Sacred Texts  Legends and Sagas 

house (detail from map)

The Story of

Grettir the Strong

translated by

Eiríkr Magnússon


Willam Morris


Contents     Start Reading

This is one of the few Magnusson and Morris Icelandic Saga translations which has yet to be converted to etext as of 2003. I like this translation much better than the 1914 Hight translation, (available in etext as the Online Medieval and Classical Library release #9). Morris is one of the great stylists of the fantasy field, and his pseudo-archaic language just feels right for this meaty story of revenge served up hot and cold. In addition, there is a gorgeous map of North-west Iceland which, although it isn't signed, was probably drawn by Morris.

The protagonist, Grettir Asmudson, is a bad seed, a loner, a thief, a grave-robber, and a murderer. On the plus side, he has an incredible tolerance for pain and an uncanny ability to extemporize poetry. Grettir's poor anger management starts a cycle of revenge. In spite of some heroic deeds (particularly an almost cinematic confrontation with some berserkers), Grettir gets a bad reputation which he is never able to shake off. Grettir has several encounters with supernatural beings: ghosts, trolls and liches. The pivot of the story is a particularly bloodthirsty ghost who fortells Grettir's doom when he vanquishes it.

This is a tragic story told from a perspective that is just outside our modern conventions of storytelling. Grettir lived just on the cusp of the introduction of Christianity in Iceland, at a time when the ancient customs of blood-money and vendetta still held. There is no redemption for Grettir, even though his character evolves over the course of the story arc. Grettir is banished from society for most of his life. Towards the end almost everyone he comes in contact with eventually tries to betray him. In the end, it takes dire witchcraft and a small army of men to bring Grettir down. --J.B. Hare

Title Page
Map of North-west Iceland [201 kb]
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV: Of Grettir as a Child, and his froward ways with his Father
Chapter XV: Of the Ball-play on Midfirth Water
Chapter XVI: Of the Slaying of Skeggi
Chapter XVII: Of Grettir's Voyage out
Chapter XVIII: Of Grettir at Haramsey and his dealings with Karr the Old
Chapter XIX: Of Yule at Haramsey, and how Grettir dealt with the Bearserks
Chapter XX: How Thorfinn met Grettir at Haramsey again
Chapter XXI: Of Grettir and Biorn and the Bear
Chapter XXII: Of the Slaying of Biorn
Chapter XXIII: The Slaying of Hiarandi
Chapter XXIV: Of the Slaying of Gunnar, and Grettir's strife with Earl Svein
Chapter XXV: The Slaying of Thorgils Makson
Chapter XXVI: Of Thorstein Kuggson, and the gathering for the Bloodsuit for the Slaying of Thorgils Makson
Chapter XXVII: The Suit for the Slaying of Thorgils Makson
Chapter XXVIII: Grettir comes out to Iceland again.
Chapter XXIX: Of the Horse-fight at Longfit
Chapter XXX: Of Thorbiorn Oxmain and Thorbiorn Tardy, and of Grettir's meeting with Kormak on Ramfirth-neck
Chapter XXXI: How Grettir met Bardi, the Son of Gudmund, as he came back from the Heath-slayings
Chapter XXXII: Of the Haunting at Thorhall-stead; and how Thorhall took a Shepherd by the rede of Skapti the Lawman, and of what befell thereafter
Chapter XXXIII: Of the doings of Glam at Thorhall-stead
Chapter XXXIV: Grettir hears of the Hauntings
Chapter XXXV: Grettir goes to Thorhall-stead, and has to do with Glam
Chapter XXXVI: Of Thorbiorn Oxmain's Autumn-feast, and the mocks of Thorbiorn Tardy
Chapter XXXVII: Olaf the Saint, King in Norway; the slaying of Thorbiorn Tardy; Grettir goes to Norway
Chapter XXXVIII: Of Thorir of Garth and his sons; and how Grettir fetched fire for his shipmates
Chapter XXXIX: How Grettir would fain bear Iron before the King
Chapter XL: Of Grettir and Snækoll
Chapter XLI: Of Thorstein Dromond's Arms, and what he deemed they might do
Chapter XLIII: Of the Death of Asmund the Greyhaired
Chapter XLIII: The Onset on Atli at the Pass and the Slaying of Gunnar and Thorgeir
Chapter XLIV: The Suit for the Slaying of the Sons of Thorir of the Pass.
Chapter XLV: Of the Slaying of Atli Asmundson
Chapter XLVI: Grettir outlawed at the Thing at the Suit of Thorir of Garth
Chapter XLVII: Grettir comes out to Iceland again
Chapter XLVIII: The Slaying of Thorbiorn Oxmain
Chapter XLIX: The gathering to avenge Thorbiorn Oxmain
Chapter L: Grettir and the Foster-brothers at Reek-knolls
Chapter LI: Of the suit for the Slaying of Thorbiorn Oxmain, and how Thorir of Garth would not that Grettir should be made sackless
Chapter LII: How Grettir was taken by the Icefirth Carles
Chapter LIII: Grettir with Thorstein Kuggson
Chapter LIV: Grettir meets Hallmund on the Keel
Chapter LV: Of Grettir on Ernewaterheath, and his dealings with Grim there
Chapter LVI: Of Grettir and Thorir Redbeard
Chapter LVII: How Thorir of Garth set on Grettir on Ernewaterheath
Chapter LVIII: Grettir in Fairwood-fell
Chapter LIX: Gisli's meeting with Grettir
Chapter LX: Of the Fight at Hitriver
Chapter LXI: How Grettir left Fairwoodfell, and of his abiding in Thorir's-dale
Chapter LXII: Of the Death of Hallmund, Grettir's Friend
Chapter LXIII: How Grettir beguiled Thorir of Garth when he was nigh taking him
Chapter LXIV: Of the ill haps at Sand-heaps, and how Guest came to the Goodwife there
Chapter LXV: Of Guest and the Troll-wife
Chapter LXVI: Of the Dweller in the Cave under the Force
Chapter LXVII: Grettir driven from Sand-heaps to the West
Chapter LXVIII: How Thorod, the Son of Snorri Godi went against Grettir
Chapter LXIX: How Grettir took leave of his Mother at Biarg, and fared with Illugi his Brother to Drangey
Chapter LXX: Of the Bonders who owned Drangey between them
Chapter LXXI: How those of Skagafirth found Grettir on Drangey
Chapter LXXII: Of the Sports at Heron-ness Thing
Chapter LXXIII: The Handselling of Peace
Chapter LXXIV: Of Grettir's Wrestling: and how Thorbiorn Angle now bought the more part of Drangey
Chapter LXXV: Thorbiorn Angle goes to Drangey to speak with Grettir
Chapter LXXVI: How Noise let the Fire out on Drangey, and how Grettir must needs go a land for more
Chapter LXXVII: Grettir at the Home-stead of Reeks
Chapter LXXVIII: Of Hæring at Drangey, and the end of him
Chapter LXXIX: Of the Talk at the Thing about Grettir's Outlawry
Chapter LXXX: Thorbiorn Angle goes with his Foster-mother out to Drangey
Chapter LXXXI: Of the Carline's evil Gift to Grettir
Chapter LXXXII: Grettir sings of his Great Deeds
Chapter LXXXIII: How Thorbiorn Angle gathered Force and set Sail for Drangey
Chapter LXXXIV: The Slaying of Grettir Asmundson
Chapter LXXXV: How Thorbiorn Angle claimed Grettir's Head-money
Chapter LXXXVI: How Thorbiorn Angle brought Grettir's Head to Biarg
Chapter LXXXVII: Affairs at the Althing
Chapter LXXXVIII: Thorbiorn Angle goes to Norway, and thence to Micklegarth
Chapter LXXXIX: How the Short-Sword was the easier known when sought for by reason of the notch in the blade
Chapter XC: How the Lady Spes redeemed Thorstein from the Dungeon
Chapter XCI: Of the doings of Thorstein and the Lady Spes
Chapter XCII: Of the Oath that Spes made before the Bishop
Chapter XCIII: Thorstein and Spes come out to Norway
Chapter XCIV: Thorstein Dromund and Spes leave Norway again
Chapter XCV: How Thorstein Dromund and Spes fared to Rowe and died there
End Notes