|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 EINAR AND ONDOTT
OW the tale turns to speak of
Einar and his household, how
they dwelt at Fellstead, upon
the low-lying land. Einar was a rich
man, and he kept a large household of
many thralls and servants. And for his
pleasure, that he might seem the greater
in the eyes of his neighbors, he kept men
who did no work, but bore arms
wheresoever they went; yet it had never been
known that Einar brought any matter to
bloodshed. He was not firm in any dealings,
but he wished to be thought a great
man. His holding was wide, for he
owned all that the fathers of Hiarandi
had had. Yet from his yard he often
 looked with no contented eye toward the
hall of Hiarandi, where it stood above
the crags, looking far over firth and
Now of the men of Einar's household
Ondott had the ruling, for he pleased
Einar much, yet they were different in
all outward ways. For Einar was short
and plump, given to puffing and swelling
as he spoke, and of many smooth words;
but Ondott was tall and thin, lean-visaged
and sour, and of surly speech. Einar was
fond of dress, while Ondott went in simple
clothes; yet they both loved money, and
some accused Ondott of hoarding, but
Einar spent freely, seeking to gain by
gifts what his wit could not win for him.
For he was not loved, and men thought
little of his counsels.
Of the women at Fellstead one old
freedwoman was chief; and she held in
especial care the daughter of Einar, Helga
 by name, who was yet young, being but
thirteen years of age. She was of a sweet
nature. Now one morning Helga stood
with Dalla the old woman before the
women's door of the hall, and they saw
where came toward them a woman much
bent, and covered with a cape and hood;
when she came near, they knew her for
Thurid from Cragness. She begged them
for lodging and work. Dalla sent for
"How is it come," asked Einar, "that
thou hast left Hiarandi?"
"The man," said she, "calls upon his
doom, and I will not stay to share it."
And she told of the beacon, and how
thereby a ship had been saved.
"Now," quoth Einar, "Hiarandi is a
fool, so to break an old custom."
"Yet meseems," said Helga timidly,
"that it was a kind thing to do."
"Thou art but a child," he answered
 reprovingly. But she came closer to him
and pulled his sleeve.
"Let not the old woman stay here,"
she whispered. "For I like not her looks,
and I mistrust her."
But Ondott, who heard, said: "Nay,
let us keep the old carline, if only to spite
Hiarandi." And Dalla added: "She is a
good worker, and handy to have about
the place. Let us give her room." So
Einar bade Thurid go within, and do
what work was set her, in pay for her
keep. But he asked her before he went
"Why camest thou here?"
"A rat," said she, "will leave a house
that is sure to fall, and seek one which
will stand." Then Einar was greatly
pleased with her, and bade give her a
better cloak. So it was that Thurid dwelt
at Fellstead, and paid well with her work
for her keep; but at Cragness she was
 missed, and the work was harder. Yet
Thurid made no more prophecies, nor
spoke of those which had been made.
But it was known that the thralls of
Hiarandi were set to light beacons on
stormy nights, and he was much laughed
at by the dwellers at Fellstead. And
his thralls found it hard work, and became
greatly discontented; yet since
it was winter time, they had little else
Now one of them was named Malcolm,
a Scot, and he came one day to Fellstead,
when he was not needed at the farm.
And Ondott met him, and asked him in,
and asked him questions of matters at
Cragness. As they spoke by the fire,
Thurid passed by, and she sang to herself:
"Evil and ill
Come together still."
Malcolm asked: "Does the woman still
make her rhymes with you?"
 "Little have I heard her sing," answered
Ondott. "But what sang she with you?"
Then Malcolm told of the singing of
Thurid and Asdis, and of the prophecies
of the old woman. And when he went
away, Ondott gave him a small piece of
money and bade him come again. Then
Ondott called Thurid, and asked her of
the things she had said at Cragness, what
they might mean. But he got little from
her; for first she would not speak, and
then she only muttered, and at last all
she said was this rhyme:
"No need to teach
Or trick or speech
To him whose mind
All wiles will find."
And Ondott could make nothing out
of that; moreover, because it was Kiartan
whom Hiarandi had saved, he thought
that the farmer had strengthened himself
by his deed. For only when the news
 came of the trick of Kiartan in cheating
his brother did Ondott think that there
might be something in the old woman's
forecasting. And he and Einar spoke
cheerfully together of the misfortune to
their neighbor. Then summer drew on,
and the Quarter Thing was held, and then
came bad news to Einar in his hall.
For a seafaring man landed at Hunafloi,
and came across to Broadfirth; and
he brought word that in the Orkneys
Kiartan had foully slain a man of Broadfirth,
whose nearest of kin was Einar, so
that it was Einar's duty to follow up the
Here it must be said, for those who
know not the customs of those days, that
the death of a man called for atonement
from the slayer, either his death or a
payment in money, unless the slaying could
be justified. The nearest of kin must
take the suit against the slayer; and if
 the slayer should die, then his nearest of
kin must take the defence. And the law
is clearly shown by the case of the Heath-Slayings
and other famous quarrels, when
from small broils great feuds arose, from
the duty of kinship and the unwillingness
to pay blood-fines for another's deed.
Thus Einar took upon him his duty,
and vowed that Kiartan should pay with
either money or blood.
All stood by and heard this, and they
applauded. But Ondott said: "Come
now outside with me and speak of this,
but give the messenger food and bid him
rest here the night."
So that was done, and Einar went out
into the yard with Ondott, and walked
up and down with him. Said Ondott:
"Long are we likely to wait ere we lay
hands on Kiartan. For he hath set his
own brother strong against him, and
scarce will he dare return to Iceland."
 "That may be true," said Einar gloomily.
"I like it not," said Ondott, "that
Hiarandi should know this spite his
brother has done thee, and yet be free
himself. In the old days, which are not
so long past, a man would have gone
against Hiarandi with weapons. And he
hath no relatives to harm thee."
"For all that," answered Einar, "the
men of the Quarter would not like it.
Lawfully must vengeance be taken, or
not at all. Yet it is hard if my money
and thy wit cannot rid me of these
brothers, who anger me, and Hiarandi
more than Kiartan." And he looked
across at Cragness with fretting.
"Well mayest thou say that," answered
Ondott, "for there stands Hiarandi's hall,
which he cannot fill, while thou in thine
art cramped for room. It is plainly true
what people say, that thou canst never
 come into the honor which should be
thine, while thou livest here, where
strangers take thee for Hiarandi's tenant, or
even his freedman."
"They take me for his freedman!"
cried Einar. "Now that is not to be
borne! And I say to thee, get me
Hiarandi's house and I will reward thee well."
Then Ondott laid a plan before him.
It should be given out that Kiartan was
dead: the man who brought the news of
the slaying might be bribed to swear
to Kiartan's death. Then the blood-suit
could be brought against Hiarandi in
place of Kiartan; and all men knew that
Hiarandi had no money to pay the fine,
so that he must sell his farm.
"Now," quoth Einar in great delight,
"I will lengthen thy name, and thou shalt
be called Ondott Crafty." For that was
a saying in those days, to lengthen a
man's name by giving him a nickname.
 Then they called from the house that
man who had brought the news.
Because he was an outlander he was easily
persuaded to swear to Kiartan's death.
Einar gave him money, both for himself
and to pay his passage outward. Then
witnesses were called to hear the oath;
and on the morrow the man departed,
and took ship for Ireland, and he is out
of the story.
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