THE THÁTTR OF NORNAGEST

THE THÁTTR OF NORNAGEST
I.
The story goes that on one occasion when King Olaf Tryggvason was living at Trondhjem, it chanced that a man came to him late in the day and addressed him respectfully. The King welcomed him and asked him who he was, and he said that his name was Guest.
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The King answered: "You shall be guest here, whatever you are called."
Guest said: "I have told you my name truly, Sire, and I will gladly receive your hospitality if I may."
The King told him he could have it readily. But since the day was far spent, the King would not enter into conversation with his guest; for he was going soon to vespers, and after that to dinner, and then to bed and to sleep.
Now on that same night King Olaf Tryggvason was lying awake in his bed and saying his prayers, while all the other men in the hall were asleep. Then the King noticed that an elf or spirit of some kind had come into the hall, though all the doors were locked. He made his way past the beds of the men who were asleep there, one after another, and at last reached the bed of a man at the far end.
Then the elf stopped and said: "An empty house, and a mighty strong bolt on the door! People say that the King is the wisest of men. If he were as clever in things of this kind as they say he would not sleep so soundly.
After that he vanished through the door, locked as it was.
Early next morning the King sent his servant to find out who had occupied that bed over night, and it proved to have been the stranger. The King ordered him to be summoned before him and asked him whose son he was.
He answered: "My father's name was Thorth. He was a Dane and was called 'The Contentious' and lived at a place called Groening in Denmark"
"You are a well set-up man," said the King.

Guest was bold of speech, and bigger in build than most men. He looked strong but was somewhat advanced in years. He asked the King if he might stay for a while in his retinue. The King asked if he were baptised. Guest said that he had been prime-signed but not baptised. The King said that he was free to remain in his retinue, but added:
"You will not remain long unbaptised with me."
The reason for the elf's remark about the bolt was that Guest had crossed himself, that evening like other men, but was in reality still a heathen.
The King said: "Can you do anything in the way of sport or music?"
He replied that he could play the harp and tell stories which people enjoyed.
Then said the King: "King Svein has no right to let unbaptised men leave his kingdom and wander about from one country to another."
Guest replied: "You must not blame the King of the Danes for this, for it is a long time since I left Denmark. In fact it was a long time before the Emperor Otto burnt the Dane-work and forced King Harold Gormsson and Earl Haakon the Heathen to become Christians."
The King questioned Guest about many subjects and he always gave him good and intelligent answers. Men say that it was in the third year of King Olaf's reign that Guest came to him.
In this year also there came to him two men called Grim who were sent by Guthmund from Glasisvellir. They brought to the King as a present from Guthmund two horns which were also called 'Grim.'

They had also some further business with the King to which we will return later.
As for Guest, he remained with the King, and had a place at the far end of the visitors' seats. He was a man of breeding and had good manners, and was popular and much respected by everyone.
II.
A little before Yule, Ulf the Red and his following came home. He had been engaged on the King's business all summer, for he had been appointed to guard the coasts of 'The Bay' against Danish raids. He never failed to be with King Olaf at mid-winter.
Ulf had many fine treasures to bring to the King, which he had got during the summer, and one gold ring in particular which was called Hnituth. It was welded together in seven places and each piece had a different colour. It was made of much finer gold than rings usually are. The ring had been given to Ulf by a landowner called Lothmund, and before that it had belonged to King Half, from whom the Halfsrekkar take their name. The ring had come to them as forced tribute from King Halfdan Ylfing. Lothmund had asked Ulf in return for it that he would guard his home with the support of King Olaf, and Ulf had promised to do so.
Now King Olaf was keeping Yule in magnificent style at his court in Trondhjem; and it was on the eighth day of Yule that Ulf gave him the gold ring Hnituth. The King thanked him for the gift as well as for all the faithful service which he had constantly rendered him.
The ring was passed round the building in which the drinking was going on.—As yet no halls had

been built in Norway. Now each man showed it to his neighbour and they thought that they had never seen such fine gold as that of which the ring was made. At last it came to the guest-table, and so to the guest who had just arrived. he looked at the ring and handed it back on the palm of his hand—the hand in which he had been holding his drinking horn. He was not much impressed with the treasure, and made no remarks about it, but went on jesting with his companions. A serving-man was pouring out drink at the end of the guest-table.
"Do you not like the ring?" he asked.
They said: "We all like it very much except the new-comer. He can't see anything in it; but we think he can't appreciate it simply because he doesn't care for things of this kind."
The serving-man went up the hall to the King and told him exactly what the guests had said, adding that the new-comer had taken little note of the treasure, valuable as it was, when it was shown to him.
Then the King remarked: "The new-comer probably knows more than you think: he must come to me in the morning and tell me a story."
Now he and their other guests at the farthest table were talking among themselves. They asked the new-comer where he had seen a better ring or even one as good as this.
"Since you evidently think it strange," said he, "that I make so little of it I may say that I have seen gold which is in no way inferior, but actually better."
The King's men now laughed heartily and said that that promised good sport, adding:

Will you agree to wager with us that you have seen gold as good as this, and prove it? We will stake four marks in current coin against your knife and belt; and the King shall decide who is in the right."
Then said Guest: "I will neither be made a laughing-stock for you nor fail to keep the wager which you offer. And I will certainly lay a wager with you on the spot, and stake exactly what you have suggested, and the King shall judge who is in the right."
Then they stopped talking, and Guest took his harp and played it well till far into the evening, so that it was a joy to all who heard him. What he rendered best was The Harping of Gunnar; and last of all he played the ancient Wiles of Guthrun, neither of which they had heard before. And after that they went to sleep for the night.
III.
In the morning the King rose early and heard Mass; and after that he went to breakfast with his retinue. And when he had taken his place in the high seat, the guests came up to him, and Guest with them; and they told him all about their agreement and the wager which they had made.
I am not much taken with your wager," replied the King, "although it is your own money that you are staking. I suspect that the drink must have gone to your heads; and I think you would do well to give it up, especially if Guest agrees"
"My wish is," replied Guest, "that the whole agreement should stand."
"It looks to me, Guest," said the King, "as if it was my men rather than you whose tongues have got them into trouble; but we will soon put it to the test."

After that they left him and went to drink; and when the drinking tables were removed, the King summoned Guest and spoke to him as follows:
"Now is the time for you to produce the gold if you have any, so that I can decide your wager."
"As you will, Sire" replied Guest.
Then he felt in a pouch which he had with him, and took out of it a fob which he untied, and then handed something to the King.
The King saw that it was a piece of a saddle-buckle and that it was of exceedingly fine gold. Then he bade them bring the ring Hnituth; and when they did so, the King compared the ring and the piece of gold and said:
"I have no doubt whatever that the gold which Guest has shown us is the finer, and anyone who looks at it must think so too."
Everybody agreed with the King. Then he decided the wager in Guest's favour, and the other guests came to the conclusion that they had made fools of themselves over the business.
Then Guest said: "Take your money and keep it yourselves, for I don't need it; but don't make any more wagers with strangers, for you never know when you may hit upon someone who has both seen and heard more than you have.—I thank you, Sire, for your decision!"
Then the King said: "Now I want you to tell me where you got that gold from, which you carry about with you."
Guest replied: "I am loth to tell you, because no-one will believe what I have to say about it."
"Let us hear it all the same," said the King, "for
you promised before that you would tell us your story."
"If I tell you the history of this piece of gold," replied Guest, "I expect you will want to hear the rest of my story along with it."
"I expect that that is just what will happen," said the King.
IV.
"Then I will tell you how once I went south into the land of the Franks. I wanted to see for myself what sort of a prince Sigurth the son of Sigmund was, and to discover if the reports which had reached me of his great beauty and courage were true. Nothing happened worth mentioning until I came to the land of the Franks and met King Hjalprek.
There Sigurth grew up together with all the other sons of King Sigmund. Among these were Sinfjötli and Helgi, who surpassed all men in strength and stature. Helgi slew King Hunding, thereby earning the name Hundingsbani. The third son was called Hamund. Sigurth, however, outstripped all his brothers, and it is a well-known fact that he was the noblest of all warrior princes, and the very model of a king in heathen times.
At the time, Regin, the son of Hreithmar, had also come to King Hjalprek. He was a dwarf in stature, but there was no-one more cunning than he. He was a wise man, but malign and skilled in magic. Regin taught Sigurth many things and was devoted

to him. He told him about his birth and his wondrous adventures.
And when I had been there a little while, I entered Sigurth's service like many others. He was very popular with everybody, because he was friendly and unassuming, and generous to all.
V.
It chanced one day that we came to Regin's house and Sigurth was made welcome there. Then Regin spoke these verses:
The son of Sigmund cometh to our hall,
A valiant warrior. It must needs befall.
That I, less doughty and oppressed with age,
Shall fall a victim to his wolfish rage.
But I will cherish Yngvi's valorous heir,
Since Fate hath sent him hither to our care,
Train him to be, in valour and in worth,
The mightiest and most famous prince on earth.
At this time, Sigurth was constantly in Regin's company. Regin told him much about Fafnir—how he dwelt upon Gnitaheith in the form of a serpent, and also of his wondrous size. Regin made for Sigurth a sword called Gram. It was so sharp that when he thrust it into the River Rhine it cut in two a flock of wool which he had dropped into the river and which was drifting down stream, cutting it just as clean as it did the water itself. Later on, Sigurth clove Regin's stithy with the sword. After that Regin urged Sigurth to slay his brother Fafnir and Sigurth recited this verse:
The son's of Hunding would laugh loud and high,
Who shed the life-blood of King Eylimi,
If that his grandson bold should more desire
Rings of red gold than vengeance for his sire.

After that Sigurth made ready an expedition to attack the sons of Hunding; and King Hjalprek gave him many men and some warships. Hamund, Sigurth's brother, was with him on this venture, and so was Regin the dwarf. I was present too, and they called me Nornagest. King Hjalprek had got to know me when he was in Denmark with Sigmund the son of Völsung. At that time, Sigmund was married to Borghild, but they parted because Borghild killed Sinfjötli the son of Sigmund by poison. Then Sigmund went south to the land of the Franks and married Hjördis, the daughter of King Eylimi. The son's of Hunding slew him, so Sigurth had both is father and grandfather to avenge.
Helgi, the son of Sigmund, who was called Hundingsbani, was the brother of Sigurth who was afterwards called Fafnisbani. Helgi, Sigurth's brother, had slain King Hunding and three of his sons, Eyjulf Hervarth, and Juörvarth, but Lyngvi and his two remaining brothers, Alf and Heing escaped. They were exceedingly famous for exploits and accomplishments of every kind; but Lyngvi surpassed all his brothers. They were very skilled in magic. They had reduced many petty kings to subjection, and slain many champions, and burnt many cities. They had worked the greatest havoc with their raids in Spain and in the land of the Franks. But at that time the Imperial Power had not yet been transferred to the regions north of the alps. The sons of Hunding had seized the realm which had belonged to Sigurth in the land of the Franks and they had very large forces there.

VI.
Now I must tell you how Sigurth prepared for battle against the sons of Hunding. He had got together a large and well-armed force, and Regin was a mighty man in the councils of the force. He had a sword which was called Rithil and which he had forged himself. Sigurth asked Regin to lend him the sword. He did so, begging him to slay Fafnir when he should return from this adventure, and this Sigurth promised to do.
After that we sailed away south along the coast, and then we met with a great storm raised by witchcraft, and many believed that it had been stirred up by the sons of Hunding. After this we hugged the shore somewhat more closely, and then we saw a man on a rocky promontory which juted out from the cliffs. He wore a green cloak and dark breeches, and had high laced boots on his feet, and carried a spear in his hand. This man addressed us in the following stanza:
What folk are ye who ride the sea-king's steed,
Mounting the lofty billows, and proceed
Athwart the tossing main? Drenched is your sail,
Nor can your ships against the wind prevail.
Regin replied:
Hither come we with Sigurth o'er the foam,
Whom ocean breezes blow to our last home.—
Full soon the breakers, higher than the prow
Will sink our 'ocean-steeds'; but who art though?
The man in the cloak replied:
Hnikar the name men did for me employ,
Young Völsung, when I gave the raven joy
Of carnage. Call me either of the two—
Fjölnir or Feng, but let me fare with you.

Then we steered towards the land and the wind fell immediately; and Sigurth bade the man come on board. He did so, and a fair breeze sprang up. The man sat down at Sigurth's feet and was very friendly, asking if Sigurth would like to hear some advice from him. Sigurth said that he would, and added that he had an idea that Hnikar could give people very helpful advice if he were willing to turn it to their advantage. Then Sigurth said to the man in the cloak:
O Hnikar, since you know the destiny
Of gods and men, declare this unto me.—
Which are the omens that should most delight
When swords are swinging and a man must fight?
Hnikar replied:
Many propitious signs, if men could know,
Appear when swords are swinging to and fro.
I hold a warrior has a trusty guide
When a dark raven hovers at his side.
I hold it too for a propitious sign
If men to make a journey should design,
And, coming out of doors, see close at hand
Two gallant warriors in the pathway stand.
And if you hear beneath the rowan tree
A howling wolf, the sound spells luck to thee,
And luck shall helmed warriors bring to thee,
If though such warriors art the first to see.
Facing the sinking and late shining light
Of the Moon's sister, warriors should not fight.
Victory is theirs who, eager for the fray,
Can clearly see to order their array.
I hold it no occasion for delight
When a man stumbles as he goes to fight;
For guileful spirits dog him on his way
With mischief-bearing looks throughout the fray

A man of wisdom, as each day goes past,
Washes, and combs his hair, and breaks his fast
He knows not where by evening he may be.—
Stumbling is bad luck, boding ill to thee.
And after that we sailed southwards along the coast of Holstein and to the east of Friesland, and there we landed. The sons of Hunding heard at once of our expedition and gathered an army; and they soon had a larger force than we had, and when we encountered them there was a great battle. Lyngvi was the most valiant of the brothers in every onset, though they all fought bravely. Sigurth's attack was so fierce that everyone shrank before him, when they saw that they were threatened by the sword Gram. There was no need to reproach Sigurth with lack of courage. And when he and Lyngvi met, they exchanged many blows and fought with the greatest valour. Then there was a lull in the battle, for people turned to watch the single combat. For a long time neither of them was able to inflict a wound on the other, so skilled in arms were they.
Then Lyngvi's brothers made a fierce attack and slew many of our men, while others took to flight. Then Hamund, Sigurth's brother, rushed to meet them, and I joined him, and then there was another encounter.
The end of the affair between Sigurth and Lyngvi was that many of our men, while others took to flight. Then Hamund, Sigurth's brother, rushed to meet them, and I joined him, and then there was another encounter.
The end of the affair between Sigurth and Lyngvi was that Sigurth made him prisoner and had him fettered. And when Sigurth joined us, matters very soon changed. Then the sons of Hunding fell and all their host; but then night was coming on. And when day dawned, Hnikar had vanished, and he was never seen again. We came to the conclusion than it must in reality have been Othin.

A discussion then took place as to what death Lyngvi should suffer; Regin counselled that the 'blood eagle' should be carved on his back. Then I handed to Regin his sword and with it he carved Lyngvi's back till he had severed the ribs from the spine; and then he drew out the lungs. Thus died Lyngvi's back till he had severed the ribs from the spine; and then he drew out the lungs. Thus died Lyngvi with great courage.
    Then Regin said:
Full seldom has a bolder warrior
Reddened the earth than Sigmund's murderer.
Hugin he feasted. Now with biting sword
The 'bloody eagle' on his back is scored.
Great spoil was taken there. Sigurth's sailors got the whole of it because he would not take any himself. The clothes and weapons taken were worth much gold.
Afterwards Sigurth slew Fafnir, and Regin also, because Regin had intended to deal treacherously with him. Sigurth took Fafnir's gold and rode away with it, and from that time on he was called Fafnisbani. [* missing text (approximately): "After that he rode up to the Hind's Heath, and there met Brynhild. And the journey they shared is as told in the story of Sigurth Fafnisbani.]
VII.
Later on Sigurth married Guthrun the daughter of King Gjuki and then stayed for a while with his brothers-in-law, the sons of Gjuki, and demanded that they should pay him tribute, threatening them with invasion in case they refused. But they

decided to defend their country. Thereupon Gandalf's sons challenged the sons of Gjuki to a pitched battle on the frontier, and then returned home; but the sons of Gjuki asked Sigurth Fafnisbani to go to battle with them, and he agreed to do so. I was still with Sigurth at the time. Then we sailed again northwards along the coast of Holstein and landed at a place called Jarnamotha. Not far from the landing place hazel-wood poles had been set up to mark where the fight was to take place.
Then we saw many ships sailing from the north under the command of the sons of Gandalf. Then the two hosts charged on another fiercely. Sigurth Hring was not there, because he had to defend his own land, Sweden, against the inroads of the Kurir and Kvænir. Sigurth was a very old man at the time. Then the forces came into collision, and there was a great battle and much slaughter. The sons of Gandalf fought bravely, for they were exceptionally big and strong.
In that host there appeared a big strong man who made such slaughter of men and horses that no-one could withstand him, for he was more like a giant than a man. Gunnar bade Sigurth go and attack the scoundrel, adding that as thing were, there would be no success. So Sigurth made ready to encounter the mighty man, and some others went with him, but most of them were far from eager.
We quickly came upon the mighty man, and Sigurth asked him him name and whence he came. He said that he was Starkath, the son of Storverk, and that he came from the North, from Fenhring in Norway. Sigurth said that he had heard reports
of him and generally little to his credit, adding that no mercy ought to be shown toward such people.
Starkath said: "Who is this man who casts insults in my teeth?"
Sigurth told him who he was.
Starkath said: "Are you called Fafnisbani?"
Sigurth said he was.
Then Starkath sought to escape, but Sigurth pursued him and swung aloft the sword Gram and struck him on the jaw with the hilt so hard that two molars fell out of his mouth; it was a stunning blow.
Then Sigurth bade the cur take himself off, and Starkath went away, and I picked up one of the teeth and carried it off with me. It is now used on a bell-rope at Lund in Denmark and weighs seven ounces; and people go and look at it there as a curiosity.
As soon as Starkath had run away, the sons of Gandalf took to flight, and we captured great booty; and after that Sigurth went home to his realm and remained there for a while.
VIII.
A short time after, we heard that Starkath had committed a foul murder, slaying King Ali in his bath.
It chanced one day that as Sigurth Fafnisbani was riding to some gathering or other, he rode into a muddy pool, and his horse Grani leapt up so wildly that his saddle-girth burst asunder and the buckle fell to the ground. And when I saw where it lay shining in the mud, I picked it up and handed it to Sigurth; but he said that I might keep it. It was that very piece of gold that you were looking at a short time ago. Then Sigurth got down from his horse, and I rubbed it down and washed the mud off it; and I

pulled a lock of hair out of its tail as a proof of its great size.
Then Guest showed the lock and it was seven ells long.
King Olaf said: "I think your stories are very entertaining."
Everybody praised his stories and his talent.
Then the King wanted him to tell them much more about the adventures he had met with on his travels. So Guest told them many amusing stories till late in the evening. It was then time to go to bed; but next morning the King sent for Guest, and wanted to talk to him still further.
The King said: "I can't quite make out your age and how you can be old enough to have been present when these events took place. You will have to tell another story so as to make us better acquainted with things of this kind."
Guest replied: "I suspected before that you would want to hear another of my stories, if I told you what had happened about the gold."
"You must certainly tell me some more," replied the King.
IX.
"I must tell you then," Guest began, "that I went north to Denmark and there settled down on my estate, for my father had died a short time before; and a little later I heard of the death of Sigurth and the sons of Gjuki, and I felt that that was news indeed."
"What was the cause of Sigurth's death?" asked the King.
Guest replied: "It is generally believed that Guthorm the son of Gjuki ran a sword through him

while he was asleep in bed with Guthrun. On the other hand, Germans say that Sigurth was slain in the forest. In the Guthrúnar-rætha again it is stated that Sigurth and the sons of Gjuki had ridden to a gathering and that they slew him then. But one thing is agreed by all—that they set on him when he was down and off his guard, and that they were guilty of gross treachery toward him."
Then on of the retinue asked:
"How did Brynhild behave then?"
Guest answered: "Brynhild then slew seven of her slaves and five handmaidens, and ran herself through with a sword, commanding that she should be take to the pyre along with these people and burned beside Sigurth. This was done, one pile being made for Sigurth and another for Brynhild, and he was burned first, and then Brynhild. She was taken in a chariot with a canopy of velvet and silk which was all ablaze with gold, and thus was she burnt."
Then Guest was asked if Brynhild had chanted a lay after she was dead. He replied that she had, and they asked him to recite it if he could.
Then Guest said: "As Brynhild was being driven to the pyre on the way to Hell, she was brought near some cliffs where an ogress dwelt. The ogress was standing outside the doors of her cave and wore a skin kirtle and was of a blackish hue. She carried a long faggot in her hand and cried.
'This will I contribute to your burning, Brynhild. It would have been better if you had been burned while you were still alive, before you were guilty of getting such a splendid man as Sigurth Fafnisbani slain. I was always friendly to him and therefore I shall attack

you in a reproachful song which will make you hated by everybody who hears what you have done.'
After that Brynhild and the ogress chanted to one another.
Thou shalt not be suffered to pass through my courts
    With their pillars of stone in my mansion drear,—
Better far wert thou busied at home with thy needle!
    Not thine is the husband thou followest here.
Inconstant soul, why comest thou hither?
   From the land of the Romans why visit'st thou me?
Full many a wolf hast thou made be partaker
  Of the life-blood of men who were butchered by thee!
Then cried Brynhild:
Upbraid me no more from thy rock bound dwelling
    For battles I fought in the days of old.—
Thou wilt not be deemed to be nobler of nature
    Than I, wheresoever our story is told!
The Ogress:
In an evil hour, O Buthli's daughter,
    In an evil hour wert thou brought to birth.—
The Sons of Gjuki thou gavest to slaughter,
    Their noble dwellings thou rased'st to earth.
Brynhild:
A true account, if thou carest to hearken,
    O thou lying soul, will I tell to thee;—
How empty of love and o'ershadowed by falsehood
   The life that the Gjukings had destined for me!
Atli's daughter was I, yet the monarch bold-hearted
    Assigned me a home neath the shade of the oak.
But twelve summers old, if thou carest to hearken,
    Was this maid when her vows to the hero she spoke.

Hjalmgunnar the Old, of the Gothic nation,
    Great chief, on the pathway to Hell did I speed;
And victory granted to Auth's young brother;
    Then Othin's dread fury was roused at my deed.
Then a phalanx of bucklers did Othin set round me
    On Skatalund's heights, shields crimson and white,—
Bade only that prince break the slumber that bound me
    Who knew naught of terror, nor shrank from the fight.
And flames high towering and fiercely raging
    Round my Southern hall did he set in a ring:
None other was destined to pass through in safety
    Save the hero who treasure of Fafnir should bring.
The generous hero with treasure a-gleaming,
    The Danish viking on Grani rode,—
Foremost champion in deeds of valour—
    Where my foster-father had his abode.
A brother with sister we slept together
    Eight nights space he lay at my side
There were we happy and slumbered idly,
    Nor loving caresses did ever betide.
Yet Guthrun the daughter of Gjuki reviled me,
    That I in the arms of her lover had slept.
O then was I 'ware of the thing I desired not—
    The truth of my marriage from me had they kept.
All too long against storms of adversity struggling
    Both women and men seek their fortunes to right;
But I with my Sigurth shall end my life's battle
    At last. Now depart from me, daughter of Night!
Then the ogress gave a horrible shriek and leapt into the cliff."
Then the King's followers cried: "That's fine! Go on and tell us some more!"
But the King said: "You need not tell us any

more about things of that kind." Then he continued: "Were you ever with the sons of Lothbrok?"
Guest replied : "I was only with them for a short time; I joined them when they were making an expedition to the south in the neighbourhood of the Alps, and when they destroyed Vifilsborg. Panic spread everywhere at their approach, for they were victorious wherever they went. They were intending at the time to go to Rome. It chanced one day that a certain man came up to King Björn Ironside and saluted him. The King received him in a friendly way and asked him whence he came. He said that he had come from the south, from Rome.
The King asked him : 'How long is the journey there?'
He replied : 'You can see here, O King, the shoes which I am wearing.'
Then he took the iron-bound shoes from his feet, and the tops of them were very thick, but underneath they were all torn.
'You can see now how severely my shoes have suffered,' said, 'and tell by that what a long way it is from here to Rome.'
'It must be a very long way,' said the King; 'I shall turn back and give up the idea of attacking the territories of Rome.'
And the result was the they went no further on their way; and everyone thought it extraordinary that they should change their minds so suddenly at the word of one man, when they had all their plans laid. So after this the sons of Lothbrok went back to their homes in the north, and made no further raids in the south.".

The King said: "It is clear that the saints in Rome would not allow them to make their way there. The man you spoke of must have been a spirit sent form God to make them change their minds so quickly, so as not to bring destruction on Rome, the most holy place of Jesus Christ."
X.
Then the King asked Guest: "Amongst the kings whom you have visited, whose was the court that you liked best.?"
Guest replied : "I enjoyed most being with Sigurth and the sons of Gjuki; but the sons of Lothbrok were those who allowed most freedom to their followers to live as they liked. Then again the richest place was that of Eric at Upsala; but King Harold the Fairhaired was more exacting than any of the kings I have mentioned in the duties that he imposed on his followers. I was with King Hlöthver too in the land of the Saxons, and there I was prime-signed; for it was not possible to remain with him otherwise, because the Christian religion was carefully observed there. That was the place I liked best on the whole."
The King said : "You can give us a great deal of information whatever question we ask you."
The King then asked Guest many further questions, and Guest told him everything clearly, and finally he said:
"Now I must tell you why I am called Norna-gest."
The King said he would like to hear.
XI.
Guest began : "I was brought up at my father's home at a place called Groening. My father was a wealthy man and kept house in great style. At that time wise women used to go about the country. They were called 'spae-wives,' and they

foretold people's futures. For this reason people used to invite them to their houses and gave them hospitality and bestowed gifts on them at parting.
My father did the same, and they came to him with a great following to foretell my fate. I was lying in my cradle when the time came for them to prophesy about me, and two candle were burning above me. Then they foretold that I should be a favourite of Fortune, and a greater man than any of my kindred or forbears—greater even than the sons of the chief men in the land ; and they said that all would come to pass just as it has done. but the youngest Norn thought that she was not receiving enough attention compared with the other two, since they were held in high account yet did not consult her about these prophecies. There was also a great crowd of roughs present, who pushed her off her seat, so that she fell to the ground. She was much vexed at this and called out loudly and angrily, telling them to stop prophesying such good things about me:
'For I ordain that the boy shall live no longer than that candle burns which is alight beside him.'
Then the eldest spae-wife took the candle and extinguished it and bade my mother take charge of it and not light it until the last day of my life. After that the spae-wives went away, and my father gave them good gifts at parting. When I was full-grown, my mother gave me the candle to take charge of ; I have it with me now."
The King said : "Why have you come here to me now?"
Guest replied: "The idea that came into my mind was this: I expected that I should get good luck from

you, because I have heard you highly praised by good and wise men."
The King said: "Will you receive holy baptism now?"
Guest replied : "Yes, I will, since you advise it."
So it came to pass; and the King took him into his favour and made him one of his retinue. Guest became a very good Christian and loyally followed the King's rules of life. He was also popular with everybody.
XII.
It happened one day that the King asked Guest: "How much longer would you live if you could choose?"
Guest replied : "Only a short time, please God!"
The King said: "What will happen if you take your candle now?"
Thereupon Guest took his candle out of the frame of his harp. The King ordered it to be lighted, and this was done. And when the candle was lighted it soon began to burn away.
Then the King said to guest: "How old are you?"
And Guest replied: "I am now three hundred years old."
"You are an old man," observed the King.
Then Guest laid himself down and asked them to anoint him with oil. The King ordered it to be done, and when it was finished there was very little of the candle left unburnt. Then it became clear that Guest was drawing near to his end, and his spirit passed just as the torch flickered out; and they all marvelled at his passing. The King also set great store by his stories and held that the account which he had given of his life was perfectly true.


STORIES AND BALLADS OF THE FAR PAST
TRANSLATED FROM THE NORSE (ICELANDIC AND FAROESE) BY N. KERSHAW CAMBRIDGE AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS 1921
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About Gaby F

lectora, estudiosa de la historia antigua, especialmente la mitología germánica, indoeuropea. ".
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