|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 TRIAL OF SKILL AT TONGUE
NORRI asked of Rolf: "Art thou
the son of Hiarandi my kinsman?"
"His son am I," answered Rolf.
"So must thy father be dead," said
Snorri. "For I feared he would break
"It is yet to be proven," replied Rolf,
"whether he be lawfully slain or no."
Then Flosi said: "Let us hear this
tale, for it hath not yet come to our ears.
Sit here before us, and tell what hath
So Rolf sat there on the stool which
had been prepared, and he told his story.
All who sat there listened, and the men
of the South Firths drew up close. It
was a new thing for Rolf thus to speak
 before great men, and before fighting-men;
but he bore himself well and spoke
manfully, forbearing to complain, so that
they murmured praise of him. And it
seemed to them wrong that he had been
so treated, and the younger men grew
wroth. When Rolf had finished telling
of the death of Hiarandi, one of the
Southfirthers sprang up and stood before
the dais. That was Kolbein the son of
Flosi, and he asked: "May I speak what
is in my mind?"
They bade him speak.
"This place on Broadfirth," said Kolbein,
"is not so far out of our way when
we journey back. Let us make a stop
there, and pull this man Einar out of his
house, and so deal with him that he shall
do no evil hereafter."
This he said with fire, for he was a
But Flosi answered: "Now is seen in
 thee the great fault of this land, for we
are all too ready to proceed unlawfully.
And men can know by me how violence
is hard repaid." All knew he spoke of
the Burning, and of that vengeance which
took from him many kinsmen. "Let us
do nothing unlawful. What sayest thou,
Then Kari said that nothing should be
done without the law. And the young
man sat down again. But Kari called
on Snorri for his opinion.
"Methinks," said Snorri, "that the lad
hath some way of his own which may
"If that is all," answered Kari, "then
we will help him."
"It is only," said Rolf, "that one of
you here will shoot with the bow three
roods farther than I. Thus can my father's
death be proved unlawful, and Einar
 With great eagerness the young men
sprang up and got their bows. All said
they would do their best to help the lad,
but it was plain that they regarded the
matter an easy one. So Rolf took heart
at their confidence. Then all went out
to the mead, where was good space for
"But first," said Kari, "let us get our
hand in with shooting at a mark. Then
when we are limber we will shoot to show
So that was done, and all thought that
great sport, and a fine opportunity for
each to show what man he was. The
Southfirthers and the Westfirthers set
apples on sticks and shot them off, and
they shot next at the sticks themselves,
and last they shot at a moving mark.
Then they called Rolf to show his skill.
Flosi asked of Kari: "Thinkest thou
the lad can shoot?"
 "Slender is he," answered Kari, "but
strong in the arms and back, and his eye
is the eye of an eagle. Our young men
will not find their task easy."
Rolf struck the apples, and then the
sticks, and then the moving mark. Then
they swung a hoop on the end of a pole,
and Rolf sent his arrow through it, but
most of the others failed.
Kari laughed. "Ye forget," quoth he,
"that the lad shoots at birds and cannot
afford to lose his arrows. Who among
us hath had such training? But now
let us try at the distance."
So the ground was cleared for that,
and the weaker bowmen shot first, and
some good shots were made. Rolf was
called upon to say what he thought. He
shook his head.
"Ye must do better," he said.
Then better bowmen shot, all those
who were there except Kari and Kolbein.
 Snorri would not shoot, but Flosi did,
and a great honor it was deemed that he
should oblige the lad. But when all had
finished, then Rolf took his bow, and his
arrow fell upon the farthest which had
been sent, and split it.
Snorri laughed. "So hath my kinsman
come here," he said, "and all for naught."
But Kari said: "Kolbein and I have
yet to shoot, and we are about alike in
skill." So they shot one after the other,
and they shot equally, so far that all
were pleased, and some ran to measure
the distance, finding it three roods and
more beyond Rolf"s arrow. Many cried
that the matter was now settled.
But Snorri said: "Let Rolf shoot once
more. Mayhap he hath not yet done
Then Rolf took his bow again, and the
arrow flew; it fell less than a rood
behind the arrows of Kari and Kolbein.
 So it was proved that none there might
help Rolf in his need. Then he was
greatly cast down; and he wished to go
away at once, but they detained him over
night. No men could be kinder to him.
And in the morning, when he was to
start home, they offered him money, but
he would take none. So Snorri gave him
a cape, and Flosi a belt, and Kari gave
a short sword, handsome and well made;
much was he honored by those gifts.
Snorri lent him a horse to take him to
Hvamm, and there boatmen set him
again across the firth.
Weary and disheartened, he came to
Cragness on the morning of the second
day, and without joy he entered the hall.
There Asdis met him in great trouble.
"Here has been," said she, "a great
man and a rough, who made me feed
him. Misfortunes come to us from all
sides, for Frodi is away, and the man
 took our milk-ewe, and has driven it
away before him, going toward the fells."
"When was he here?" asked Rolf.
"Not two hours ago."
"I will seek him," said the lad, and turned from the house.
"Nay," cried Asdis in alarm, "I beg
thee, go not! For he was huge and fierce
of aspect. Thou art too tender to meet
such as he. Put up with this matter and
let it pass."
"Mother," answered Rolf, "I am sixteen
years old, and since the death of my
father I am a man in the eye of the law.
Wouldst thou have me less than a man
in fact?" And he went his way after
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