|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 ROLF AND EINAR SUMMONED EACH OTHER
ECAUSE of the state of matters at Cragness, Frodi the Smith
journeyed there frequently to see
his relatives. Here it must be told what
kind of man he was. He was tall and
heavy-jointed, with a long neck and a
long face, and somewhat comic to look
upon. Frodi the Slow was he by-named,
for his movements were cumbersome and
his mind worked slowly. But since that
affair at the sheep-fold, many called him
Now Rolf sends for him one day, and
tells him all that had happened, and how
he was sure of making Einar an outlaw.
 And he asks Frodi to go with him to
the house of Einar, to be witness to
Then said Frodi: "Let me say what
I think of this affair. First thou shouldst
ask a peaceful atonement. For in the
beginning it seems that there is danger
to thee, so great is the strength against
thee. And in the second place such
continual blood-feuds as daily go on are
unchristian, and evil for the land."
Then Rolf was thoughtful. "Shall I
have done all my seeking for nothing?"
he asked. "More than that, shall I take
money for my father's slaying?"
"It is the custom of the land," said
Frodi, "and many men do it for the sake
"I heard Flosi say at Tongue," said
Rolf, "how strife between neighbors was
the greatest bane of this land. And I
am half minded to do as thou sayest.
 But why has not Einar offered me atonement,
if any is to be paid? I tell thee,
hard is his heart, and he is glad!"
"At least," begged Frodi, "let me ask
Einar what he will do."
"So I will," answered Rolf, "and a
great sacrifice I make, to lay aside my
grief and vengeance. Nay, I even break
my vow which I made before thee. But
I think only scorn will be thy portion,
and matters will be made worse."
Then they went together to the house
of Einar, and were seen from the hall
as they entered the yard, and men came
and stood in the porch as they approached.
There were Einar and Ondott, and other
men of the household. All bore weapons.
But no one spoke when the cousins stood
"Will no one here give us welcome?" asked Frodi.
Ondott mimicked Frodi's slow voice,
 and said: "Be welcome." The men of Einar laughed.
"Laugh not," said Frodi mildly. "Now,
Einar, it is known how Hiarandi came by
his death, and men say thou art responsible therefor."
"I was not by at his slaying," answered
Said Rolf: "What is done by a man's
servants, with his knowledge, is as his
And Frodi said: "Were it not better
to atone Rolf for the death of his father,
rather than have bad blood between
neighbors? For thou knowest this, that
some day a man may be found to shoot
an arrow beyond that little oak."
Now Einar was plainly smitten by the
answer of Frodi, and the scorn went from
his face, and he thought. And here may
be seen how the evil which a bad man
does is not half so much in quantity as
 the good which he mars. For Ondott
Crafty saw what was in Einar's mind,
and he spoke quickly.
"An award may be given, Einar," said
he, "which will honor you both. Shall
I utter it?"
Now Einar was accustomed to the bitter
jokes of Ondott, and when he thought
he saw one coming, he forgot his design
of peace, and said: "Utter the award."
"But does Rolf agree to it?" asked Ondott.
"I will hear it," answered Rolf. "But
if thou meanest to scoff, think twice, lest
in the end it be bad for thee."
Meanwhile some of the women of the
household had come out of the hall at its
other end, by the women's door, and now
stood near to hear what was said. Helga
the daughter of Einar was there, but she
hung back; nearest of all stood Thurid
the crone, listening closely.
 "Now this I would award," said
Ondott, "if I were in thy place, Einar.
Thy son Grani is abroad, in the fostering
of the Orkney earl; but some day he will
come home, and then will need men to
serve him. Let Rolf give up his holding
and become thy man; so canst thou protect
him from all harm. Then when thy
son returns Rolf shall be his bow-bearer,
and shall be atoned by the honor for the
death of his father."
Some laughed, but not for long, and
so far was this from a jest that the most
were silent. Then Thurid chanted:
"For Einar's son shall Rolf bear bow.
Which in the end shall bear most woe?"
But none paid attention, for Rolf was
gathering himself to speak. And he
cried: "Ill jesting is thine, Ondott!
Now hear what I am come hither to
say: Outlaw shall Einar be made, for
that man is found who can make the
 shot beyond the little oak. And thus I
So he recited the summons. He named
the deed and the place, and the wounds
of which Hiarandi had died. He named
witnesses, those householders who had
already been summoned. And he called
Einar to answer for the deed before the
Westfirther's Court at the Althing.
Ondott alone laughed when the
summons was spoken in full. "So here are
come a boy and a peaceling," quoth he,
"to pick a quarrel with men."
"Heed him not," said Frodi to Rolf,
"for he seeks cause to draw sword on thee."
Then Rolf made no answer to Ondott,
but he and Frodi turned away and started
to go home. Ondott whispered to Einar:
"A spear between the shoulders will
settle this matter for good." And he
signed to Hallvard that he should have
 his spear ready to throw. Einar stood
But the maid Helga went forward
quickly and walked by Rolf's side. "May
I go with thee to the gate?" she asked.
Great anger possessed him against all
of Einar's house, but the sight of her
astonished him, and he said she might
come. In silence they went to the gate
of the yard; then Helga stood there in
the way while those two from Cragness
went homeward. And Einar had already
bidden that no violence be done, for fear
of harming his daughter. He went into
the hall and sat down in his seat, brooding
over the outcome.
Ondott said: "Too squeamish art thou."
Einar said: "If thou findest me not a
way out of this, it will go ill with thee."
Now a way out of that would have
been hard to find, had not one day Ondott
 met that man who had set Rolf on the
right road as he pursued Grettir. Said
the man: "So thy neighbor Rolf won his
sheep again from Grettir the Strong.
That was a great deed!"
Then Ondott learned of the stealing
of the sheep, and how Rolf had been seen
driving it home again. He thought, and
knew who must be that man who would
shoot for Rolf. Then he went homeward
with a light heart.
"Now," said he to Einar, "thy defence
is sure. But come with me, and we will
summon Rolf for those wounds he dealt,
and that man he slew, when Hiarandi
"No court," answered Einar, "will
punish Rolf for that." And he would
not go, though he gave Ondott permission
to go in his stead. Ondott took a
witness and went to Cragness, where Rolf
and Frodi were at work in the yard.
 Ondott recited the summons; Rolf and
Frodi went on with the work, and answered naught.
And now all is quiet until men ride
to the Althing.
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