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The Sagas, of which this tale is one, were composed for the men who have left their mark in every corner of Europe. There is no page of modern history in which the influence of the Vikings and their conquests have not had an effect -- Russia, Turkey, Greece, Palestine, Sicily, the coasts of Africa, Southern Italy, France, the Spanish Peninsula, England, Scotland, Ireland, and every rock and island round them, have been visited at one time or another by the men of Scandinavia, and their influence is still being felt today.This saga paints a picture of Icelandic society. But the society presented is not one of pastoral simplicity and repose. The actors within were real men and women and the events portrayed actually occurred - for this is a true story. Bloodshed and violence are common and Viga-Glum, or "Murdering Glum," the hero of this story, is not by any means a perfect character, even when measured by the standards of the time in which he lived. A time when a man’s standing in the community was dictated by courage and his wealth, the author tells us that for twenty years he was the first man in Eyjafirth, and for twenty years more there was no better man there. Viga-Glum is described as one who was naturally indolent, shy, and moody; but when he could be brought to act, his courage and determination were indomitable. When he had to achieve a purpose he was thoroughly unscrupulous; neither blood nor false oaths stood in his way - just what one would expect from a Viking. The finishing touch to this part of his character is added by the peculiarity, that whenever he was intent on slaying a man, he was apt to be seized with a fit of uncontrollable laughter which ended in tears.So join us in this ancient tale of love, lust, honour, murder, Beserkers, romance and damsels in distress.This book has been especially republished to raise funds for charities.TAGS: Viking, Norse, Saga, Action, Adventure, Iceland, Norway, Viga Glum, Bloodshed, violence, Murdering Glum, courage, wealth, Eyjafirth, indolent, shy, moody, champion, determination, beserker, romance, damsel in distress, rescue, knight in shining armor
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The Saga of Viga Glum
A Viking Saga
TRANSLATED FROM THE ICELANDIC,WITH NOTES AND AN INTRODUCTION,BY THE RIGHT HONOURABLESIR EDMUND HEAD, BART., K.C.BOriginally Published byWILLIAMS AND NORGATE,14, HENRIETTA STREET, COVENT GARDEN
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The Saga of Viga Glum
Typographical arrangement of this edition
© Abela Publishing 2017
This book may not be reproduced in its current format in any manner in any media, or transmitted by any means whatsoever, electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, or mechanical ( including photocopy, file or video recording, internet web sites, blogs, wikis, or any other information storage and retrieval system) except as permitted by law without the prior written permission of the publisher.
The SUN VOYAGER
A sculpture by Jon Gunnar Arnason representing a Viking Ship
located near the Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavík.
Hail, Isle! with mist and snowstorms girt around,Where fire and earthquake rend the shatter’d ground-Here once o’er furthest ocean’s icy pathThe Northmen fled a tyrant monarch’s wrath:Here, cheer’d by song and story, dwelt they free,And held unscath’d their laws and liberty.
The Publisher acknowledges the work that
Sir Edmund Head
did in translating and publishing
the Saga of Viga Glum
in a time well before any electronic media was in use.
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33% of the net from the sale from this book
will be donated to charities.
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YESTERDAY’S BOOKS for TODAY’S CHARITIES
IHAVE heard the question asked, "What interest can attach to the language and literature of a small and remote island, the inhabitants of which never exceeded 60,000 in number?" The population of Iceland has always been insignificant, and its territory barren, but we must recollect what the race was, which this population represented, and whose language it is that has come down to us as a living tongue, on this half desert spot in the Northern Ocean. The Sagas, of which this tale is one, were composed for the men who have left their mark in every corner of Europe, and whose language and laws are at this moment important elements in the speech and institutions of England, America, and Australia. There is no page of modern history in which the influence of the Northmen and their conquest must not be taken into account--Russia, Constantinople, Greece, Palestine, Sicily, the coasts of Africa, Southern Italy, France, the Spanish Peninsula, England, Scotland, Ireland, and every rock and island round them, have been visited, and most of them at one time or another, ruled by the men of Scandinavia.
The motto on the sword of Roger Guiscard was a proud one—
“Appulus et Calaber Siculus mihi servit, et Afer."
(Raumer, Hohenstaufen, b. i. circa 473).
The remoteness or insignificance of Iceland, therefore, affords no adequate measure of the interest which belongs to its language, its literature, and its history. All this has been fully discussed by Mr. Laing in his prefaces to the Heimskringla, and by Mr. Dasent in the essay prefixed to his excellent translation of the Nial’s Saga. But there is another point of view in which these Icelandic stories possess a great and peculiar interest in relation to their history of literature. Taken altogether, they are the first prose literature which exists in any modern language spoken by the people.
Notwithstanding the fact that Monsieur Jourdain had talked prose for forty years without knowing it, good composition in prose is a product of the human intellect of far slower growth than good poetry. Imagination and metre have always been in advances of plain facts and prose.
We admit that Greek prose writers existed in the sixth century before Christ, but that was long after the birth of Greek poetry; and prose writing ripened only in the time of Herodotus, when very little more was known about the author of the Homeric songs than we moderns know at this day.
In what country except Scandinavia, or in what other modern living language of Europe did there exist, in the elevenths century, a literature embracing history and prose-fiction?
No doubt there were translations into Anglo-Saxon from the Latin, by Alfred, of an earlier date, but there was in truth no vernacular literature. I cannot name any work in High or Low German prose which can be carried back to this period. In French prose-writing cannot be said to have begun before the time of Villehardouin (1204), and Joinville (1202). Castilian prose certainly did not commence before the time of Alfonso X. (1252). Don Juan Manuel, the author of the "Conde Lucanor," was not born till 1282. The Cronica General de Espana was not composed till at least the middle of the thirteenth century. About the same time the language of Italy was acquiring that strength and softness which were destined to appear so conspicuously in the prose of Boccaccio, and the writers of the next century.
Burt "Are hinn frodi," who is said by Snorri to have first committed these Sagas to writing, was born in 1067, and it must be supposed on reasonable grounds that the earlier ones had assumed their present form before the end of the twelfth century. It should be remembered, too, that the number of these compositions is very large, and that they contain both history and fiction. The reader will find a list of Icelandic works in Mr. Laing’s book, already referred to. Our existing MSS of them cannot be assigned to a date earlier than the fourteenth century.
Of these sagas that of Viga-Glum, now translated, is probably one of the earliest. Bishop Müller says of it, in his "Saga Bibliothek" (Copenhagen, 1817, b. i. 78): "This Saga conains important contributions ito the history of manners, legislation, and religious ideas. It is composed in the pure old language, and is without doubt one of the earliest written narratives. The events are true. The most important persons and acts are spoken of in the Landnama. Glum himself is named in the Valnaliot’s Saga, in the Kristni Saga, and in the Landnama. His quarrels with Viga Skuta are told with more detail in the Sagas of the latter. Glum’s son, Vigfuss, is mentioned in many Sagas, and in the Heimskringla, in Olaf Tryggvesen’s history, chapter 45 (Laing’s Transl. vol. i. p. 410). His nephew, Thorvald Tafalld, who supported him in his fights, has also been made the subject of a special little narrative, which is to be found in Olaf Tryggvesen’s Saga. The annals mention one of Glum’s exploits under the year 942 or 944. Asgrim, the son of Ellidagrim, who is named in this Saga, is known to us also in the Nial’s Saga, Floamanna Saga, and Kristni Saga. Einar, Gudmund’s brother, is often mentioned, especially in the Liosvetninga Saga."
Einar, here referred to by Bishop Müller, was a remarkable person in Icelandic history. He was the brother of Gudmund the Powerful, and the direct descendant of Helga, the sister of Ingald, Glum’s grandfather. When Olaf, King of Norway, wanted to obtain the island of Grimsö with a view to encroaching the independence of Iceland, Einar addressed to his countrymen one of the simplest and most striking speeches ever made on behalf of freedom. He counselled them to have nothing to do with the king, except in the way of gifts or voluntary presents which could not be mistaken for tribute. This speech will be found in Mr. Laing’s Heimskringla, vol. ii. p. 188.
With regard to the intrinsic merits of the narrative, the reader must judge for himself. The picture of society which it presents to us is not one of pastoral simplicity and repose, but the actors in it are real men and women, not merely lay figures, and the events are for the most part those of every-day life. Bloodshed and violence are common, and a man’s consideration in the community depends mainly on his won courage and on his wealth yet the condition of things contrast favourably with that prevailing in most countries at a far later date under the fuedal system. The bulk of the population were free; they made their own laws, and executed them themselves, and we see among them the working of those principles of constitutional freedom which in most countries of Europe have long since perished. One peculiarity too they have which is especially interesting to us. They exhibit in a most remarkable degree that idolatry for forms of law, which sometimes causes the substance of justice to be disregarded as secondary to the form, but which, on the other hand, in our own country, has perhaps more than once saved the kernel by preserving the husk, when both would otherwise have perished. I believe it is a curious fact that the Normans retain to the present day a reputation for litigiousness as compared with other French provinces.
Viga-Glum, or "Murdering Glum," the hero of this story, is not by any means a perfect character, even when measured by the standards of the time in which he lived; but the author tells us that for twenty years he was the first man in Eyjafirth, and for twenty years more there was no better man there. He is described as one who was naturally indolent, shy, and moody; but when once he could be brought to act, his courage and determination were indomitable. he was thoroughly unscrupulous; neither blood nor false oaths stood in his way when he had to achieve a purpose. It might be said of him, as of Autolycus, the grandfather of Ulysses (Od. xix. 395). His humour is sometimes childish, as is the story of Kálf; and sometimes savage, as when he asks the wife to put a stitch into his cloak just before he turns round and kills her husband, apparently for no object but to show his thorough coolness and indifference. The finishing touch to this part of his character is added by the peculiarity, that whenever he was intent on slaying a man, he was apt to be seized with a fit of uncontrollable laughter which ended in tears.
There is something very striking too in the description of the old heathen, stone-blind, who hopes before he dies, yet to slay by treachery one at least of his enemies, and rides out to meet them with a drawn sword under his cloak.
Among the incidents of the story, that of Eyiolf killing the Berserker is to me particularly interesting. It is one of many such in the Sagas, as for instance in the Egil’s Saga and the Grettir’s Saga. Here we find the type of the old common-stock stories of romance about distressed damsels rescued by knights from giants’ but we see this type exemplified in everyday life, as if it were something that might happen to any man the next morning; and as we are told in the Grettir’s Saga it did happen very often in Norway when those pests of the society of that day, the Berserkers, were allowed to make their way in the world, and advance their fortunes as professional bullies.1
The story is not always intelligible unless the reader keeps in mind the personal relations of the actors, and I have therefore appended to the translation two or three pedigrees of the families to which they belonged. With regard to the Icelandic text it should be observed that there is but one manuscript of any value, the others being mere transcripts. The obscurities arising from this fact are especially felt in the scraps of poetry, which are often very difficult to make out. They have very little merit and I have done no more than paraphrase their general meaning; but they could not be omitted altogether, as in one or two cases the story turns upon their contents. In the prose narrative I have adhered to the original as closely as was consistent with my desire of presenting to the English reader a translation that could be read without being very stiff and tiresome, but I am by no means sure that I have attained this object.
I ought not to close this Preface without acknowledging the assistance which I have received from Mr. Dasent and especially from Mr. Vigfusson, the Editor of the "Eyrbyggia Saga," printed at Leipzig in 1864. Another friend, the Right Honourable Robert Lowe, has permitted me to prefix to this book a Greek Epigram of his, addressed to Iceland, which is worthy of his reputation as a classical scholar. I only wish that his public occupations would allow us to profit by his acquirements in the language and literature of the North.
EDMUND HEADLondon, December, 1865.
1 See Grettir’s Saga, chap. xix.
THE SAGA OFVIGA-GLUM
THERE was a man called Ingiald, who lived at Thverá, on the Eyjafirth; he was one of the original priests and a great chief, and he was already in years when this story begins.1 Ingiald was married, and had two sons, Steinolf and Eyiolf, both right good men and fair to see. Ingiald himself was self-willed, reserved, hard to deal with, and obstinate. He cared little for merchants, and did not choose to submit to their arrogance. If he wanted anything from them, he preferred sending other people for it to going himself.
One summer a ship came into Eyjafirth, the master of which was named Hreidar: he was a man of great family, who had his home at Vorz in Norway, and was very courageous and very popular. Ingiald’s son, Eyiolf, was often about the ship in the course of the summer, and he and Hreidar became great friends. Hreidar told him he should like to pass the winter here in some house, and from the report he had heard he should prefer that of Ingiald. Eyiolf said that such was not his father’s wont, but still that he would see about it. When he came home, he spoke to his father and asked him to take the master of the ship into his house--that he was a good, worthy fellow--and pleaded strongly in his behalf. Ingiald replied, "If you have invited him already, what is the use of talking about it? I must bear my part in meeting the expense, and you must bear yours in taking all the trouble;" but he added that he had never had a foreigner staying with him before and that he was still not desirous of doing so. Then Eyiolf answered, "It has not yet been settled without your consent; but I have not had much share in the management of the house as yet, and it seems your will that I should not have much, if a guest is not to be received whom I have invited hither." "Well," said Ingiald, "you shall have your own way in this matter, and the master and one other man may come here. I shall make no charge, for your sake; but you must take all the trouble for them, and I will defray the cost." "I am well pleased," replied Eyiolf, "that so it should be."
Eyiolf went the next day, found Hreidar, and told him how matters stood, whereupon Hreidar expressed his satisfaction and betook himself, with his cargo, to Ingiald’s house. A short time afterwards he learned that there was to be a great gathering there at Christmas. In the meantime Ingiald, though reserved, was on good terms with him.
One day Hreidar asked Ingiald to go into the outhouse where his cargo was; and when he went he invited him to choose whatever he liked out of his goods. Ingiald said that he did not wish to take any of his property, but acknowledged his liberality. Hreidar replied, "I have, however, thought of something that you may want from us. I have been in several of the best dwellings here in Eyjafirth, and I have seen none so good as this; but the hangings for your hall are not such as to surpass those of other people." So saying, he took from his chests a set of hangings of such quality that no better had ever come to Iceland, and gave them to Ingiald, who thanked him; and a friendly feeling was now established between them. In the course of the winter Eyiolf said that he should like to sail with Hreidar on his outward voyage, but Hreidar did not answer him very readily. "Why," says Eyiolf, "will you not take me with you? Do you not like me?" "I like you right well, but your father will not approve of such a return for his hospitality, and I should not like to repay his kindness by taking away a son who is such a credit to him. If he approves, I shall willingly take you with me, and be truly thankful for your going."
Now the traders prepared for their voyage, and when they were ready, Eyiolf again asked Hreidar about taking him out: he told him what he wanted, and how he did not mean to act in this matter against his father’s wishes. Afterwards, he told his father how anxious he was to go, and what had passed between himself and Hreidar. Ingiald said there were few such mean as Hreidar to be found, "and what with your own conduct and his tried worth, I shall allow you to go, for I am sure you had better make the voyage with him than with anyone else."
1 It might have been better to keep the Icelandic term "Godi" in the text; for the civil duties of this functionary were more important than his priestly office. "One of the original priests" means one of the holders of a "Godord," or "Mannaforrad," from the time of the settlement of the island at the close of the ninths centry. On the nature of the Godi’s office, se Mr. Dasent’s Preface to the Nial’s Saga, p. xlvi., and Maurer’s "Enstehung des Isländischen Staats und seiner Verfassung" (München, 1852), ss. 82, 83, 89, etc. Compare also the subsequent note on the judicial proceedings.
THEN they sailed and arrived in Norway; and Heidar laid before Eyiolf many schemes for disposing of himself, but he would not agree to anything which was proposed. "Well," said Hreidar, "what are your plans, then?" "I really do not know." "Will you not visit the king, or some of the other great men? You would, as a matter of course, be entitled to every assistance from us. (At this time Hacon, the ward of Athelstan, ruled in Norway.)1
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