Death, Dying, Grief and Mourning

            "Death is always the same,
                               but each man dies in his own way."

Carson McCullers, Clock Without Hands, 1960


   Search Site


in Western Literature

An Anthology by  Adrienne Nater

 • Home •  • Preface • • Introduction •  • Chronology •  • Index •  • About the Author •


Death, Dying, Grief, and Mourning

in Western Literature


Printable Page


The Sagas of the Icelander’s,
Viga Glum’s Saga
, 1200’s

 Translation: George Johnson

Death in Battle: Thorvald

Death in Battle: Thorvald:

Whilst they were fighting a man came up at full speed, wearing a hood of skins, with a sword in his hand. He came where Thorvald Tafalld had fallen before Eystein, and rushing at the latter, gave him a death-blow. Then he joined himself to Glum’s side, and Glum called out to him, "Good luck to you Thundarbenda! I made a good bargain when I bought you. You will pay me well to-day for the outlay." Now Glum had a thrall who was called by that name, and that is why he spoke thus; but in reality it was Vigfuss, Glum’s son, though few or none except Glum himself knew him, for he had been three winters outlawed and living in concealment, so that most people thought he had gone abroad. It happened that whilst Glum was getting away he fell, and lay on the ground, and his two thralls lay over him, and were killed with spear-thrusts; but at that moment Marr with his men came up. Then Thorarin got off his horse, and he and Marr fought, without any other men meddling with them. Glum sprung up, and joined heartily in the fight, and there was then no advantage of number on either side. The servant of Thorarin’s, named Eirik, who had been about his work in the morning, came to his master’s aid with club in his hand, but without other arms of offence of defence; and Glum suffered much by him because his men were injured both in person and in their arms by that club which he bore. It is told to that Halldor, Glum’s wife, called on the women to go with her, saying, "We will bind up the wounds of those men who have any hope of life, whichever party they belong to." When she came up Thorarin was just struck down by Marr, his shoulder was cut away in such fashion that the lungs were exposed. But Halldor bound up his wound, and kept watch over him till the fight was over.

Halli the fat was the first who came up to interfere, and many men were killed with him. The end of the combat was that five men of those from Espihole were killed, that is to say, Thorvald the crooked, Arngrim, Eysein, Eirik, and Eyvind the Norwegian. On Glum’s side there fell Thorvald Tafalld, Eyiolf son of Thorleif, Jod, and the two thralls. Thorarin got home with his people; Glum also returned with his men, and had the dead carried into an outbuilding, where the utmost honour was done to the body of Thorvald, for garments were placed under it, and it was sewn up in a skin. When the men had returned, Glum said to Halldora, "Our expedition today would have been successful, if you had staid at home, and if Thorarin had not escaped with his life." She replied, "There is little of life in Thorarin, and if he lives you will not be able to remain in the district long; but if he dies you will not be able to remain in the country at all." After this Glum said to Gudbrand, "You did us good service."

Gudbrand replied that nothing of the sort happened; he had only defended himself as will as he could. "Oh," said Glum, "that is all very well. I saw clearly what took place; a mere child in age to kill such a champion as Thorvald! You will always be talked of for this deed. I got credit abroad in the same way for killing a Berserker." "I never slew Thorvald," answered Gudbrand, "It is no use trying to conceal it, my good friend, you gave him the wound which killed him. Do not shirk the good luck which has fallen to you." Glum maintained his point with Gudbrand till the latter believed what he had said, admitted that he had done it, and thought it an honour to himself, so that it could no longer be concealed, and the death was formally laid to his charge, This seemed to those who took up the suit for Thorvald’s slaughter to be less promising than had been expected. Thorvald was chosen as the man whose death was to be avenged.



Adrienne Nater, 2008

©© 2008 Adrienne Nater. All rights reserved.