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Medieval and Classical Library


Thorolf Most-Beard Outlawed By
King Harald Hairfair.

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #33

Rolf was a mighty chief, and a man of the greatest largesse; he had the ward of Thor's temple there in the island, and was a great friend of Thor. And therefore he was called Thorolf. (1) He was a big man and a strong, fair to look on, and had a great beard; therefore was he called Most-beard, and he was the noblest man in the island.

In the spring Thorolf gave Biorn a good long-ship manned with a doughty crew, and gave him Hallstein his son to bear him fellowship; and therewith they sailed West-over-the-sea to meet Biorn's kindred.

But when King Harald knew that Thorolf Mostbeard had harboured Biorn Ketilson the king's outlaw, then sent he men to see him and bade him begone from his lands, and fare as an outlaw even as Biorn his friend, but if he come and meet the king and lay the whole matter in his hand. This was ten winters after Ingolf Arnarson (2) had fared out to take up his abode in Iceland, and that faring was grown to be very famous, because that those men who came out from Iceland told of good choice of land therein.

Go to Chapter IV

(1)  "He had the ward of Thor's temple there in the island, and
     was a great friend of Thor.  And therefore was he called
     Thorolf."  In all probability the case with Rolf had been
     the same as with his kinsmen, that, when he was dedicated to
     his tutelary god, his name was lengthened by adding Thor's
     name to it.  His own son, who first was called Stein, he
     dedicates to Thor under the name of Thorstein (Chapter VII).
     Thorstein again had a son, called Grim, who on being given
     by the father to Thor, was named Thorgrim.  That it was a
     common custom to give to children the name of a god, is
     attested to by Snorri in Ynglinga Saga, ch. 7: "From Odin's
     name was derived the name of Audunn, and in that manner men
     gave names to their sons.  But by Thor's name is called he
     who hights Thorir or Thorarin, or other names may be added
     thereto, as Stein-Thor or Haf-Thor with alterations in
     sundry other ways."  Another record, Hauksb6k, says: "Men of
     lore say, that it was the custom of ancient folk to derive
     the names of their sons or daughters from names of the gods,
     as Thorolf or Thorstein or Thorgrim from the name of Thor;
     so he who first hight Odd was from Thor named Thorod, even
     as Thormod sang of Snorri the Priest and his son Odd, whom
     he (Snorri) called Thorod; such, too, is the case with
     Thorberg, Thoralf, Thorleif, Thorgeir; and yet more names
     are derived from the names of the gods, though most be so
     from that of Thor.  In those days men were much in the wont
     of having two names, for that was thought most likely to
     lengthen life and give good luck; even should some folk
     curse them by the name of the gods, this was held to be of
     no scathe since they had another name (to trust in)," from
     Biorn of Skardsa's "Anall eptir Hauksbok, AM. 115, 8vo.,
     printed as "2 Anhang" to "Eyrbyggja Saga", ed. Vigfusson,
     1864).  If proof were wanted to show how, beyond all
     comparison, Thor was the most popular deity with the heathen
     Icelander, a reference to the index of personal names in our
     saga, and, for that matter, in all Icelandic sagas, will
     suffice.  Even in the present day Thor is, in this respect,
     beaten in the record by only one saint -- St. John.

(2)  Read Ingolf Ernson.