Fishing in “The Saga of the People of Laxardal”

Chapter 14


On the Bjarneyjar Islands in the bay of Breidafjord was a fishing camp. This was a cluster of islands rich in supplies of food. People often went there for provisions and visited in large numbers every year. Wise men said it was important to maintain harmony in fishing camps, and it was said that catches would be poorer if there was dissension, advice which was heeded by most people.

Ingjald’s brother, Hall, is said to have gone to the islands one summer to fish. He hired on a boat with a man called Thorolf. He was from Breidafjord and had barely a permanent home or any property, although he was a sturdy fellow. Hall stayed there some time and behaved as if he were superior to most of the others. One evening Hall and Thorolf returned to shore and set about dividing the day’s catch. Hall intended both to divide the catch into two portions and then choose his portion first, because he felt himself superior. Not mincing his words, Thorolf refused to take less than his share. After a few angry exchanges, with each of them becoming more adamant, Hall picked up a gaff lying nearby and attempted to strike Thorolf in the head with it. At this point other people intervened and separated them, restraining Hall who struggled furiously but to no avail, at least for the moment. Their catch was left undivided and when Thorolf left the island that evening, Hall then found someone to replace Thorolf and continued fishing as before. [...]

Source: Keneva Kunz, trans., "[Fishing in] The Saga of the People of Laxardal" 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), 276-421. Notes: 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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