|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 |
NTIL the time when the Althing
must rise, Hiarandi set his affairs
in order, and was busy thereat.
He arranged who should buy his hay, and
who should supply him with this matter
and that, although it was clear that many
things must be done by the hands of Rolf.
Also Frodi the Smith, kinsman of the
Cragness-dwellers, was to come to Cragness
whenever he might. Thus it was all
settled; and when the Althing rose, then
Hiarandi withdrew upon his farm for the
space of one year.
But Rolf had to see to the sheep-shearing, since the washing was best done
beyond the farm, upon common land.
 Also the selling of the wool came to
Rolf's lot, and he travelled to the market
therewith. Through the autumn he was
much busied with his father's matters;
and it rejoiced his parents that the lad,
who had come now into his fifteenth year,
was wise and foreseeing, and looked well
to all that was trusted to his hand.
Then the winter drew nigh; and the hay
was stored, and the time came when the
sheep must be gathered from their
summer pastures, when the frosts drove them
down from the uplands. All men met at
the great sheep-fold which the father of
Hiarandi had built; but Hiarandi might
not be there, because the fold was now
on Einar's land, full five bowshots from
the boundaries of Cragness. Rolf went
with the thralls to the separating of the
sheep by means of their marks; but
Hiarandi sat at home, looking out at the
 gathering of people, and might not be
at any of the doings.
Now Ondott Crafty had oversight of
Einar's sheep, and he examined the sheep's
ear-marks, and said whose they were.
Rolf gave to the thralls the sheep to
drive home; but Frodi the Smith, who
was the mildest of men, took the sheep
from the hands of Ondott. This task
Rolf gave to Frodi, because he would not
himself have speech with Ondott, who
was now well of his broken arm, but
whose temper was not improved by his
hurt. Now Ondott came to a sheep
which had torn its ear, so that the mark
was scarred. Then said Ondott:
"This sheep is Einar's."
"Nay," said Frodi, "I remember the
wether, and he is Hiarandi's."
"Looks not the mark," asked Ondott,
"like the mark of Einar?"
 "Yes," said Frodi, "but the mark is
scarred, and is changed."
"Now," quoth Ondott, "call Hiarandi
hither, and let him decide."
This he said with a sneer; but Frodi
answered gravely: "My cousin shall not
break his outlawry for a sheep. But call
"I call no boys to my counsel," answered Ondott.
"The matter is between thee and me."
Then Frodi was perplexed, for in
disputes and bargains he mixed little. "But,"
said he, "meseems this is best. Drive
the sheep to Cragness, and let Hiarandi
"Now," said Ondott, "I have no time
for that. But draw thy whittle, and we
can settle the matter here."
Then Frodi looked upon his long knife,
and said nothing.
"Why carriest thou the whittle, then,"
 asked Ondott, "if thou art not ready to
"My whittle," answered Frodi, "is to
cut my bread and cheese, and to mend
my shoes on a journey."
Then all the men who stood about
hooted at the simple answer. Ondott
said: "Betake thyself then to bread and
cheese, but the sheep is ours." And
he sent the sheep away to join Einar's
Now Frodi was puzzled, and he said:
"I will not follow up the matter, but will
pay for the sheep out of mine own
savings." But when he offered to pay, Rolf
and Hiarandi were angered, for the wether
was a good one. Yet they could get no
satisfaction from Einar, although they
might not blame Frodi, knowing his
Now, as the winter approached, came
chapmen, traders, into the neighborhood,
 and laid up their ship near Cragness; and
all men went to chaffer with them. But
Hiarandi must stay at home. Then for
company's sake he sent and bade the
shipmaster dwell with him for the winter;
but Ondott Crafty, learning of it, won
the shipmaster, by gifts, to stay with
Einar. And that pleased Hiarandi not
at all. Then the winter came, and men
had little to do, so they held ball-play on
the ponds; yet Hiarandi could not go
thither. And the life began to irk him
much. When spring drew near, Frodi
went back to his smithy, and the household was small.
One day Ondott said to Einar: "Still
we sit here, and gaze at the house where
we should live."
"What is there to do?" asked Einar.
"Nothing brings Hiarandi from his farm,
not even the loss of his wether. I have
set spies to watch him, but he never
 comes beyond the brook which marks his
"Yet there is something to be done,"
answered Ondott. "Wait awhile."
And the winter passed, and the
chapmen began to dight their ship for the
outward voyage. Now Malcolm the Scot,
the thrall of Hiarandi, stood often on the
crag when his day's work was done, and
gazed at the ship of the chapmen. One
evening Ondott went thither to him,
seeing that he was out of sight of the hall.
"Why gazest thou," asked Ondott, "so
much at the ship? Wouldst thou go in
"Aye," answered the thrall, "for she
goes to my home. But I have not the
money to purchase my freedom, though
Hiarandi has promised in another year to
set me free."
"Wilt thou wait another year when
thou mightest slip away now?" cried
 Ondott. "But perhaps thou fearest that
the shipmaster would give thee up."
"That also," said the thrall, "was in my mind."
Then Ondott said: "The shipmaster
has dwelt with us the winter through,
and I know well what sort of man he
is. Now I promise that if thou comest
to him three nights hence, he will keep
thee hidden, and no one shall see thee
when they sail in the morning."
The thrall hesitated, but in the end he
did as Ondott desired, and he gained his
freedom by the trick. Thus was the
work at Cragness rendered harder for
those who remained, and Frodi could not
come to help.
"Hiarandi," said Ondott to Einar, "is
at last coming into those straits where
I wished him. Now be thou guided by
me, and I promise that in the end thy
wishes will be fulfilled. Come, we will
 go to Cragness as before, and make offer
to Hiarandi to buy his land." And he
persuaded Einar to go. They went as
before, with Hallvard and Hallmund.
"Shall we go armed?" asked the men.
"Nay," answered Ondott, "only witnesses do I desire."
Now when Hiarandi was called forth
by Einar, Rolf also was by, but he saw
that they of Fellstead bore no arms.
Again Ondott spoke in the place of
"Hiarandi," said he, "all men can see
what fortune is thine, since thy thrall
has left thee and thy work is harder.
Truly thou art called unlucky. But
Einar pities thy condition, and he offers
thus: Take from him a smaller farm, and
the difference in silver. And since this
outlawry is from us, from the time ye two
handsel the bargain thou art free to go
where thou wilt, without fear of thy life."
 But Hiarandi spoke to Einar, and not
to Ondott. "Why comest thou hither,"
he said, "like a small man to chaffer over
little things? This outlawry irks me not,
and in two months I am free to go where
I wish. Go home; and when thou
comest again, find thy tongue and speak for thyself!"
Then he went indoors and left them.
So Einar and those others rode
homeward, and he thought his journey shameful.
"See," said he to Ondott, "where
thy counsels have brought me. I am
mocked and sent away."
"Now," Ondott replied, "that has happened
which I desired, and I brought men
to hear. For thou hast made a fair offer
to Hiarandi, and hast shown a good heart.
Now what happens to him is his own
fault, and no man can blame us." Then
he commanded the two men that they
should tell everyone what had been said,
 showing how Einar had been generous,
but Hiarandi insulting. And when they
reached the house, Ondott said to Einar
"Thou shalt see that Hiarandi hath
sown the seeds of his own destruction.
Leave all to me."
Not many evenings thereafter, Ondott
put himself in the way of the second
thrall of Hiarandi, and spoke with him.
"How goes all at Cragness?" asked
"Hard," said the thrall, "for we are at
the spring work; and Hiarandi spares
not himself, nor me either, and the work
is heavy since my fellow is gone."
"Now, why not make thy lot lighter,"
asked Ondott, "by taking service elsewhere?"
"I am a slave," said the man, "and
not a servant." He did not tell that his
freedom had been promised him, for he
 thought that time far away, since it was
three years. For Hiarandi had the custom
that a thrall should serve with him
not for life, but for only seven years,
and this man had been with him a less
time than Malcolm.
"The life of a thrall," said Ondott, "is very hard."
"Aye," said the man.
"Yet thy fellow went away," quoth Ondott.
"Aye," answered the thrall, "but he
fled over the sea. No ship is now
outward bound, nor is there anyone to hide
me. Else might I also flee."
"Come to Einar," said Ondott. "There shalt thou be safe."
"If thou sayest true," answered the thrall, "then it shall be done."
"But thou must come," said Ondott,
"in the way I shall name. Thus only
shalt thou be of service to Einar; but
 thou shalt be well rewarded if thou
showest thyself a man of courage."
"Who will not dare much for his freedom?"
replied the thrall. "But is harm meant to Hiarandi?"
"That is not thine affair," quoth Ondott.
Then for a time they spoke together,
and certain matters were agreed upon between them.
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