Romsdal – Conclusion

Romsdal pt. 1
Romsdal pt. 2
Romsdal pt.3
Romsdal pt. 4
Romsdal pt. 5
Romsdal pt. 6
Romsdal pt. 7

men riding.png

Riding Jokul’s mountain-racer
Thorstein came out from the darkness
Weighted down with gold and glory,
Blood-bought honour from the forest.

As he rode along the sunpath
Glinting spearheads far below him,
Thorstein saw, and helmed men riding,
Upward from the valley winding.

‘Twas the men of Romsdal riding,
And his father far before them,
Who, beholding Mjoll’s son living,
Cried for joy and thus spoke to him:

‘When you left, I rued my taunting –
What I spoke to you reproaching.’
‘Little knew you when or whether
I’d return,’ said Thorstein, bitter.

As the fire left untended,
Thorstein’s anger soon subsided,
And he sent to call a Thing then
For the thanes beneath the mountains.

At the Thing, the son of Ketil
Spoke: ‘No more fear bloody raiders
Lurking in the deep-carved valleys,
Lonely woods or snow-boned mountains.

See this plunder spread before you.
Take what’s yours – mine’s the remainder.’
Shouts of praise beside the water
Sounded for the heir of Romsdal,

As at even they lit the torches
Many years ago in Norway,
Where the fjord in grey cliff’s shadow
Deep and cold goes to the ocean.

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Romsdal pt. 7

Romsdal pt. 1
Romsdal pt. 2
Romsdal pt.3
Romsdal pt. 4
Romsdal pt. 5
Romsdal pt. 6

Romsdal the seventh part: In which Jokul speaks.

‘Who has dealt me such a sword-blow?’
Cried the man, who fast held Thorstein
Hard against the strong bed panel
While a dark stream from his heart flowed.

Spoke brave Thorstein, knowing surely
That his life was at his mercy,
‘I am Thorstein, son of Ketil,
And I struck this blow for Romsdal.’

Said the man: “You were too hasty.
And alas, I moved too slowly;
I had almost left for Gotland,
Left my evil deeds behind me.

I deserved not Ketil’s vengeance,
At my hand he’s never suffered.
None would blame me if I killed you,
Made you sleep within the forest.

None would know though, what your fate was,
Or of me, when swarms of wood-mice
Would leave two men’s bones here lying
In a lone hall of the mountains.

All my days have I been wicked
But perhaps I’ll die in wisdom.
Gold can give me now no honour;
Thorstein can, if he is living.

I must tell to you my name now –
I am Jokul, son of Ingimund,
Earl upon the isle of Gotland
Where the white rocks wall the sea-waves.

Glittering coins and amber amulets
In dread combat I have taken;
These are yours with just one sword-stroke,
And I give you life now with them.

If you count this gift as worthy,
Go to Gotland, see my father.
First bespeak my mother Vigdis
That she make a peace between you.

Give to her my loving greeting
Tell her what befell between us.
Though she weep, she’ll heed my wishes;
Ask her for my sister Thordis.

My heart tells me you’ll be lucky
Leading men in battle boldly.
Better she wed such a leader
Than to be a Viking’s plunder.

Ingimund will not deny her
If my mother but speak for you.
Of my sister’s sons or grandsons
Give to one the name of Jokul.

Yet I fear to raise a sword-storm:
Heed the warning of a dead man.
When my father dies in Gotland,
Do not stay there with my kinsmen.’

Jokul pressed a golden token
Into Thorstein’s hand, and told him:
‘Take this so they’ll know I sent you;
Now draw out my treacherous weapon.

Only tell my story foul
To your father and my kinsmen.
My wrongdoing is rewarded.
We will not speak here much longer.’

Illustration by Theodor Severin Kittelsen

Romsdal – Conclusion

Romsdal pt. 6

Romsdal pt. 1
Romsdal pt. 2
Romsdal pt.3
Romsdal pt. 4
Romsdal pt. 5

Romsdal the sixth part: In which Thorstein steals the robber’s short-sword.

As the goat upon the mountain,
As the  long-ship on the wave-road,
As the sword in battle swinging
So the poet’s swift in speaking.

First, to prove the robber’s slumber,
As a mouse at midnight scraping
Thorstein made a sound, and listened …
And he stirred and dreamed of ambush.

Then again to prove his slumber
Thorstein made a louder clatter;
Less he stirred, the long-haired sleeper,
And he dreamed of red wounds flowing.

Then he crossed the hall more boldly,
And he struck a blow like thunder
On the the bedpost of the sleeper,
Who lay still, and dreamed of grave-worms.

Had he left the bed in darkness,
Stol’n to safety? Thorstein wondered.
So again he stirred the fire-up,
By its low light saw him lying.

Thorstein had not seen his equal –
Taller, stronger than old Ketil,
In a silk shirt of Samarcand,
Hair like gold embroidery glistening.

As to take a crown of silver,
Seven year’s work of a master,
And to cast it in the ocean,
So it seemed, to kill this stranger.

But the words of grey-haired Ketil
Followed Thorstein to the forest,
From the Fjord in grey-cliff’s shadow,
From the grass-capped hall in Romsdal.

“Greater honor to our family
Would a man be great of spirit,
Not a man like little Thorstein
Who knows sword-play like a woman.”

Thorstein reached to take the short-sword,
Grasped the sword made sharp for slaughter,
Tempered with the blood of strangers
By the man who lay beside it,

Clenched the hilt and raised his hand up
As a priest would, or a murderer:
Brought it down and broke his breastbone,
Stabbed the sword straight through the sleeper.

Thorstein’s sword-thrust tore through silk shirt,
Thrilled through heart-chest, struck the bed-board.
All at once he felt five fingers
Seize his arm and pull him upward.

Illustration by Christian Krohg

Romsdal pt. 7

Romsdal pt. 5

Romsdal pt. 1
Romsdal pt. 2
Romsdal pt.3
Romsdal pt. 4

Romsdal pt 5: In which the murderer returns to his forest dwelling.

Then he came, the great hall owner.
From his covert Thorstein saw him,
Tall and warlike, long hair falling
All around his giant shoulders.

Like a king he led his horse in,
Striding through the massive doorway.
Took to stall his mountain racer,
Then he turned to his own table.

Hilt and pommel of his shortsword
Thorstein saw with blood upon them,
And his hands stained cloth and water
As he washed them in a basin.

Then he poured himself a goblet
Of the vine’s blood, and in silence
Held a feast with manner regal
In his dark hall full of treasure.

When this stranger to his hearth came,
Saw the red and glowing coal-bed,
Said he, ‘Someone stirred my fire up,
Set the the log-foe fiercely flaming.

Dauntless men have come to hunt me,
Come to feed the mountain eagle,
Fix a feast for forest falcon.
They have cause, and will not spare me.’

With his tongs he took an ember,
Held aloft the red-coal glowing,
Cast a light upon the timbers
Of the mighty forest dwelling.

Every shadow, black, foreboding
Could be hiding some avenger;
On the beams the dragon carvings
Leered at him with greedy hunger.

When he came to where was lying
All his pillage and provisions,
Thorstein stole from out the packing
Through a cleft behind the chimney.

He escaped the threatening searcher
In the fog-cloak of the forest,
Sat and smiled and blessed his smallness
In the night outside the death-hall.

Three times through the great hall owner
Searched his hall with smouldering ember
Till at last, when nothing finding,
Said the man, to bed retiring –

‘I will leave things as they’re standing.
All is dark to me this evening,
And I fear my own heart’s counsel
Will betray me ere the morning.’

Thorstein watched him loose his short-sword
Through the cloven chimney hatchway,
Saw him hang it by the headboard,
Sharp to pour warm wine for ravens.

Spell-bound Thorstein looked upon it,
Shining, biting, sharp wound-maker,
And he listened for the breathing
Soft and even of a sleeper.


Illustration by Christian Krohg

Romsdal pt. 6

Romsdal pt. 4

Romsdal pt. 1
Romsdal pt. 2
Romsdal pt.3
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Illustration by Gerhard Munthe

Romsdal the fourth part: In which Thorstein comes to the forest.

Fog had hid the highest cliff-tops,
Made a secret of the mountains,
Fold on fold the white fleece mantle
Made a cloak for giant’s shoulders.

Black fjord waters in the valley
Quiet lay, but riding higher
Thorstein heard the river’s clatter,
Thundering through grey broken boulders.

Thorstein rode up to the forest,
There he stopped, his horse to tether,
Where the path ducked neath the branches
As if slipping through a hell-door.

Thorstein hoped that luck would love him
As he stepped into the darkness,
For he thought a hive of killers
Must be waiting in the forest.

Fifteen men in arms together
There had vanished at the new-moon,
Never more were seen in sunlight;
How could one man face such danger?

Long he stole along the pathway
Till he saw a little by-way
Which he followed to a clearing
Where a fine-built hall was standing.

Underneath its great fir lintel
Thorstein passed, and there before him
Stood a table white with linen,
Bright with silver cup and platter.

Finest food awaited someone,
And a big bed, richly curtained,
Thorstein thought with such dimensions
Great must be the man who sleeps there.

And betwixt the bed and chimney
On the wide board floor were lying
Many chests and huge sacks bulging,
All with pillage overflowing-

Saxon silver, cloth from Friesland,
Furs from Jamtland, combs of antler,
Saddles, spears and strong steel mail-coats,
Woven belts, and Viking ingots.

Night was falling in the forest
And the fire low was burning,
Thorstein stirred the flickering flame up,
For this foe unknown sat waiting.

Soon he heard a horse-hoof clatter,
Drawing toward him through the forest,
So he climbed among the treasures,
Nestled down midst sacks and boxes.

jokul favourite.png
Illustration by Theodor Severin Kittelsen

Romsdal pt. 5

Romsdal pt.3

Romsdal pt. 1
Romsdal pt. 2

Romsdal the third part: In which Thorstein leaves Romsdal.

Thorstein pushed away his ale cup,
And in anger Mjoll’s son answered:
‘If incitement ever moved man
This was provocation plenty.’

Standing up, he left the mead-bench,
And he could not mask his anger
As he left his father’s feast-hall,
Hung with Ketil’s battle trophies.

One thought in the breast of Thorstein,
Beating with the blood of anger,
One thought in the mind of Thorstein,
Where his father’s taunting hammered-

‘I would liefer lie in darkness,
Lose my life in steel-sword fighting,
Never meet the hag of old-age,
Than again hear such reviling.

Now we’ll see if I inherit
Ketil’s luck that never failed him,
If my blade will feed the eagle,
Fix a feast for forest falcon.’

Thorstein then his steed up-mounted,
Pulled his cloak so blue about him;
On that day the old tree-breaker
Flew in cold from fjord and ocean.

Then from Romsdal’s grass-capped long-house,
Stable and stabbur, he turned his stallion,
Spurred him toward the grey-cliff’s shadow,
Sought the stony path to Oppland.

Romsdal pt. 4

Romsdal pt. 2

Romsdal pt. 1

Viking feast.png
Romsdal the second part: In which Ketil speaks to Thorstein. 

Grey-haired Ketil heard the murmur,
Heard the talking of his neighbours,
But said nothing, thought in silence,
And did not lead out his servants.

One day Ketil, at the feast-board
Spoke to Thorstein sitting by him
At this time the fair-haired Thorstein
Eighteen years had lived in Romsdal.

‘These days young men choose the home-hearth
Where they sit in idle feasting,
Meat and ale are all they dream of
Never honour’s daring exploits.

As a young man I won honour
Going raiding, facing danger,
I won wealth in hard-fought duels;
Courage called me, and I followed

You’re not great in strength or stature,
And I think your deeds and courage
Will prove small and show your spirit
Small as well – as all men see you.

You’ve no heart to follow forebears,
Vikings who in long sea journeys
Got renown and riches also,
Wrote their names with bloody sword stroke.

They won treasures, rings and armour,
Clasps of fine wrought gold and garnets;
Not for sons the wealth was gathered
But in death to lay beside them.

Greater honor to my family
Would a gap be in our lineage,
Than that there be one like Thorstein
Who knows sword-play like a woman.’

Illustration by Halfdan Egedius

Romsdal pt.3