(From the painting by Lorene Froelioh.)
The ancient Goths not only regarded war as the most praiseworthy manifestation of human activities, but fighting was thought to be so honorable and heroism in combat was so earnestly encouraged that feuds were common and tragedies every day occurrences. Moreover, fighting was a part of the Goths' religion, who not only believed that those who died in battle were at once transported to Valhalla by Valkyrie maidens, but that, resurrected to a new life in that warrior paradise, they fought to the death every day, to be revived to drink mead in measureless quantity and then to kill each other again The picture here reproduced is from a frieze decoration in the Fredricksborg Palace, near Copenhagen.
thou wilt surely grant me this, though them wouldst not do it for other men's sake.”
“This quarrel,” says Skapti, “is no business of thine, except thou choosest to be entangled in it along with them.”
Then Gizur was very wroth, and said—
“Thou art unlike thy father, though he was thought not to be quite clean-handed; yet was he ever helpful to men when they needed him most.”
“We are unlike in temper,” said Skapti. “Ye two, Asgrim and thou, think that ye have had the lead in mighty deeds; thou, Gizur the white, because thou over-camest Gunnar of Lithend; but Asgrim, for that he slew Gauk, his foster-brother.”
“Few,” said Asgrim, “bring forward the better if they know the worse, but many would say that I slew not Gauk ere I was driven to it. There is some excuse for thee for not helping us, but none for heaping reproaches on us; and I only wish before this Thing is out that thou mayest get from this suit the greatest disgrace, and that there may be none to make thy shame good.”
Then Gizur and his men stood up all of them, and went out, and so on to the booth of Snorri the priest.
Snorri sat on the cross-bench in his booth; they went into the booth, and he knew the men at once, and stood up to meet them, and bade them all welcome, and made room for them to sit by him.
After that, they asked one another the news of the day.
Then Asgrim spoke to Snorri, and said—
“For that am I and my kinsman Gizur come hither, to ask thee for thy help.”
“Thou speakest of what thou mayest always be forgiven for asking, for help in the blood-feud after such connections as thou hadst. We, too, got many wholesome counsels from Njal, though few now bear that in mind; but as yet I know not of what ye think ye stand most in need.”
“We stand most in need,” answers Asgrim, “of brisk lads and good weapons, if we fight them here at the Thing.”
“True it is,” said Snorri, “that much lies on that, and it is likeliest that ye will press them home with daring, and that they will defend themselves so in likewise, and neither of you will allow the other's right. Then ye will not bear with them and fall on them, and that will be the only way left; for then they will seek to pay you off with shame for manscathe, and with dishonour for loss of kin.”
It was easy to see that he goaded them on in everything.
Then Gizur the white said—
“Thou speakest well, Snorri, and thou behavest ever most like a chief when most lies at stake.”
“I wish to know,” said Asgrim, “in what way thou wilt stand by us if things turn out as thou sayest.”
“I will show thee those marks of friendship,” said Snorri, “on which all your honour will hang, but I will not go with you to the court. But if ye fight here on the Thing, do not fall on them at all unless ye are all most steadfast and dauntless, for you have great champions against you. But if ye are overmatched, ye must let yourselves be driven hither towards us, for I shall then have drawn up my men in array hereabouts, and shall be ready to stand by you. But if it falls out otherwise, and they give way before you, my meaning is that they will try to run for a stronghold in the ‘Great Rift.’ But if they come thither, then ye will never get the better of them. Now I will take that on my hands, to draw up my men there, and guard the pass to the stronghold, but we will not follow them whether they turn north or south along the river. And when you have slain out of their band about as many as I think ye will be able to pay blood-fines for, and yet keep your priesthoods and abodes, then I will run up with all my men and part you. Then ye shall promise to do as I bid you, and stop the battle, if I on my part do what I have now promised.”
Gizur thanked him kindly, and said that what he had said was just what they all needed, and then they all went out.
“Whither shall we go now?” said Gizur.
“To the Northlanders' booth,” said Asgrim.
Then they fared thither.