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Snorri Sends For Thrand The Strider.

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #33

Alf the Little ran till he came to Tongue to Snorri the Priest, and told him of his troubles, and egged him on hard to go north against Uspak and his folk. But Snorri the Priest would first hear from the north what more they had done than driving Alf from the north, or whether they meant to have a settled abode there in Bitter. A little after came tidings from Bitter in the north of the slaying of Thorir and the array which Uspak had there, and it was heard tell of men that they would not be easily won.

Then Snorri the Priest let fetch Alf's household and such goods as were left behind, and all those matters came to Tongue and were there the winter long. Snorri's unfriends laid blame on him, in that he was held by folk slow to set Alf's matters right. Snorri let them say what they would about it, and still was nought done.

Now Sturla Thiodrekson sent word from the west (1) that he would straightway get ready to set on Uspak and his company as soon as Snorri would, and said that it was no less due of him than of Snorri to go that journey. The winter wore on till past Yule, and ever were ill deeds of Uspak and his company heard of from the north. The winter was hard, and all the firths were under ice.

But a little before Lent, Snorri the Priest sent out to Ness to Ingiald's-knolI, where dwelt a man called Thrand the Strider, and was the son of that Ingiald by whom the homestead is named at Ingiald's-knoll. Thrand was the biggest and strongest of men, and the swiftest of foot. He had been before with Snorri the Priest, and was said to be not of one shape whiles he was heathen; (2) but the devilhood fell off from most men when they were christened.

Now Snorri sent word to Thrand, bidding him come thither to Tongue to meet him, and to get ready his journey in such guise as though he was to have certain trials of manhood on his hands. So when Thrand got Snorri's word he said to the messenger: "Thou shalt rest thyself here such time as thou wilt, but I will go at Snorri's message, so we may not journey together."

The messenger said that would be known when it was tried. But in the morning when the man awoke, lo, Thrand was clean gone. He had taken his weapons and gone east under Enni, and so as the road lay to Bulands-head, and then east across the firths (3) to the stead called Eidi. There he took to the ice and went over Coalpit-firth and Seliafirth, and thence into Swordfirth, and so in over the ice right to the firth-end, and to Tongue in the evening, whenas Snorri was set down and at table.

Snorri welcomed him lovingly, and Thrand took his greeting and asked what he would of him, and said he was ready to go whither he would, if Snorri had will to set him about somewhat. Snorri bade him abide in peace through the night, and Thrand's wet clothes were pulled off him.

(1)  "Now Sturla Thiodrekson sent word from the west", namely, to
     Snorri the Priest, now living at Saelingsdale-tongue.  The
     two localities are due north and south by the compass.  In
     the local speech, however, to this day, the direction from
     Saurby, Sturla's countryside, to Saelingsdale, is said to be
     from the west.  The real reason of such liberty being taken
     with the actual cardinal point of the compass is that, the
     choice of terms lying between west and north, the latter
     could not be used, since the listener to the story would
     involuntarily connect it at once with the North-country,
     where, too, in Eyjafjord, there is even a Saurby, while the
     former term indicates Saurby as that of the West-country,
     and also points to the fact, that the valley so called opens
     upon the district known as the West-Firths proper, which cut
     into the peninsula across the bay right in front of the view
     opened out from the mouth of the Saurby valley.

(2)  (Thrand) "was said to be not of one shape while he was
     heathen", & etc. -- ok var kallathr eigi einhamr.  The
     meaning of this is, that Thrand had the power of changing
     his shape as occasion served, which power was believed to be
     the special gift of Odin, the first and greatest of shape or
     skin-changers:  "Odin changed shapes; lay then the body, as
     if asleep or dead, while he himself was a fowl, or a
     four-footed beast, or fish, or snake, and went in a moment
     into far-away countries on his own or other folks: errands."
     -- "Ynglinga saga" (chapter vii).  This same power he
     imparted to goddesses and Valkyrjur, and among men it was
     specially imparted to his immediate descendants, the Volsung
     family ("Volsunga saga", chapters vii and viii).  Witches
     and people "ancient in mind", as well as those who were
     supposed to descend from trolls and giants, were chiefly
     credited with this peculiar power.  The belief is not
     peculiar to the North, though few peoples' literature is so
     full of it as the Icelandic; it is common to all nations,
     its primitive source being probably the Dream.

(3)  "East across the firths".  The "firths" the author has in
     his mind are small bights that cut into the land east of
     Bulands-head, together with the broad bay called Ground
     firth, the eastern littoral of which is formed by Ere
     (Onward Ere), on the narrow isthmus of which, near its
     eastern shore, is the homestead of Eidi, from which Thrand
     took his straight course over the icelaid firths unto
     Tongue.  The distance Thrand made was, as the crow flies,
     forty-seven English miles -- with the necessary bends, some
     fifty miles odd; he walked this distance apparently in about
     twelve hours, at a steady pace consequently of about four
     miles an hour.