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Medieval and Classical Library


Of The Walking Of Thorolf Halt-Foot.
He Is Dug Up And Burned.
Of The Bull Glossy.

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #33

In those days dwelt Thorod Thorbrandson in Swanfirth, and had the lands both of Ulfar's-fell and of Orligstead; but to such a pass had come the haunting of Thorolf Halt-foot, that men deemed they might not abide on those lands. Lairstead withal was voided, because Thorolf straightway took to walking as soon as Arnkel was dead, and slew both men and beasts there at Lairstead; nor has any man had a heart to dwell there, by reason of these things. (1)

Then when all things were waste there, Haltfoot betook himself to Ulfar's-fell, and wrought great trouble there, and all folk were full of dread as soon as they were ware of Halt-foot's walking. At last the bonder fared in to Karstead, and bemoaned himself of that trouble to Thorod, because he was tenant of him, and he said that it was the fear of men that Halt-foot would not leave off before he had wasted all the firth both of man and beast, "and if no rede is tried I can no longer abide there, if nought be done herein."

But when Thorod heard that, he deemed the matter ill to deal with. But the next morning he let bring his horse, and called his house-carles to him, and gathered men to him from the nighest steads withal; and then they fare out to Haltfoot's-head, and come to Thorolf's howe; and he was even yet unrotten, and as like to a fiend as like could be, blue as hell, and big as a neat; and when they went about the raising of him, they could in nowise stir him. So Thorod let set lever-beams under him, and thereby they brought him up from the howe, and rolled him down to the seaside, and cut there a great bale, and set fire to it, and rolled Thorolf thereinto, and burned all up to cold coals; yet long it was or ever the fire would take on him. There was a stiff breeze, which scattered the ashes wide about as soon as the bale began to burn; but such of the ashes as they might, they cast out seaward; and so when they had made an end of the business they went home.

Now it was the time of the night-meal whenas Thorod came home, (2) and the women were at the milking; but as Thorod rode by the milking-stead a certain cow started from before him, and brake her leg. Then was she felt, but was found so meagre that it was not deemed good to slaughter her; so Thorod let bind up her leg; but she became utterly dry.

So when the cow's leg was whole again, she was brought out to Ulfar's-fell to fatten, because there the pasture was good, as it might be in an island.

Now the cow went often down to the strand and the place: whereas the bale had been litten, and licked the stones on which the ashes thereof had been driven; (3) and some men say, that whenas the island-men went along the firth with lading of stockfish, they saw there the cow up on the hillside, and another neat with her, dapple-grey of hide, of which neat no man knew how it might be there.

So in the autumn Thorod was minded to slaughter the cow, but when men went after her, she was nowhere to be found. Thorod sent after her often that autumn, but found her not, and men deemed no otherwise than that the cow was dead or stolen away.

But a little short of Yule, early on a morning at Karstead, as the herdsman went to the byre according to his wont, he saw a neat before the byre-door, and knew that thither was come the broken-legged cow which had been missing. So he led the cow into the boose and bound her, and then told Thorod. Thorod went to the byre and saw the cow, and laid his hand on her, and now finds that she is with calf, and thinks good not to kill her; and withal he had by then done all the slaughtering for his household whereof need was.

But in the spring, when summer was a little worn, the cow bore a calf, a cow-calf, and then a little after another which was a bull, and it went hardly with her, so big he was, and in a little while the cow died. So this same big calf was borne into the hall; dapple-grey of hue he was and right goodly.

Now whenas both the calves were in the hall, this one and that first born, there was therein withal an ancient carline, Thorod's foster-mother, who was as then blind. She was deemed to have been foreseeing in her earlier days, but as she grew old, all she said was taken for doting; nevertheless, things went pretty much according to her words.

So as the big calf was bound upon the floor, he cried out on high, and when the carline heard that, she started sorely, and spoke: "The voice of a troll," quoth she, "and of nought else alive; do the best ye can and slay this boder of woe straight- way.

Thorod said he would nowise slay the calf; for that it was well worthy to be nourished, and that it would turn out a noble beast if it were brought up; therewith the calf cried out yet again.

Then spake the carline, all a-flutter: "Fair foster-son," says she, "prithee kill the calf, for ill shall we have of him if he be brought up."

So he answers: "Well, I will kill him if thou wilt have it so, foster-mother."

Then were both the calves borne out, and Thorod let kill the cow- calf, and bear the other out to the barn, and withal he bade folk take heed that the carline was not told that the bull-calf was yet alive.

Now this calf grew greater day by day, so that in spring when the calves were let out, he was no less than those which had been born in the early winter. He ran about the home-mead bellowing loudly when he was let out, even as a bull might, so that he was heard clearly in the house. Then said the carline: "Ah, the troll was not slain then, and we shall have more harm of him than words can tell."

The calf waxed speedily, and went about the home-mead the summer long, and by autumn-tide was so big, that few yearling neats were equal to him; well horned he was, and the fairest of all neat to look on, and he was called Glossy. When he was two years old, he was as big as a five-year-old ox, and he was ever at home with the cows; and when Thorod went to the milking-stead, Glossy would go to him and sniff at him and lick his clothes all about, and Thorod would pat and stroke him. He was as tame both to man and beast as a sheep, but ever when he bellowed he gave forth a great and hideous voice, and when the carline heard, she started sorely thereat. When Glossy was four winters old, he would not be driven by women, children, or young men; and if the carles went up to him, he would rear up, and go on in perilous wise, and yet would give way before them if hard pressed.

Now on a day Glossy came home to the byre and bellowed wondrous loud, so that he was heard as clearly in the house as though he were hard thereby. Thorod was in the hall and the carline by him, who sighed heavily and said:

"Of no account dost thou hold my word concerning the slaughtering of the bull, foster-son."

Thorod answered: "Be content, foster-mother," says he; "Glossy shall live on till autumn, and then be slaughtered, when he has got the summer's flesh oil him."

"Over-late will it be then," says she.

"That is a hard matter to tell," says Thorod. But as they spake, again the bull gave forth a voice, bellowing yet worse than before. Then sang the carline this song:

     "O shaker of snow on the hair's hall that shineth,
     Forth out of his head is the herd-leader sending
     A voice and a crying that bodeth us blood;
     And the life-days of men now his might overlayeth.
     He who shaketh the green-sward will teach thee the heeding
     Of the place where thine earth-gash for thee is a-gaping.
     O foster-son mine, now full clearly I see it,
     That the horned beast in fetters is laying thy life."