Saga of the Ere-Dwellers

Rbyggja Saga, Chapter 39

A New Dispute

THAT SAME SUMMER Thorleif Kimbi arranged for his passage with some traders who were getting their ship ready in Straum Fjord, and their leaders invited him to take meals with them. In those days it wasn't usual for traders to have cooks aboard, but all those who shared a table used to cast lots from day to day to decide which of them should do the cooking. There was a common supply of water for the whole crew from a cask with a lid on it, which stood near the mast. Extra water was kept in barrels and emptied into the cask as the water there was used up.

As they were just about to set sail, a stranger came down to Budarhamar. He was a tall man, carrying a bundle on his back, and there was something out of the ordinary about him. He asked for the skipper and was shown to his tent. The stranger laid his luggage down by the tent door and went inside. He asked the skipper if he would take him abroad. When they asked him his name, he said he was Arnbjorn Asbrandsson of Kamb and wanted to go abroad to look for his brother Bjorn, who had left the country some years before, and about whom nothing had been heard since he went to Denmark. The traders said they'd already covered up the cargo and didn't want to re-open it. Arnbjorn pointed out that he had so little baggage that it could easily be placed on top of the cargo. It seemed to them that he had urgent reasons for going overseas, so they took him aboard. As he was by himself and didn't share meals with anybody, he was given a berth in the bows. His baggage consisted of three hundred ells of home-spun cloth, twelve sheep-skins, and food for the voyage. Arnbjorn proved very handy and helpful, and the traders came to like him a lot.

They had a good passage, and after they made landfall in Hordaland, they sailed up to a rocky island and went ashore to cook a meal. It was Thorleif's turn to do the cooking, and he was supposed to make porridge. Arnbjorn was already ashore, cooking porridge for himself in the pot that Thorleif was to use after him. Thorleif went ashore and told Arnbjorn to give him the pot, but the porridge wasn't quite ready, and Arnbjorn stirred away, refusing to budge. The Norwegians on board started shouting at Thorleif, telling him to get on with the cooking. They said he was just like all the other Icelanders, far too slow at everything. Thorleif got into a temper, grabbed the pot and flung it down, spilling Arnbjorn's porridge. But, as Thorleif started walking away, Arnbjorn hit him on the neck with the ladle, which he still had in his hand. It wasn't a hard blow, but the ladle was hot with the porridge and burnt Thorleif's neck.

'Since we're the only Icelanders here,' said Thorleif, 'it wouldn't be right to give the Norwegians a chance to make fun of us, then drag us apart like a pair of fighting dogs. But I'll remember this next time we meet back in Iceland.' Arnbjorn didn't answer.

They lay there at anchor for some days till they got a favourable wind to take them up to the mainland, and there they unloaded the cargo. Thorleif found lodgings, but Arnbjorn fixed himself a passage on a cargo-boat bound for Oslo Fjord. From there he sailed to Denmark and started looking for his brother Bjorn.

Source: Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards, trans., Saga of the Ere-Dwellers in Eyrbyggja Saga, (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1973), 126-127.

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