scots
had braced the door, and it could not be
moved. Then a corner of the roof fell
down, and burned inside the storehouse.
"Now," cried Grani in despair, "would
I were once more on the home-field of
Fellstead, looking abroad on old Broadfirth
and the peaceful dales!"
"A wonderful thing thou sayest!" exclaimed Rolf.
"Let wonders be," said Frodi. "But
since we cannot leave this place by the
front door, why not by the rear?"
"How do that?" asked Grani.
Frodi drew aside the heavy hide which
hung at the back of the storehouse,
against the rock of the hillside: there were
a carved stone doorway and a black cave.
"Now," cried Grani, "rightly is this
place called the Vale of the Hermit; this
was his house, though I never knew of it
till now. Let us be quick!"
 So they went into that cave and sat
there, while the fire burned the storehouse
quite away, and its roof-beams fell across
the door of the cave and hid it.
Moreover the green hide did not burn through,
and kept out the smoke; and a little
air came in through a fissure of the rock.
Then the Scots who watched went their
way, and Kiartan with them. When
they were gone, those three thrust the
hide and the beams aside from the
cave-mouth, and leaped out over the embers.
They were near stifled, and weak from the
Those Scots and Kiartan went back to
Hawksness, and for what he had done they
gave him his ship unplundered. But they
plundered the hall and the church, and
with the riches of Ar they had both sport
and quarrels, until all was divided. Then
they sent out vessels to ravage in the
Orkneys; but the main body, and the
 leader, sat there at Hawksness, and
because it was believed Earl Thorfinn
thought them still in Scotland, and no
ship had been spared to go south and tell
of them, they had no fear of him. For it
would have been a great undertaking for
any small boat to cross the Pentland
But on a day when the Earl sat in his
hall, in Thurso of Caithness, his men came
to him, saying: "There are messengers
without, and they would speak with thee."
But the men laughed.
"Why laugh ye?" asked the Earl.
"The messengers say they are from the
Orkneys, yet no ship has come, and they
are the worst of scarecrows."
"But bring them in," said the Earl.
So three men were brought before the
Earl. One was of middle height, and
slender; he bore a bow. One was taller,
and carried a sword. The third was as
 big as any man in that place, and he held
in his hand a great bill. All in rags were
those men, as if their garments had been
scorched. They told the Earl that the
Scots were in the Orkneys, and the Earl's
men laughed mightily.
"Sailed ye across the Firth?" asked
"We rowed," answered they.
"In what?" asked the Earl. "And where is the boat?"
"It sunk off the shore," said those men, "and we swam the last mile."
"Why are ye so burned?"
They said they had been nigh burned
Then the Earl stilled the laughter of his
men, and he leaned to that one who bore
the bow; he was not much more than a
lad. "Where didst thou get," asked the
Earl, "that short-sword which thou wearest?
For I know the weapon well, since
 once it belonged to Earl Sigurd my
"That may be so," said the lad, "but
it was given me out in Iceland."
"Now," said the Earl, "I know the
man to whom my father gave the sword,
and he went out to Iceland. Tell me
what man gave it thee; if the name is
the same, then will I believe this news
of thine. But if the name is different,
then ye three shall die for your false
"A light matter on which to hang
lives," quoth that one. "Who knows
how many have owned this sword? But
I got it from Kari, Solmund's son."
The Earl smote his thigh. "And to
Kari my father gave it! Up, men, and
dight yourselves for war! This day we
sail for the Orkneys."
So Earl Thorfinn sailed north, and with
him went Grani, Rolf, and Frodi, those
 bearers of the tidings. And before ever
the Scots were ready for them the
Orkneyingers closed in upon Hawksness, and
attacked the Scottish fleet. Some of the
Scots were away, and some were ashore;
those who might fight lashed their ships
in a line, as in a line the Earl's ships bore
down on them. That fight lasted not
long, and all the Scottish ships were
taken; the Scots who were on shore were
hunted down, and as their ships came
in from the other isles, they were taken
one by one.
Kiartan's ship was still on the beach,
and he was found in the church.
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