Well-to-do farmers, estate owners in “Egil’s Saga”

Chapter 42

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[...] When the date came round for Thorolf to attend the wedding feast, he asked people to join him, inviting Thorir and Arinbjorn first, with their farmhands and more prominent tenants, a large party of worthy men. [...]

Chapter 43

There was a man called Olvir who worked for Thorir, managing his farm and the farmhands. He also collected debts and looked after his money. He was no longer young, but very active.

Olvir happened to have to go away to collect the rents that had been owing to Thorir since the spring. He went on a rowboat with twelve of Thorir’s farmhands.[...]

Chapter 72

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[...] When they arrived in the fields in front of the farmhouse, they saw Armod and his men standing outside. [Armod was a [[italics]]bˇndi[[/]] which implies that he was well-to-do and his farmhouse was an estate with tenant farmers and many farm hands and servants.] They exchanged greetings and asked each other if there was any news. When he heard that these men were envoys from the king, Armod invited them to stay, and they accepted. Armod’s farm hands took their horses and baggage, while the farmer invited Egil and his men to go in to the main room, and they did so. Armod gave Egil a seat on the lower bench and seated his companions farther down the table. They spoke at length about their tough journey that night, and the people who lived there were astonished that they had made it at all, saying that the ridge could not even be crossed when it was free of snow.

‘Don’t you think the best thing I can provide you with now is to lay the tables and give you a meal for the night, and then you can go to bed?’ asked Armod. ‘You’ll get the best night’s rest that way.’

‘That would be fine,’ said Egil.

Then Armod had the tables laid for them, and large bowls of curds were brought in. Armod gave the impression he was upset at not having any ale to serve them. Because Egil and his men were so thirsty after their ordeal, they picked up bowls and gulped down the curds, Egil more than the others. No other food was served.

Many people were living and working on the farm. The farmer’s wife sat on a cross-bench with some other women beside her. [The cross-bench was a bench or platform by the wall at the end of the room, perpendicular to the side benches and highseats. It was the place where the women sat.] Their daughter, aged ten or eleven, was on the floor. The wife called over to her, and whispered in her ear. Then the girl went round to where Egil was sitting at the table. She spoke this verse:

My mother sent me
to talk to you
and bring Egil word
to keep on his guard.
The maid of the ale-horn
said treat your stomach
as if you expect
to be served something better.

Armod slapped the girl and told her to keep quiet — ‘You’re always saying things at the worst of times.’

The girl went away, and Egil put down the bowl of curds, which was almost empty. Then the bowls were taken away and the men of the household went to their seats as well. Tables were laid across the whole room and the food was brought in. Choice food was served to Egil and his men, and everyone else. [Tables in a Norse house were portable and brought out only at meal times. Most of the time they consisted of large wooden table tops set on saw horses. When not in use, they were hung on the wall.]

Then the ale was brought in, an exceptionally strong brew. Each man was given a horn to drink from, and the host made a special point of letting Egil and his men drink as much as possible. [...] This continued until the tables were cleared. [...] Then Egil and his companions stood up and took their weapons from the wall where they had hung them, went to the barn where their horses were being kept, lay down in the straw and slept the night there. [...]

Source: Bernard Scudder, trans., "[Well-to-do farmers and Estate Owners in] Egil's Saga" in The Sagas of Icelanders: A Selection, preface by Jane Smiley, introduction by Robert Kellogg, (New York, London, Victoria (Australia), Toronto, Auckland: The Penguin Group, 2000), 3-184. Notes: Probably by Snorri Sturluson c. 1220-1240 about events 850-1000. Snorri was a descendant of Egil. Translations first published in "The Complete Sagas of Icelanders," volumes I-V (forty-nine tales), Leifur Eiriksson Publishing, Ltd., Iceland, 1997

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