| Viking Tales|
|by Jennie Hall|
|We follow the fortunes of Harald from the time he is given his own thrall at the cutting of his first tooth, through his exploits as a viking adventurer, to his crowning as King of Norway. Then population pressures at home and eagerness for adventure and booty from other lands combine to drive some of the bolder Vikings to set forth from their native land. Sailing ever westward across the Atlantic, they hop along the chain of islands that loosely connects Norway with America in search of home and adventure. Ages 6-9 |
HOMES IN ICELAND
EN had been feasting in Ingolf's house. But there was
no laughing and no shouting of jokes. Ingolf sat in his
high seat frowning and gloomy. His head hung on his
breast. He was staring into the fire. Now he raised his
head and looked about the hall.
"Comrades," he said, "what shall we do? Herstein and
Holmstein died by our swords. Their kinsmen hunger to
kill us. Besides, when Harald hears of our deed, there
will not be a safe place in Norway for us. He will
never let a man fight out an honest quarrel. Where
shall we go?"
A man stood up from the bench.
"We have friends in the Shetlands," he said. "Let us
find homes there."
Then Leif, in the high seat opposite Ingolf, stood up.
"No, not the Shetlands, my foster-brother.
 Besides, Harald will not long keep his
hands off them. Then they will be no better than
Norway. England and Ireland and Scotland are old. My
eyes ache for something new. What of that far island
that Floki found? It is empty. We could choose our land
from the whole country. There is good fishing. There
are green valleys. And Butter Thorolf says that butter
drops from every weed. There are mountains and deserts
where we may find adventure. I say, let us steer for
When he stopped, many of the men shouted:
But an old man stood up.
"We have all laughed at that tale of Butter Thorolf's,"
he said. "But Floki himself said that the sea about the
island is full of ice that pushes upon the land, that
no ship can live in that water in the winter, that
great mountains of ice cover the island. Did not all
his cattle die there of hunger and cold, and did he not
come back to Norway cursing Iceland?"
 "Oh, Sighvat, you are old and fearful," called out
Leif, and he laughed.
Then he stretched himself up and threw back his head.
"Are we afraid of ice? Have we not seen angry water
before? I have been hungry, but I have never died of
it. Surely if there are fish in the sea and grass in
the valleys, we can live there. I should like to stand
on a hill and look around on a wide land and think,
'This is all ours,' and out upon a rough sea and think,
'Far off there are our foes and they dare not come over
to us.' Besides, we shall have no Shockhead Harald to
lord it over us. We can come and go and feast and fight
as we please. We shall be our own kings. And our ships
will be always waiting to take us away, when we are
weary of it. And we shall see things that other men
have never seen. I am tired of the old things. Perhaps
in after days men will make songs about 'those
foster-brothers, Ingolf and Leif, who made a new
country in a wonderful land, and whose sons and
grandsons are mighty men in Iceland!' "
 Ingolf leaped up from his chair.
"By the strong arm of Thor!" he cried, "I like the
sound of it. Now I make my vow."
He raised his drinking-horn.
"I vow that I will find this Iceland and pass the
winter there, and that if man can live upon it I will
go back there and set up my home."
"And I vow that I will follow my foster-brother," cried
And many men vowed to go.
So on the next day they began to make ready a boat.
They looked her over carefully and recalked every seam
and freshly painted her and put into her their
strongest oars and made her a new sail.
"This will be the longest voyage that she ever made,"
When the work was done, they put into her great stores,
axes, hammers, fish-nets, cooking-kettles, kegs of ale,
chests of hard bread, chests of smoked meat, brass
kettles full of flour, skin bottles of water. They
stowed these things away in the ends of the ship. When
they were ready they put in four head of cattle.
 "We shall need the milk and perhaps the meat," Ingolf
Many men wished to go, but Ingolf had said:
"There is little room to spare and little food and
drink. I have planned for half a year. But perhaps we
must be sailing longer than that. Our food may run
short. We must not have extra mouths to feed. There are
thirty oars in our boat. I will take only one man for
every oar, and Leif and I will steer."
So they started off. Leif stood in the prow leaning
forward and looking far ahead, and he sang:
"What does the swimming dragon smell?
A stormy sea, an empty land,
Hunger, darkness, giants, fire.
Leif and his sword do laugh at that."
They sailed for days and saw no land. Sometimes they
passed ships and always made sure to sail close enough
to hail them.
"Where are you going?" Ingolf would call.
"To Norway," would come back the answer.
 "For trade or fight?" Leif would shout.
Then would ring out a great laugh from that boat and
"A shut mouth is a good friend."
So the two ships sailed on, and the men were glad to
have heard a greeting and to have called one.
But at last there were the Shetlands.
"We will go in here and rest," Ingolf said.
When they rowed to shore a certain Shetland man stood
there. He watched them land and looked them all over.
Then he walked up to Ingolf and said:
"You look like brave men. Welcome to Shetland. You
shall come to my house and rest your legs from
ship-going and fill your stomachs. I hunger for news of
So they went to his house and stayed there for three
days. And good it seemed to be near a fire and in a
quiet bed and before a steaming platter. When they went
to the shore to start off again, the Shetland man had
his thralls carry a keg of ale and a great kettle of
cooked meat and put them into the ship.
 "Think of me when you eat this," he said.
Then the Norsemen put to sea again and sailed for a
One day a terrible storm came up; the sky was black;
the wind howled through the ship. Great waves leaped in
"Down with the sail and out with the oars!" Ingolf
So the men furled the sail and took down the mast and
laid it along the bottom of the boat. As they worked,
one man was washed overboard and drowned. The men sat
down to row, but the tumbling waves tossed the boat
about and poured over her and broke three of the oars.
But still the men held on. They were wet to the skin
and were cold, and their arms and legs ached with the
hard work, and they were hungry from the long waiting,
but not one face was white with fear.
"Ran, in her caves under sea, wants us for company
to-night," Ingolf laughed.
So they tossed about all night, but in the morning the
wind died down. Great waves still rolled, and for days
 was rough, but they could put up the sail. Then
one day Leif, as he sat in the pilot's seat, jumped to
his feet and sang:
"To eyes grown tired with looking far,
All at once appeared an island,
A stretching-place for sea-legs,
A quiet bed for backs grown stiff
On rowing-bench on rolling sea.
A place to build a red fire
And thaw the blood that sea-winds froze."
But when they came near they saw no place to land. The
island was like a mountain of rock standing out of the
water. The sides were steep and smooth. They sailed
around it, but found no place to climb up.
"There are many other islands here," said Leif. "We
will try another."
So he steered to another. It, too, was a steep rock,
but one side sloped down to the water and was green
"Oh, I have not seen anything so good as that green
grass since I looked into my mother's face," one man
There was a little harbor there. The men rowed in and
quickly jumped out and put the rollers under the ship
 her upon shore. Then they threw themselves
down on the grass and rolled and stretched their arms
and shouted for joy. After that they built a fire and
warmed themselves and cooked a meal and ate like
wolves. They slept there that night.
In the morning before Ingolf's men started away they
were standing high up on the hillside, looking about.
They saw no houses on any of the islands, but they saw
smoke rise from one hillside.
"Some other men, like us, weary of the sea and stopping
to rest," said Ingolf.
They saw the island that they had sailed around the night
"There can surely be nothing but birds' nests on top of
that," Sighvat said.
"Look!" cried another, pointing.
Men were standing on the flat top of that island. They
were letting a boat down the steep side with ropes.
When it struck the water, they made a rope fast to the
rock and slid down it into the ship and sailed off.
"Some robber vikings from Scotland or Ireland," laughed
Leif. "It is a good hiding place for treasure."
 Soon Ingolf and his men got into their ship and were
off. Old Sighvat grumbled.
"Is this land not new enough and empty enough and far
enough? I am tired of sea, sea, sea, and nothing else."
"We started for Iceland," said Ingolf, "and I will not
stop before I come there. I have a vow. Did you make
Then they were on the water again for weeks with no
sight of land.
"Oh! I would give my right hand to see a dragon pawing
the water off there and to fling a word to its men,"
"No hope of that," replied Ingolf. "Only three dragons
before ours have ever swept this water, and men are not
sailing this way for pleasure or riches."
So only the desolate sea stretched around them.
Sometimes it was smooth and shining under the sun.
Often it was torn by winds, and a gray sky hung over
it, and the men were drenched with rain. Once they ran
into a fog. For three days and nights they could not
see sun or stars to steer by. They forgot which way was
north. When after three days the fog
 lifted, they found
that they had been going in the wrong direction, and
they had to turn around and sail all that weary way
over again. But at last one afternoon they saw a white
cloud resting on the water far off. As they sailed
toward it, it grew into long stretches of black, hilly
shore with a blue ice mountain rising from it. The sun
was going down behind that mountain, and long lines of
pink and of shining green, and great purple shadows
streaked the blue.
"It is Iceland!" shouted the men.
"It is like Asgard the Shining," Ingolf said.
But it was still far off. Men can see a long way there
because the air is so clear. So Ingolf and his people
sailed on for hours and at last came into a harbor. A
little green valley sloped up from it. On one side was
the bright ice mountain. Back of it were bare black and
red hills. In that valley Ingolf and his men drew up
their boat and camped. At supper that night one of the
"I almost think I never felt a fire before or had warm
food in my mouth."
 The men laughed.
"It is four months since we left Norway," Ingolf said.
"Few men have ever been on the sea so long."
That night they put up the awning in the boat and slept
After that some men went fishing every day in the
rowboat that they had. And Ingolf took others, and they
sailed along the shore, seeing what kind of a land this
was. But winter began to come on. Then Ingolf said:
"Remember what Floki said of the ice and the rough sea
in winter. Soon we cannot sail any longer. Let us
choose a place to stay and build a hut there and cut
hay for our cattle."
So they did. Their hut was a little mean thing of
stones and turf. They kept the cattle and hay in it.
Sometimes they slept there, when it was very cold. But
most of the time they ate and slept by a great bonfire
out of doors where it was clean. Leif said:
"I like the cold air of the sea better than the
bad-smelling air of a house, even though it is warm."
 Now every day Ingolf and Leif and some of the men
walked about the island. At night they all sat around
the campfire and talked of what they had seen during
"This is surely a wonderful land," Ingolf said once.
"It is at the same time like Niflheim and like Asgard.
Here is a spot green and soft, a sweet cradle for men.
Next it is a mountain of ice where men would freeze to
death. And next to that is a hill of rock that seems to
have come out of some great fire. Yesterday I saw a
cave on the seashore. The door of it was big enough for
a giant. The waves broke at the doorstep. A terrible
roaring came from the cave. I think it is the home of a
giant. I think that giants of fire and giants of frost
made this island. I have seen great basins in the rocks
filled with warm water. They looked like giants'
bath-tubs. I have seen boiling water shoot up out of
the ground. I have walked, and have felt and heard a
great rumbling under me as though some giant were sleeping
there and turning over in his sleep. One day
 I stood on
a mountain and looked inland. There was a wide desert
of sand and black and red rock with nothing growing on
it. The fierce wind blew dirt into my eyes, and the
cold of it froze the marrow in my bones. When I have
seen these things I have cursed the country, and have
said: 'The gods hate Iceland. I will not stay here.'
But then I have walked through beautiful warm valleys
where the winds did not come. I saw in my mind the
flowers that we found last summer. I saw our cattle
feeding on the sweet grass. I thought of the sea full
of good fish. I saw my house built among green fields,
and my wife sitting in her home, and my children
playing among the flowers and making up tales about the
bright ice mountains. I saw the wide, rough seas
between me and Harald and our foes. Then I thought to
myself, 'It is the sweetest home on earth.' As for me,
I am coming here to live. What do you say, comrades?"
"Have I not vowed to follow you, foster-brother?" said
Leif. "And indeed I never saw a land that I liked
 I don't believe in your giants. My sword is my
god, and my ship is my temple, and I like this land to
set them up in."
They sat about the fire long that night making plans.
"You shall go home and get our women and our things,
Ingolf," said Leif. "I will off to Ireland and have a
frolic. There will be little play of swords in this
empty land, and I want to have one last game before I
hang up my battle-knife. Besides, I will come to you
with a ship full of gold and clothes and house-hangings
such as we cannot get here, and they will cost me
nothing but the swing of a sword."
As they talked, Ingolf looked up at the sky. The
northern lights were quivering there. They were like
great flames of yellow and green and red.
"See," he said, and pointed. "We are not so far that
the gods will forget us. There is the flash of the
armor of the Valkyrias.
A battle is on somewhere, and
Odin has sent his maidens to choose the heroes for
Leif only laughed and lay down to sleep.
 So in the spring they all went back to Norway. Leif got
ready the boat again and merrily sailed for Ireland.
"Here I go to get riches for our new land," he said.
Ingolf set his men to cutting down pines in the forest
and some to building a new ship. He had his thralls
plant large crops of grain and grind flour and make new
kegs and chests of wood. He himself worked much at the
forge, making all kinds of tools—spades, axes, hammers,
hunting-knives, cooking kettles. The women were busy
weaving and sewing new clothes. Ingolf sold his house
and land and everything that he could not take with
After about two years Leif came back. He had ten
thralls that he had got in Ireland. He took Ingolf
aboard his ship and raised the covers of great chests.
Gold helmets, silver-trimmed drinking-horns,
embroidered robes, and swords flashed out.
"Did I not say that I would come back with a full
ship?" he laughed.
At last all things were ready for starting.
 "To-day I will sacrifice to Thor and Odin," Ingolf
said. "If the omens are good we will start to-morrow."
"Well, go, foster-brother," laughed Leif. "But I have
better things to do. I will be putting the cattle into
the ship and will have all ready."
So Ingolf and his men went into the forests a little
way. There in a cleared space stood a large building.
In front of this temple the men killed two horses for
Odin. Ingolf caught some of the blood in a brass bowl.
He raised it and looked up at the sky and said:
"All-wise and all-father Odin, and Thor who loves the
thunder, I give these horses to you. Tell me whether it
is your will that we go to Iceland."
As he said that, a raven flew over his head. Ingolf
"It is Odin's will that we go," he said. "He sent his
to tell us. It is flying straight toward
The men shouted with joy at that.
Now they hung some of the meat of the horses on a tree
near the temple.
"For the ravens of Odin," they said.
 Ingolf carried the bowl of blood into the temple. He
went through the feast hall in front to a little room
at the back. Here stood wooden statues of the gods in a
semicircle. Before them was a stone altar. Ingolf took
a little brush of twigs that lay on it and dipped it
into the blood and sprinkled the statues.
"You shall taste of our sacrifice," he said. "Look
kindly on us from your happy seats in Asgard."
Then they went into the feast hall. There thralls were
boiling the horseflesh in pots over the fire. The
tables were standing ready before the benches. Ingolf
walked to the high seat. All the others took their
places at the benches. When the horns came round,
Ingolf made this vow:
"I vow that I will build my house wherever these
pillars lead me."
He put his hand upon a tall post that stood beside the
high seat. There was one at each side. They were the
front posts of the chair. But they stood up high,
almost to the roof. They were wonderfully carved and
painted with men
 and dragons. On the top of each one
was a little statue of Thor with his hammer.
At the end of the feast Ingolf had his thralls dig
these pillars up. He had a little bronze chest filled
with the earth that was under the altar.
"I will take the pillars of my high seat to Iceland,"
he said, "and I will set up my altar there upon the
soil of Norway, the soil that all my ancestors have
trod, the soil that Thor loves."
So they carried the pillars and the chest of earth and
the statues of the gods, and put them into Ingolf's
"It is a well-packed ship," the men said. 'There is no
spot to spare."
Tools, and chests of food, and tubs of drink and chests
of clothes, and fishing nets were stowed in the bows of
both boats. In the bottom were laid some long, heavy,
"The trees in Iceland are little," Ingolf said. "We
must take the great beams for our homes with us."
Standing on these logs were a few cattle and sheep and
horses and pigs.
 The rowers' benches were along the
sides. In the stern of each boat was a little cabin.
Here the women and children were to sleep. But the men
would sleep on the timbers in the middle of the boat
and perhaps they would put up the awning sometimes.
At last everyone was aboard. Men loosed the rope that
held the boats. The ships flashed down the rollers into
the water, and Ingolf and Leif were off for Iceland. As
they sailed away everyone looked back at the shore of
old Norway. There were tears in the women's eyes.
Helga, Leif's wife, sang:
"There was I born. There was I wed.
There are my father's bones.
There are the hills and fields,
The streams and rocks that I love.
There are houses and temples,
Women and warriors and feasts,
Ships and songs and fights—
A crowded, joyous land.
I go to an empty land."
There was the same long voyage with storm and fog. But
at last the people saw again the white cloud and saw it
growing into land and mountains. Then
 Ingolf took the
pillars of his high seat and threw them overboard.
"Guide them to a good place, O Thor!" he cried.
The waves caught them up and rolled them about. Ingolf
followed them with his ship. But soon a storm came up.
The men had to take down the sails and masts, and they
could do nothing with their oars. The two ships tossed
about in the sea wherever the waves sent them. The
pillars drifted away, and Ingolf could not see them.
"Remember your pillars, O Thor!" he cried.
Then he saw that Leif's ship was being driven far off.
"Then he saw Leif's ship was being driven afar off"
"Ah, my foster-brother," he thought, "shall I not have
you to cheer me in this empty land? O Thor, let him not
go down to the caves of Ran! He is too good a man for
On the next day the storm was not so hard, and Ingolf
put in at a good harbor. A high rocky point stuck out
into the sea. A broad bay with islands in the mouth was
at the side. Behind the rocky point
 was a level green
place with ice-mountains shining far back.
After a day or two Ingolf said:
"I will go look for my pillars."
So he and a few men got into the rowboat and went along
the shore and into all the fiords, but they could not
find the pillars. After a week they came back, and
"I will build a house here to live in while I look for
the posts. This way is uncomfortable for the women."
So he did. Then he set out again to look for the
pillars, but he had no better luck and came back.
"I must stay at home and see to the making of hay and
the drying of fish," he said. "Winter is coming on, and
we must not be caught with nothing to eat."
So he stayed and worked and sent two of his thralls to
look for the holy posts. They came back every week or
two and always had to say that they had not found them.
Midwinter was coming on.
"Ah!" said Ingolf's wife one day, "do you remember the
gay feast that we had
 at Yule-time? All our friends
were there. The house rang with song and laughter. Our
tables bent with good things to eat. Walls were hung
with gay draperies. The floor was clean with
sweet-smelling pine-branches. Now look at this mean
house; its dirt floor, its bare stone walls, its
littleness, its darkness! Look at our long faces. No
one here could make a song if he tried. Oh! I am sick
for dear old Norway."
"It is Thor's fault," Ingolf cried. "He will not let me
find his posts."
He strode our of the house and stood scowling at the
"Ah, foster-brother!" he said. "It was never so gloomy
when you were by my side. Where are you now? Shall I
never hear your merry laugh again? That spot in my palm
burns, and my heart aches to see you. That arch of sod
keeps rising before my eyes. Our vows keep ringing in
At last the long, gloomy winter passed and spring came.
"Cheer up, good wife," Ingolf said. "Better days are
 But that same day the thralls came back from looking
for the posts.
"We have bad news," they said. "As we walked along the
shore looking for the pillars we saw a man lying on the
shore. We went up to him. He was dead. It was Leif. Two
well-built houses stood near. We went to them. We knew
from the carving on the door-posts that they were
Leif's. We went in. The rooms were empty. Along the
shore and in the wood back of the house we found all of
his men, dead. There was no living thing about."
Ingolf said no word, but his face was white, and his
mouth was set. He went into the house and got his
spears and his shield and said to his men:
They put provisions into the boat and pushed off and
sailed until they saw Leif's houses on the shore of the
harbor. There they saw Leif and the men who were his
friends, dead. Their swords and spears were gone.
Ingolf walked through the houses calling on Helga and
on the thralls, but no one answered.
 The store house
was empty. The rich hangings were gone from the walls
of the houses. There was nothing in the stables. The
boat was gone.
Ingolf went out and stood on a high point of land that
jutted out into the water. Far along the coast he saw
some little islands. He turned to his men and said:
"The thralls have done it. I think we shall find them
on those islands."
Then he went back to Leif and stood looking at him.
"What a shame for so brave a man to fall by the hands
of thralls! But I have found that such things always
happen to men who do not sacrifice to the gods. Ah,
Leif! I did not think when we made those vows of
foster-brotherhood that this would ever happen. But do
not fear. I remember my promise. I had thought that a
man's blood is precious in this empty land, but my vow
is more precious."
Now they laid all those men together and tied on their
"I need my sword for your sake, foster-brother. I
cannot give you that. But you
 shall have my spears and
my drinking-horn," said Ingolf. "For surely Odin has
chosen you for Valhalla, even though you did not
sacrifice. You are too good a man to go to Niflheim.
You would make times merry in Valhalla."
So Ingolf put his spears and his drinking-horn by Leif.
Then the men raised a great mound over all the dead.
After that they went aboard their boat and sailed for
the islands that Ingolf had seen. It was evening when
they reached them.
"I see smoke rising from that one," Ingolf said,
He steered for it. It was a steep rock like that one in
the Faroes, but they found a harbor and landed and
climbed the steep hill and came out on top. They saw
the ten thralls sitting about a bonfire eating. Helga
and the other women from Leif's house sat near, huddled
together, white and frightened. One of the thralls gave
a great laugh and shouted:
"This is better than pulling Leif's plow. To-morrow we
will sail for Ireland with all his wealth."
 "To-morrow you will be freezing in Niflheim," cried
Ingolf, and he leaped among them swinging his sword,
and all his men followed him, and they killed those
Then Ingolf turned to Helga. She threw herself into his
arms and wept. But after a while she told him this
"When springtime came, Leif thought that he would sow
wheat. He had but one ox. The others had died during
the winter. So he set the thralls to help pull the
plow. I saw their sour looks and was afraid, but Leif
" 'What else can thralls expect?' he said. 'Never fear
them, good wife.'
"Now one day soon after that the thralls came running
to the house calling out:
" 'The ox is dead! The ox is dead!'
"Leif asked them about it. They said that a bear had
come out of the woods and killed it, and that they had
scared the beast away. They pointed out where it had
gone. Then Leif called his men and said:
 " 'A hunt! I had not hoped for such great sport here.
Ah, we will have a feast off that bear!'
"So they took their spears and went out into the woods.
As soon as they were gone, the thralls came running
into the house and took down all the swords and shields
from the wall and ran out. In some way they met my lord
and his men in the woods and killed them. Then they
came back and took everything in the house and dragged
us to the boat and sailed here."
"O my brother!" said Ingolf, "where is that song about
'those two foster-brothers, Ingolf and Leif, who made a
new country in a wonderful land, and whose sons and
grandsons are mighty men in Iceland'? But come home
with me, Helga."
So they took the women and Leif's things and Leif's
boat and sailed home. The next day after they came to
Ingolf's house, Helga said:
"We have made your family larger, brother Ingolf. Will
you not take Leif's two houses and live in them? He
 not need them now. He would like you to have
"It would be pleasant to live there," Ingolf said. "I
So the next day they loaded everything aboard the two
ships and sailed for Leif's house. There they stayed
for a year. Ingolf still sent his thralls out to look
for the pillars. He was careful always to have hay, so
his cattle prospered. That spring he planted wheat, but
it did not grow well.
"This is sickly stuff," Ingolf said. "It takes too much
time and work. It is better to save the land for hay.
Perhaps we can sometime go back to Norway for flour."
At last one day the thralls came home and said:
"We have found the pillars."
Ingolf jumped to his feet. He cried out:
"You have kept me waiting three years, Thor. But as
soon as my house and temple are built, I will sacrifice
to you three horses as a thank-offering."
"It is a long way off, master,"
 the thralls said, "and
we have found much better places in our walks about the
"Thor knows best," Ingolf answered. "I will settle
where he leads me."
So that summer they loaded everything into the ships
again and sailed west along the coast until they came
to the place where the pillars were. The land there was
low and green. On both sides were low hills. A little
lake glistened back from shore. In the valley were hot
springs, with steam rising from them.
"It looks like smoke," the men said. "It is very
strange to see hot water and smoke come out of the
In front of this green land was a good harbor with
islands in it. Far over the sea toward the north shone
a great ice mountain.
"I like the place," Ingolf said. "I will make this land
So he built fires at the mouth of the river near there,
and stood by them and called out loudly:
"I have put my fire at the mouth of these rivers. All
the land that they drain
 is mine, and no man shall
claim it but me. I will call this place Reykjavik."
Then Ingolf built his feast hall. He himself carved the
beams and the door-posts. Gaily painted dragons leaned
out from the doors and stood up from the gables. Men
and animals fought on the door-posts. For the doors he
made at the forge great iron hinges. Their ends curved
and spread all over the door. Near his feast hall he
built a storehouse and a kitchen and a smithy and a
stable and a bower for the women.
"We do not need a sleeping-house for guests," he said.
"Who would be our guests?"
He roofed all his buildings with turf. It made them
look like green mounds with gay carved and painted
walls under them. He built also a temple, and on that
was beautiful carving. In this he set up those statues
that had been in his old temple. He put up, too, those
pillars of his high seat that had been drifting about
so long. Under them he laid the soil of Norway that he
had brought in the little bronze chest.
 "I have kept my vow, O Thor!" he cried.
Then he sacrificed three horses that he had promised to
Thor. After that was over, he said:
"Here is a good field for sport. Let us have some of
the old games that we used to play at home. Who will
wrestle with me?"
So they wrestled there and ran races and swam in the
water. The women sat and looked on.
"Oh, this is good to see!" Helga cried. "We are as gay
as we used to be in old Norway."
But it was not many weeks before Ingolf said:
"I wish that I might sometime see sails in that harbor.
I wish that I might think, 'Around this point of land
is another farm, and across the bay is another. I can
go there when I am very lonely.' I wish that I might
sometime be invited to a feast. I wish that I might
sometimes hear the good, clanging music of weapons at
play. It is a good land, but we have lived alone for
 I am hungry for new faces and for tidings
One night as he and his men sat about the long fire in
the feast hall, a servant threw a great piece of wood
upon the fire. It was streaked with faded paint and it
showed bits of carving.
"See," said Ingolf, pointing to it, "see what is left
of a good ship's prow! What lands have you seen, O
dragon's head? What battles have you fought? What was
your master's name? Where did the storm meet you?
Perhaps he was coming to Iceland, comrades. Would it
not have been pleasant to see his sail and to shake his
hand and to welcome him to Iceland? But instead he is
in Ran's caves, and only his broken prow has drifted
Now it was not many months after that when one of the
men came running into the feast hall, shouting:
"A sail! A sail in the harbor!"
All those men gave a shout with no word in it, as
though their hearts had leaped into their throats. They
jumped up and ran to the shore and stood there
hungry eyes. When the men landed, those Icelanders
clapped them on the shoulders, and tears ran down their
faces. For a long time they could say nothing but
"Those Icelanders clapped them on the shoulders"
But after a while Ingolf led them to the feast hall and
had a feast spread at once. While the thralls were at
work, the men stood together and talked. Such a noise
had never been in that hall before.
"We have already built our fires and claimed our land
up the shore a way," the leader said. "Men in Norway
talk much of Ingolf and Leif, and wonder what has
happened to them."
Then Ingolf told them of all that had come to pass in
Iceland, and then he asked of Norway.
"Ah! things are going from bad to worse," the newcomers
said. "Harald grows mightier every day. A man dare not
swing a sword now except for the king. We came here to
get away from him. Many men are talking of Iceland.
Soon the sea-road between here and Norway will be
swarming with dragons."
 And so it was. Ships also came from Ireland and from
the Shetlands and the Orkneys.
"Harald has come west-over-seas," the men of these
ships said, "and has laid his heavy hand upon the
islands and put his earls over them. They are no place
now for free men."
So by the time Ingolf was an old man, Iceland was no
longer an empty land. Every valley was spotted with
bright feast halls and temples. Horses and cattle
pastured on the hillsides. Smoke curled up from
kitchens and smithies. Gay ships sailed the waters,
taking Iceland cloth and wool and Iceland fish and oil
and the soft feathers of Iceland birds to Norway to
sell, and bringing back wood and flour and grain.
When Ingolf died, his men drew up on the shore the boat
in which he had come to Iceland. They painted it
freshly and put new gold on it, so that it stood there
a glittering dragon with head raised high, looking over
the water. Old Sighvat lifted a huge stone and carried
it to the ship's side. With all his strength he
it into the bottom. The timbers cracked.
"If this ship moves from here," he said, "then I do not
know how to moor a ship. It is Ingolf's grave."
Then men laid Ingolf upon his shield and carried him
and placed him on the high deck in the stern near the
pilot's seat where he had sat to steer to Iceland. They
hung his sword over his shoulder. They laid his spear
by his side. In his hand they put his mead-horn. Into
the ship they set a great treasure-chest filled with
beautiful clothes and bracelets and head-bands. Beside
the treasure-chest they piled up many swords and spears
and shields. They put gold-trimmed saddles and bridles
upon three horses. Then they killed the horses and
dragged them into the ship. They killed hunting-dogs
and put them by the horses; for they said:
"All these things Ingolf will need in Valhalla. When he
walks through the door of that feast hall, Odin must
know that a rich and brave man comes. When he fights
with those heroes during the
 day, he must have weapons
worthy of him. He must have dogs for the hunt. When he
feasts with those heroes at night he must wear rich
clothes, so that those feasters shall know that he was
a wealthy man and generous, and that his friends loved
Ingolf's son tied on his hell-shoes for the long
"If these shoes come untied," he said, "I do not know
how to fasten hell-shoes."
Then he went out of the ship and stood on the ground
with his family. All the men of Iceland were there.
"This is a glorious sight," they said. "Surely no ship
ever carried a richer load. Inside and out the boat
blazes with gold and bronze, and, high over his riches,
lies the great Ingolf, ready to take the tiller and
guide to Valhalla, where all the heroes will rise up
and shout him welcome."
Then the thralls heaped a mound of earth over the ship.
This hill stood up against the sky and seemed to say:
"Here lies a great man." Sighvat put a stone on the
top, with runes on it telling
 whose grave it was. All
this time a skald stood by and played on his harp and
sang a song about that time when Ingolf came to
Iceland. He called him the father of Iceland. People of
that country still read an old story that the men of
that long ago time wrote about Ingolf, and they love
him because he was a brave man and "the first of men to
come to Iceland."
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics