Education in “The Saga of the People of Laxardal”

Chapter 70


[...] Of all her children, it was Bolli whom Gudrun loved the most. He was now sixteen years of age and Thorleik twenty.

Thorleik then spoke to his stepfather Thorkel and his mother of his wish to travel abroad. ‘I am bored by sitting at home like the women do. I want to ask you to provide me with the means to journey abroad.’

Thorkel answered, ‘To my mind, I’ve seldom opposed the wishes of your brothers since our family bonds were tied. And I can understand only too well your longing to go abroad and learn foreign ways, since I expect you will be considered a stalwart fellow among capable men everywhere.’

Thorleik said he did not wish to take a great amount of wealth, ‘because it’s far from certain that I would be able to handle it properly; I’m young and inexperienced in many ways’.

Thorkel told him to take what he wished.

Thorkel then purchased a share in a ship, which had been beached at Dagverdarnes, for Thorleik. He accompanied Thorleik to his ship and made sure he was well equipped in every respect. Thorleik sailed abroad that summer and his ship made land in Norway. At that time King Olaf the Saint ruled in Norway. Thorleik made his way directly to King Olaf. The king received him well and recognized his lineage. He invited him to join him and Thorleik accepted. He spent the winter with the king and became his follower. The king thought highly of him. Thorleik was considered the most courageous of men and spent a number of years with the king. [...]

Chapter 72


Bolli answered, ‘For a long time now I have wanted to make a journey south; a man is considered ignorant if he has explored no more than the shores of Iceland..’

When Snorri saw that Bolli had his mind so set on this that there was no point trying to dissuade him, he offered Bolli as much wealth as he wished for the journey.

Chapter 73


[...] After a year in Denmark, Bolli began his journey through foreign countries, not stopping until he reached Constantinople. After a short time there he entered the company of the Varangian guard, and we know no reports of northerners having entered the service of the Byzantine emperor before Bolli Bollason. He spent many years in Constantinople, where he was regarded as the most valiant of fighters in any perilous situation, where he was among the foremost of them. The Varangians thought highly of Bolli during his stay in Constantinople.

Source: Keneva Kunz, trans., "[Education 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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