This week’s (month’s?) saga reading was Gisli’s Saga When driving to Ísafjörður, we actually passed through some of the country where this saga takes place, which made me want to finally read it when I got home.
Gisli was an outlaw for many years. He spent a part of each of those years with his wife, Aud, who hid him in an underground passage and generally warned him of any approaching danger; it was clear they loved each other deeply. (Gisli was outlawed for avenging the death of Aud’s brother by killing Aud’s former lover. It’s a convoluted little saga.)
This is from the account of Gisli’s final stand:
On that October night the story says that Gisli could not sleep, and neither could Aud and Gudrid [their foster daughter]. The weather was such that the air was very still and the frost, also, was heavy. Gisli says that he wants to go from the house to his hiding-place, which was southwards under the cliffs, and see if he might sleep there. All three of them go, and they are wearing long kirtles, and the kirtles trail behind them in the white frost. Gisli is carrying a stick and cutting runes in it, and the chips fall to the ground. They come to the hiding place. He lies down to get some sleep; and the woman stay awake.
While he is talking they hear the sound of men’s voices, and Eyjolf has come up with fourteen men, and they have been to the steading first, and seen the trails over the frost, as if pointing the way. When Gisli and the two women become aware of the men they climb up on the cliffs to where the vantage is best, and the women each carry a big club.
The men banter a bit, and then the battle begins in earnest.
Helgi takes a run and springs up the cliff at Gisli. He turns to meet Helgi, swings back his sword and brings it down across his loins, so that he cuts the man in two, and the parts fall back off the cliff.
Eyjolf follows up by another way, but Aud was facing him, and she strikes his arm with his club so all the strength goes out of it, and he falls back down. Then says Gisli:
“I knew long ago that I was well wived, but I did not know until now how well. And yet the help you have just given me is less than you hoped and expected to give, even though your blow was good, because I would have sent both those men the same way.”
Two men then go up to hold Aud and Gudrid, and they think they have as much as they can do.
In the end Gisli dies, as the reader knows he must, taking eight men down with him. Eyjolf is not among them. Afterwards:
Eyjolf asked Aud if she wanted to go with him. But she did not want to.
And I bet her telling him so made for a rather interesting conversation, too.
Ultimately Aud leaves the country, becomes a Christian, makes a pilgrimage to Rome, and that’s the last we see of her–as well as the end of the saga.