|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 |
HOW HIARANDI RECEIVED THE LESSER OUTLAWRY
IARANDI travelled to the Althing all alone; he had a good
horse and stout clothes, but in
nothing was he noticeable, so that men
who passed him on the road gave him
only the good-day, yet asked him not to
join their company. And he saw how
men of power rode with their Thingmen
behind them, all in colored clothes and
well armed. He saw Hrut, the famous
swordsman, how he rode with eleven full-grown
sons at his back, and men besides,
so that all thought that a grand sight.
And many others rode to the Althing
with great pride. Then Hiarandi recalled
 that his own father had ridden in holiday
guise to bring his suits; and as he
compared his father's state with his own, he
who went alone and unnoticed, but at
home was called the Unlucky, then his
heart was greatly cast down within him.
He came to the Thingvalla, where all
the plain was a busy hive of men. And
he found humble lodging at a booth, and
stabled his horse under the cliff, and spent
the night alone amid the throng. Then
on the morrow, at midday, he went out
to have speech with Snorri. At Snorri's
booth he was told that Snorri was at talk
with a client within.
"Then I will wait," said Hiarandi, and
sat down on a bench at the door. But it
was bitter to him that he should sit there,
a poor suitor, at the door of his kinsman.
Now he had not sat there long when he
heard his own name spoken within, and
he knew the voice of his neighbor Einar.
 And Einar was saying, "Thou art not
bound to Hiarandi in any way."
Then he heard another voice, the voice
of an old man—for Snorri was advanced
in years—saying: "Small enough are the
ties between myself and Hiarandi."
Then Hiarandi rose and walked away.
And he forgot all he had promised his
wife, and all she had said to him: how he
should forget himself in struggling for her
sake and Rolf's. But that melancholy
came over him which was his greatest
"I am too late," he said to himself,
"for Einar is before me. My case is lost,
and my farm too; for on whose side
Snorri is, on that side has fallen the
judgment for this score of years. And the
twists of the law are too hard for me to
understand, since meseems right hath no
place in a law-finding. Yet I will defend
myself as I may."
 Then on the morrow the Althing was
opened, and the four Quarter Courts sat
in their places, and the Fifth Court sat at
the Hill of Laws. And Hiarandi, as he
went to the court of the Westfirthers,
saw where Einar walked also thither with
Snorri, keeping close by his elbow, and
laughing as he talked. Ondott also was
there, slinking behind like a fox. And
on that very first day Hiarandi's case was
Now Einar had men of the law as his
friends, and they had taught him what to
say. And he opened the case, speaking
loud and clearly, and called on Hiarandi
to answer the charges. But Hiarandi
stood up alone, without counsel, and
spoke for himself. Soon he saw that the
case went against him. For Einar and
his friends knew so much of the law
that their wiles were many, and
Hiarandi was soon confused, so that his
an-  swers were not wise. And Einar smiled
where he stood, so that he confused
Hiarandi the more. Then Einar demanded
judgment unless Hiarandi had more to
say. And he was about to give up his
Then came some one and stood at
Hiarandi's elbow, and said: "Thou shouldst
demand a stay in the proceedings."
Hiarandi looked at the man, but he
was muffled in a cloak, so that his face
was not to be seen. Then Hiarandi
asked: "For what reason can I ask a
The man replied: "It is always permitted to ask it, to get counsel."
But Hiarandi said: "No counsel can
save me here. Let an end come now."
"Foolish art thou," answered the man.
"Dost thou forget those at home? Do as I bid!"
Then Hiarandi asked a stay, and it
 was granted him until the morrow. But
when he turned to ask the man his advice,
he was gone, and Hiarandi could not see
him anywhere. Then he went to beg
help of those versed in the law, but they
said he should have come sooner, for they
were now too busy to help him. Once
more, thinking again of Asdis and Rolf,
he went to ask help of Snorri the Priest;
but he was not at his booth, and men said
he would be at the courts all day. At
that Hiarandi went away again; and he
wandered about the Thing-field, seeing
no one whom he could ask for help, but
beholding everywhere men too busy with
their own affairs to heed him. At last
toward dusk his courage forsook him once
more, and he went and sat down on the
bank of the river, believing his case lost.
As he sat there the light grew dim, and
of a sudden he saw at his side the man
muffled in the cloak.
 "Now is seen," said the man, "the
truth of the old saw: 'He that pleadeth
his own cause hath a fool for his client.'
For a sound case hadst thou, but it is
well-nigh ruined beyond remedy."
"What should I have done?" asked
"Thou shouldst have asked aid of
Snorri the Priest."
"But he," said Hiarandi, "has been in
talk with Einar, who sues me."
"Since when," asked the man, "has
Snorri been used to pledge himself to all
who come to him? Hast thou forgotten
he is of thy kin?"
"We are both come," said Hiarandi,
"from the stock of Gisli the Outlaw.
But if Gisli was his uncle, so also was
Gisli the slayer of his father. So Snorri is
both against us and for us by the tie of
blood; and he forgetteth and remembereth
as he chooseth, or as his interest bids."
 Then said the man: "Thou givest him
no good character. Yet at least thou
couldst have let him have the say, which
way his interest lies."
But Hiarandi answered in bitter mood:
"Snorri casteth his weight where is the
greater power, that his own strength may
"He would not thank thee should
he hear thee," answered the stranger.
"Yet methinks that even in matters
which concern his own advancement, he
should be free to choose for himself."
"Now," asked Hiarandi, "shall I go
to Snorri and crave his help?"
"Nay," replied the cowled man, "now
it is too late. For this evening Snorri
holdeth counsel on weighty matters
concerning chiefs from the south firths, who
are to meet him at his booth."
"Why, then," asked Hiarandi, "didst
thou persuade me to ask a stay of
judg-  ment? For my fate meets me after all."
"Perhaps even I," said the man, "know
more of the law than thou. Now wilt
thou be ruled by me?"
"That I will," answered Hiarandi
"Then shalt thou do thus and so,"
said the man. And he instructed Hiarandi how he should speak on the next
day. "And this shalt thou do even
though thou seest Snorri in company with
Einar.—Nay, make no question, for else
thou art ruined." And with this the man
In the morning all men go to the
courts again; and Hiarandi marks how
Einar walks with Snorri, and they seem
merry together, though Einar laughs
the most. Nevertheless, Hiarandi stands
up when his case is called, and does
as the cowled man had said, for he
de-  mands of Einar what forfeiture he will name.
"Either," said Einar, "that thou shalt
pay down the worth of three hundreds in
silver, or that thou shalt be outlawed."
"Now," said Hiarandi, "it seems hard
that so much shall be my punishment.
But wilt thou take this offer, that we
handsel this case to Snorri the Priest,
and abide by his finding?"
Einar hesitated. But many standing
by said that was fair; moreover, that was
a custom much followed. And again,
Einar did not wish the outlawing of
Hiarandi; but he felt sure that Snorri
would lay a blood-fine, which must force
Hiarandi to sell his farm. And he
thought his cause was sure, so he said after
So they handselled the suit to Snorri,
striking hands together before the judges,
 and agreeing to abide by his decision.
Then Snorri stood up to speak. Einar
smiled at him that he might remind him
of their companionship, but Snorri smiled
not at all.
"Thus it seems to me," he said, and all
men listened while he spoke—for Snorri
was one of those who had known the
great men of old time, who had seen the
great fight at the Althing after Njal's
Burning, and who had swayed its event.
"Thus it seems to me," said Snorri.
"The case of Hiarandi was a good one
at the beginning, yet he has well-nigh
spoiled it. But the case of Einar seems
strong, yet it is weak. For he has named
as witnesses two men of kin to the slain
man; also he has not called a man who is
nearer neighbor than one he has called.
Also three men are neither landholders,
nor money owners, nor owners of sheep
or cattle; but they live in Einar's hall at
 his expense. Now let Einar say if all
these things are not true."
Then Einar had to speak; and he
acknowledged that his witnesses, who should
make the jury, were chosen as Snorri had
said. Then Snorri set those men out of
the jury, and only six were left.
"Seven men are needed to make the
tale of the witnesses complete," quoth
Snorri. "Therefore it is plain that this
case of the slaying shall fall to the ground,
and no atonement shall be paid. But as
to the case of the striking of Ondott, that
is another matter; and it is a case of
contempt of the Thing, for one who goes to
serve summons in a suit is free to go and
come unscathed, and is under the
protection of the men of the Quarter.
Therefore I doom Hiarandi to the lesser
outlawry, after this manner: he shall
remain upon his farm for the space of
one year, nor go beyond its limits more
 than the length of a bowshot, upon
penalty of full outlawing. But shall he
become a full outlaw, then his property, and
the inheritance of his son, is not to be
forfeit, but only Hiarandi's life is to be in
danger. And such is my finding." Then
Snorri sat him down.
Then men murmured together, discussing
the judgment; and all said that he
knew the law to its uttermost quibble,
and he knew men as well, for who told
him that the jury was wrongly constituted?
And Einar was wroth, complaining that
Snorri was tender of his relative. But
Hiarandi was glad, and a weight fell from
him, for he saw how he had been saved
from all that threatened him. He went
to Snorri to thank him.
Snorri took his thanks, and smiled at
Hiarandi. "Now is clearly seen," quoth he,
"how much Snorri thinks of his own honor,
and how little of that of his kinsmen."
 Hiarandi had nothing to answer.
"And it is also plain," said Snorri,
"how I always favor the rich, but care
nothing for poor men."
"Now I see," said Hiarandi, "that thou
wert the man in the cloak."
"Mayest thou perceive as well,"
responded Snorri, "that thou hast a friend
in the world who will help thee when
he can." But he would take no more
thanks, advising Hiarandi to go home
and set his affairs in order, since from the
rising of the Althing to its next sitting he
must not quit his farm.
"And take heed," quoth Snorri, "that
thou losest not thy life from carelessness,
or from the wiles of thine enemies."
Then Hiarandi betook himself home.
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