Queen Bothildur: an Icelandic Christmas folktale

I found this story in a beautifully illustrated book of Icelandic folktales for children, Tales of the Elves, that I brought back from that country after a visit in 2012.

Tales of the Elves 400

One Christmas Eve, a richly dressed woman knocked at the door of a farm house in Hrutafjord and asked for shelter. The sheriff lived there and said she could stay.  When people asked her name, she said it was Bothildur, but she would not say anything else about herself.

She stayed home while everyone else went to midnight mass, and when they returned, they had never seen the house so clean and beautifully arranged.  The sheriff invited her to stay on as housekeeper, and she excelled at her work.  The following Christmas Eve, she stayed home again, but this time, when the household returned, they found Bothildur’s eyes red from weeping.

On the third Christmas Eve, Gudmundur, the sheriff’s shepherd boy, vowed to discover her secret.  As everyone walked to church, he feigned illness and turned back.  Gudmundur possessed a magic stone that made him invisible.  Holding it in his hand, he slipped into the farmhouse, where he saw Bothildur dressed in the finest clothing he’d ever seen.  She took a green cloth from a chest and set off into the night, with Gudmundur following closely behind.  They came to a lake where Bothildur spread the cloth on the water and stepped onto it.  The shepherd boy just had time to step onto a corner before the cloth began to sink.


It seemed like they were passing through smoke as they sank deeper, but at last they came to a grassy plain in front of a fair city.  Bothildur entered the city where everyone cheered.  A man who wore a crown embraced her and then everyone entered the church for Christmas mass.  Bothildur’s three children ran around the pews playing with three golden rings, until the youngest dropped his and couldn’t find it because the invisible Gudmundur had slipped it into his pocket.

When the service was over and it was time for Bothildur to leave, everyone was sad.  She walked alone with her husband onto the plain before the city.  Both were in tears and Gudmundur heard them say this was the last time they would ever meet.  They parted with great sorrow as Bothildur stepped onto the green cloth with Gudmundur behind her.

Bothildur returned home and was cleaning when the sheriff and the rest of the household returned.  Gudmundur came home later.  When asked where he had been, he told the entire tale of his trip to the land below the waters.  When Bothildur asked if he had proof, Gudmundur withdrew her son’s golden ring.  At that she was joyous.  She explained that she’d been a queen in Elf Land until a witch cursed her.  She could only return home on Christmas eve, and only a human brave enough to follow her to the world below could break the spell.  “Now you have released me and you shall be richly rewarded,” she said.

After saying goodbye to the household, Bothildur vanished.  That night, Gudmundur dreamed she came to him and gave him coins and jewels which he found beside his pillow when he awoke.  Later, he used that money to buy a farm of his own and get married.  In time, he became known far and wide as the luckiest man alive.


In Iceland, winter solstice celebrations were huge events – understandably, for by mid-December, the southern part of the country gets only four hours of light each day, and the northern regions, above the arctic circle, get only three.  Icelanders embraced Christianity in 1000 AD, but to this day, Christmas is a dual holiday, celebrating both the birth of Christ and the return of the sun.

Charming as it is that the doorway to the Other World should open on Christmas Eve, it’s a safe guess that Christmas is peripheral to the tale.  Stories of release from enchantment are found in every culture and predate Christianity.  Sometimes love and compassion break the spell, as in “Beauty and the Beast.”  Sometimes it’s bravery and cleverness, and sometimes even violence – in the first version of “The Frog King” published by the Brothers Grimm, the frog is disenchanted not by a kiss, but when the princess becomes so annoyed with him that she hurls him against a wall.

Aside from its simple charm, what fascinates me about Queen Bothildur’s tale is that Gudmundur, the young disenchanter, brings his own magical implement for the task.  Where do shepherd boys pick up magical stones of invisibility?  Jung believed that stones are frequently symbols of the Self, his term for the fully integrated personality.

Babylonian stone seal, ca 1595-1155 BC.  Creative Commons

Babylonian stone seal, ca 1595-1155 BC. Creative Commons

 Normally, such psycho-spiritual integration is the task of a lifetime, but in stories, legend, and scripture, young heroes as diverse as King David, St. Patrick, and Krishna worked as shepherds or cow herders when they were young.  However simple this folktale may be, it reflects what can be done by a person with a noble cause who is not at war with himself.

Belief in the Huldufólk, or Hidden People, the Elves, is common to this day in Iceland; in a 2007 survey, 57% of the population said they “do not disbelieve” in Elves.  In 2004, Alcoa had to pay a government expert to survey their proposed site for an aluminum smelter to make sure it was Huldufólk free.  Last year, we travelled a highway that had been diverted around an Elven dwelling.  We saw many small houses built on remote hillsides as homes for the Hidden People, and some Icelanders build them churches, in hopes they will convert to Christianity.

That may be an iffy proposition.  “The Icelandic word for Christmas, Jól, contains no reference to Christ or to the church. It is a Norse word that also existed in Old English as Yule.” (1)

Even so, as we read and tell their stories, I suspect the Elves are wishing us a Gleðileg jól go farsælt komandi ár – a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Stranger in a strange (and beautiful) land

Retreat house dining room, Skalholt, Iceland

Retreat house dining room, Skalholt, Iceland

This post was sparked by todays WordPress Daily Prompt, “Blogger in a Strange Land,” which asked, “What is the strangest place from which you’ve posted to your blog?”  My answer was easy:  the dining room of the Skalholt Retreat House in Iceland, where Mary and I and a small group of storytellers spent an amazing week just over a year ago.

If you search here on “Iceland,” you’ll find an account of the trip, photos, and a detailed discussion of Njal’s Saga, which was central to our purpose in traveling.  This post concerns the dining room.

Those are real grapevines and bougainvilleas twining through the rafters under the skylight.  Through the windows you see the autumn colors of a hedge and beyond that, fog.  It was late morning when this picture was taken, probably 40 degrees Fahrenheit  outside.  Imagine how inviting it was to sit with a cup of coffee and write in this bright room where it was warm enough for grapes, and flower petals sometimes drifted onto the table.

Guesthouse, Skalholt

Guesthouse, Skalholt

“Strange” can happen anywhere, but it’s always by one’s side when traveling.  When we leave our familiar contexts behind, there’s a chance to peek around corners and see things that day-to-day vision too often misses.

“Fare forward, travelers!  not escaping from the past
Into different lives, or into any future;
You are not the same people who left that station
Or who will arrive at any terminus” – T.S. Eliot

Homer in Iceland


Readers of this blog know I am a fan of things Icelandic and a fan of The Simpsons.  I was delighted last night to discover a little known saga on the final show of season 24 of our longest running television show.

If I’d only been more active last week on Facebook, where I follow The Simpsons, I would have been able to pass along advanced notice, but sooner or later, “The Saga of Carl Carlson” will show up on Hulu, so here is a brief description to whet your appetite.

When the gang at Moe’s tavern wins the lottery, Carl mysteriously disappears with the loot.  Lenny, Moe and Homer track him to Iceland, his native country since he was adopted by the Carlson clan as a child.  His pursuers learn that his goal is to clear the family name from a stain in a thousand year old saga.

Greed hangs in the balance with male bonding, but at last Homer speaks up in defense of Carl.  There are some great scenes of volcanoes, tiny horses, and northern lights, as well as appearances by Sigur Ros, the internationally known Icelandic band.  They provide the soundtrack as well, and their own take on the theme song.

Reunited at last back at Moe’s, Homer reflects on the strength of male friendship: “We don’t get together to share our feelings, we come here to escape them!”

“The Saga of Carl Carlson.”  Remember that if you are a Simpson’s fan and missed the show.  Check back on Hulu.  This episode is a lot of fun.

Where to find “Tales of the Elves: Icelandic Folktales for Children.”

In December, 2012, I reviewed a wonderful illustrated book of Icelandic folktales, Tales of the Elves.  I’d brought a copy back from our trip to Iceland in the fall, but was unable to find ordering information.

Tales of the Elves cover

At the end of the post, I invited anyone who discovered that information to pass it along, and a reader named Kimberly just did!  Here’s a link to page for this book at Eymundsson, the premier Icelandic bookseller.  This page, in English, gives a price of 2,499 kronur – at about 100 kronur per dollar, that’s $24.99, what I paid in-country.  If you’re still interested, read on, because now the fun begins:

When you add the book to your cart and move on, the next pages are in Icelandic.  With the aid of an online Icelandic to English dictionary, I came up with translations of these questions you’re asked:

Nafn: name
Heimilisfang: address
Postnumer: zip code
Baer: town
Land: That’s country, and there’s a pulldown
Netfang: email address
Simi: phone

Kodi gjafabrefs: Kodi is code, and I couldn’t find the second term. I’m guessing they mean country codes, which from Iceland to the US is 00 + 1 + area code + number.  Here is a look-up table if you live elsewhere.

Okay, fine!  No one ever said navigating through faerie was easy!  Eymundsson says they’re working to bring their international pages online, so one option is to check back with them in six months.

Would I order this book from them if I didn’t have it?

I have a collection of half a dozen illustrated fairytale books I’ve collected over the course of many years and they have an honored place on the bookshelf.  Each one reminds me of some special moment or place when I found it.  Tales of the Elves is the only souvenir I brought back from Iceland, as the sweaters were too warm for this part of California.

The illustrations inside are as fine as the one on the cover, so if you like this kind of illustrated book and have read this far, you won’t be disappointed.

The Yule Lads: Icelandic Christmas folklore.

The Yule Lads

In most Christian countries, Christmas was slower to catch on than other major church holidays.  The clergy may have been wary of pagan solstice celebrations which happened at the same time of year and included serious revelry.  Some early Christmas festivities mimicked the custom.  They were banned in 17th century England, and American Puritans outlawed them too.

According to Brian Pilkington, author of The Yule Lads, Iceland was ahead of the curve. A 16th century law stated that “All disorderly and scandalous entertainment at Christmas and other times and Shrovetide revels are strongly forbidden on pain of serious punishment.”

Icelandic winters are long and dark, with fewer than five hours of daylight at this time of the year.  Imagination tends to fill the darkness with what we fear, and Pilkington’s book describes “the lads” that kept Icelandic children awake at night.  The gentlemen pictured on the cover are not our shopping mall Santas!

The matriarch of the clan was the ogress, Gryla, who loved to eat stewed children.  It couldn’t be just any kid though.  It had to be one who was “naughty, lazy, or rude.”  In one 13th century account, Gryla had 15 tails, and tied to each was a sack full of naughty children.  It was not “the most wonderful time of the year” if you were young!  The Icelandic word for icicle is “grylukerti” which means “Gryla’s candle.”

Gryla. CC-by-SA-2.5

Gryla had three husbands and 80 children, though legend now boils it down to 13 sons who visit the homes of children on successive nights from Dec. 12 – 25.  Time and the law have taken the edge off the Yule Lads, for a 1746 decree said “The foolish custom, which has been practiced here and there about the country, of scaring children with Yuletide lads or ghosts, shall be abolished.”  By the 19th century, the Lads had morphed from cannibals into rascals and petty thieves, who even began to leave gifts for good children who left their shoes on a window ledge.

The first to arrive was Stekkjarstaur, the “Sheep Worrier.”  He would visit the the sheep cot and try to suck milk from the ewes.  That doesn’t work in December and led author, Brian Pilkington to suggest that Sheep Worrier’s IQ is “somewhat less than three digits.”  These days  he heads for the fridge to get his milk.  If a child has been good, Stekkjarstaur leaves a sugary sweet.  Bad children get a potato.

Next comes Giljagaur, aka, “Gully Gawk” who travels through gullies and ravines, also in search of milk, but he looks for cow barns and inattentive milkmaids.  “Stubby” arrives the third night, as short as his name suggests.  He likes to raid the kitchen, as do the brothers that follow, “Spoon Licker,” “Pot Licker,” and “Bowl Licker.”  In their present forms all they do is mischief, but food thieves were no joke in earlier times.  For northern farming families, the time between Christmas and the spring thaw in April or May could be times of famine if food or fodder for livestock ran short.

The next lad to show up is Hurdaskellir, or “Door Slammer,” one of only two of Gryla’s sons who isn’t out to fill his belly.  Imagine loud bangs in the dead of night and you know how he gets his jollies.

And as if the sons of Gryla were not bad enough, children also had to contend with Jólakötturinn, the Yule Cat, a huge feral creature who hunts children on Christmas Eve instead of mice. Like the lads, the cat discriminates in choosing his victims, eating only those who have not received a new item of clothing for Christmas. Pilkington says that “Until fairly recently in Iceland, all clothing came directly from sheep. The wool had to be washed, combed, and spun before it was painstakingly crafted into a garment. It was a long, arduous process.”  Fear of the Cat induced lazy children to do their part!

This is a fun book and a fine counterbalance to the usual TV holiday movies.  You can picture families gathered around the fire as the wind howls outside, thinking as we do when hearing a good ghost story, “This can’t be true…can it?”  Something within the listeners then and within us now loves to be scared, to confront monsters and vanquish them in imagination.  On that score, Gryla & Sons and the Yule Cat satisfy!

A click on the book cover at the top of this post will take you a site where you can order The Yule Lads.

Tales of the Elves: Icelandic Folktales for Children

Tales of the Elves cover

One day God decided to visit Adam and Eve.  They welcomed him and introduced  their children – all except the ones Eve had not finished bathing.  After all, you want your kids to be clean when the Supreme Being drops in.  God was aware of this and said, “What is hidden from me shall be hidden from men.”  Those children became the elves who live in the hills and mounds of Iceland.  They can see us but we can’t see them unless they wish it.

I know this because I read a magical book, Tales of the Elves, based on the Icelandic folktales of Jon Arnason, adapted by Anna Kristin Asbjornsdottir and illustrated by Florence Helga Thibault.  I found the book on our visit to Iceland, which I wrote about in the fall.

Interest in elves isn’t limited to children in Iceland.  One day, as we toured the countryside, our driver pointed to a spot in a wide valley where the highway curved around a pair of volcanic rocks.  The stones were only 8′ – 10′ tall, nothing modern earth movers couldn’t remove.  That was the intention of the highway crew.  The problem was, the bulldozers broke down or stalled every time they  approached the twin rocks.  Every time.  Locals explained that the stones marked the entrance to an underground elven settlement.  The equipment worked perfectly after the construction crew decided to route the highway around the stones.

If this reminds you of Irish fairies, there’s good reason.  Genetic testing has proven that many Icelanders, especially the women, came from Ireland, specifically, the viking settlements there.  The stories themselves teach us similar lessons in coexisting with “the hidden ones.”

“Midwife to the elves” shows how the elven folk can give the gift of the sight and take it away again.  “Elf Wind” demonstrates the courage and cunning required to set things right if you do something foolish, like cut the grass on an elven mound.  “Payment for Milk” is about the boons the elves can grant if you treat them with kindness and goodwill.

I’d been looking forward to writing this review since I found Tales of the Elves, but unfortunately I couldn’t find any venue where interested readers can find the book.  Not on Amazon US or UK.  Not on bookfinders.com or ebay.  I couldn’t find ordering information on the publisher’s website.  I posted a request for information on the illustrator’s Facebook page, and I’ll pass along anything I discover.  Meanwhile, here is the information – if you love folklore and fine illustration of fantasy themes, it’s worth keeping an eye open for this book.

Anna Kristin Asbjornsdottir (adaptation), Florence Helga Thibault (illustration), Victoria Cribb (trans), Tales of the Elves, Bjartur publishing, Reykjavik, 2012

ISBN:  978-9979-788-80-5

Please post any information you may discover.

Njal’s Saga: some concluding remarks.

1879 title page in Swedish. Public domain

It took me a while to get the gist of  Njal’s Saga. The first time through, I could have used a Cast of Characters; much of the effort was just keeping track of people whose names I couldn’t pronounce.  In rereading key sections aloud with the group in Iceland – the mode of presentation the author intended – the drama and human passion began to emerge.  And as I read these passages again while writing posts for this blog, a larger picture appeared.

Njal’s story is framed by the end of an era.  The best minds of the time made wrong decisions and couldn’t hold back the tides that swept outworn institutions away.  The suffering was intense and the body count was high.  “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold,” said Yeats at a similar time.

As I read of the battle at Thingvellir, a moment of near civil war, I kept thinking of similar periods.  Of the fall of Troy, the Mahabharata war, the end of the Roman Empire, and the “great war” in Europe.  And I thought of our own time, that Andrew Bacevich likens to the period of the Peloponnesian War, when the Athenian empire bled itself dry.  We know our current mode of living cannot be sustained.  We know that our leaders don’t have the wisdom the times demand, and like Matthew Arnold, we find ourselves, “Wandering between two worlds, one dead the other powerless to be born.”

Does Njal’s Saga offer any insight for times like these?

Not directly, for simple platitudes would be of no help.  It does offer up a number of vivid characters, some of whom manifest courage and generosity in the face of disaster, and others whose self-centered designs bring the disasters about.  We can’t help but ask ourselves who we want to emulate.  And something very interesting happens at the end of the tale.

By the end of the saga, Kari, who survived the killing of Njal, and Flosi, the chieftan who led the killers, have hunted and fought each other across Iceland, Scotland, and Ireland.  Both crossed Europe on foot to seek absolution in Rome.

Flosi returns to Iceland first.  Kari’s ship is wrecked on the coast in a winter storm, though his crew survives.  They wash up near Flosi’s homestead, and make their way there during a blizzard.  When they arrive, the saga tells us Flosi recognized Kari at once and “jumped up to meet him and kissed him, and then placed him in the high seat by his side.  He invited Kari to stay there for the winter.  Kari accepted.  They made a full reconciliation.  Flosi gave Kari the hand of his brother’s daughter, Hildigunn.”

The next summer, Flosi set out for Norway in a ship in bad condition, that he said was “good enough for an old man doomed to die.”  The ship was never seen again.  Kari named one of his sons, Flosi, and this Flosi’s son grew up to be “the most distinguished man of that line.”

Marriages like this, in folklore and myth, are never one dimensional affairs – a sacred marriage also takes place that brings new life to our broken world.  The Pandava line survives the Mahabharata war, and Aeneas leads the survivors out of Troy.  Monks on the coast of Ireland preserve the wisdom of Rome, and poppies grow in Flanders field.

The sacred marriage in alchemy. Public domain.

For the rest of us, who won’t see a new dawn anytime soon, we can remember the words of Tolkien, who was inspired by the sagas of Iceland as he wove his own account of surviving Mordor, a hell he experienced first-hand at the Battle of the Somme.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” Frodo tells Gandalf.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.  But that is not for them to decide.  All we have to decide is what to do with the times we are given.”

Njal’s Saga, part 3

Gunnar looks back at his home, 1898 illustration. Public domain.

In order to follow this discussion, it will help if you’ve read two earlier posts:

  1. Njal’s Saga, an Introduction: http://wp.me/pYql4-2sS
  2. Njal’s Saga, part 2: http://wp.me/pYql4-2tb

Scholars suggest that the author wove together two separate stories, an oral “Gunnar’s Saga,” and a related but distinct, “Njal’s Saga.”  Both men die during attacks on their homes.  Historically 18 years passed between the events; Gunnar died in 992 and Njal around 1010.  In the last third of the saga, Njal’s son-in-law, Kari, mounts a campaign of revenge against the killers which threatens the stability of the nation.  A pitched battle breaks out at the Althing, the National Assembly, which was sacred ground where fighting was forbidden.  When reconciliation finally comes, it signifies the dawn of new vision of life and its purpose.

Once the saga gets going, certain scenes come alive like movies – I know there’s a screenplay here…


Soon after Gunnar and Hallgerd were married, they attended a feast with Njal and his wife, Bergthora.  In no time, the two women were at each other’s throat.  The insults grew so extreme that Gunnar dragged Hallgerd out of the hall. Soon after that, she had one of Bergthora’s slaves killed.  Bergthora paid her back in kind, initiating a feud that escalated and took the life of free retainers and then kinsmen on both sides.

The killings took place while the husbands were at the Althing which  convened for two weeks every summer.  Aside from social activities, this was the time for legal action on matters the lower courts couldn’t settle.  It was also where “compensation” for killings was determined.

If you killed a man, even in self defense, you confessed it in front of witnesses.  A hidden killing was treated as murder and could result in exile for life.  A killing confessed was manslaughter and terms of compensation could be set:  a slave was worth seven ounces of silver, a freeman fifteen, and a kinsman as much as 200.  It may seem cold, but the system was designed to break the cycles of revenge that the old ethic of “honor” and blood retribution entailed.

Gunnar and Njal tried to keep up with the legalities of the killings-for-hire their wives initiated, but it became harder as stakes were raised.  Each killing drew more people, bound by family and friendship, into the feud.  Into this deadly mix came Mord Valgardsson, son of Unn,  who despised Gunnar and Njal.

If Hallgerd spawned chaos and harm, she did so in a half-unconscious manner.  She was reactive, without clear designs or premeditation.  Mord, by contrast, was cunning, able to weave elaborate snares for his enemies.  Our tour leader, Robert Willhelm, pointed out the similarity of Mord’s name to Mordred, King Arthur’s  son and nemesis.

During a famine, Hallgerd sent a servant to steal food from a man who refused to sell any to her husband.  When Gunnar, with his concept of honor, discovered the theft, he slaped his wife, who had already buried two husbands who hit her.  Hallgerd warned Gunnar that she would never forget the blow.

Njal prophesied that if Gunnar killed two members of the same family and broke the legal settlement for the killings, he would die soon after.  Through trickery, Mord ensured that Gunnar killed the son of a man he’d already slain.  In addition to a financial settlement for the killing, the Althing court sentenced Gunnar to three years in exile.

In one of the most poignant scenes, as Gunnar and his brother rode to the harbor, Gunnar’s horse slipped while fording a river.  Springing off the horse, Gunnar looked back at his farm and said, “Lovely is the hillside – never has it seemed so lovely to me as now, with its pale fields and mown meadows, and I will ride back home and not leave.”

That autumn, Mord sent word that Gunnar was home alone and 40 of his enemies mounted an attack.  Firing arrows from the second floor, Gunnar killed two assailants and wounded eight.  Then a man named Thorbrand got close enough to cut Gunnar’s bowstring.

Gunnar defending his home, 1898. Public domain.

Gunnar turned to his wife and asked for two strands of her waist length hair for a new bowstring. Hallgerd said, “Does anything depend on it?”

“My life depends on it,” Gunnar said, “for they’ll never be able to get me as long as I can use my bow.”

“Then I’ll recall,” she said, “the slap you gave me, and I don’t care whether you hold out for a long or short time.”

Gunnar wounded eight more attackers before he finally fell, exhausted and wounded in fifteen places.  One of the attackers said, “His defense will be remembered as long as this land is lived in.”

Gunnar’s mother was ready to kill Hallgerd who fled the house.  Gunnar’s friends raised a burial mound, and one night, as two of Njal’s sons passed by, they saw the mound open.  Four lights shone and cast no shadows.  The brothers heard Gunnar’s spirt sounding content as it spoke skaldic verse.


Gunnar embodied the old warrior ideal of life and death with honor that won you a place in Valhalla.  The dark side of this ethos was an unending string of killings that threatened the nation itself.  Things were about to change.  Shortly after Gunnar’s death, a Christian missionary named Thangbrand arrived in Iceland.  He wasn’t the sort of evangelist you want on your doorstep, since he carried a crucifix in one hand and a sword in the other and didn’t much care which he used.

One autumn morning, as Thangbrand celebrated mass, a man named Hall of Sida approached.  “In whose memory are you celebrating this day?” he asked.

“The angel Michael’s,” Thangbrand said.

“What features does this angel have?”  Hall asked.

“Many,” said Thanbrand.  “He weighs everything that you do, both good and evil, and he is so merciful that he gives more weight to what is well done.”

Hall said, “I would like to have him for my friend.”

With his openness to new ideas and the simple way he voices his spiritual longing, Hall becomes the first convert.  In 999 or 1000, the Althing declared Christianity to be the new religion.  Mord continued to work behind the scenes fomenting trouble for Njal and his sons, and around the year 1010, 100 armed men attacked Njal’s home and burned it, with him and most of his family inside.  Only Kari of Orkney, Njal’s son in law, escaped.  He raised a force to attack the burners, and at the next Althing, when the retribution process broke down, a pitched battle erupted at Thingvellir, the spiritual heart of the nation.

Battle at Thingvellir. Public domain.

During a lull in the fighting, members of the assembly intervened to arrange a truce.  Hall of Sida stood between the combatants and said, “All men know what sorrow the death of my son Ljot has brought me.  Many will expect payment for his life will be higher than for the others who have died here.  But for the sake of a settlement I’m willing to let my son like without compensation, and what’s more, offer both pledges and peace to my adversaries.”

Things have changed.  A few decades earlier, such a statement would have cost Hall his honor, but the saga says that when he sat down, “much good was spoken about his words, and everybody praised his goodwill.”

The combatants submitted to judgement.  Cash payments were levied as well as three years exile from Iceland for the combatants.  During the exile, they slew each other in Orkney and along the coast of Ireland, but finally, when the leaders returned to Iceland, they pledged friendship to each other.  The old ways had cost too much in blood and suffering.  The survivors had no stomach for anymore fighting.  The saga ends with a sense that a new wind was blowing through the land.

Next:  reflections on the story.