From the PVF Heritage Center Archives:

"The Odyssey of Thorgisl Orrabeinsfostri,"

by Farley Mowat-- Excerpt from Mowat's book, WESTVIKING


Atlantic Monthly Press Book, 1965

NOTE: Reader, you are in for a great, unforgettable experience. This is a real way to get a taste of what that lost way of life was really about, and what the Vikings were like--reading a saga telling of the Norse heroes. Of course, the best way to enter the world of the Vikings of our ancestral Norwegians is to read the sagas that are chiefly Icelandic, composed in Iceland by the Vikings themselves. They were, after all, highly literate folk, or at least their traveling minstrels and chroniclers and poets were.

Although most of us literate Westerners cannot read Icelandic in turn, we can at least go to the authorities and translators who can read it.

Though Farley Mowat does not claim to be a traditional-type scholar of the sagas and things Viking (thank God for that!), he is nevertheless an authority of some real note. As noted by a contemporary, Gwyn Jones, Professor of English Language and Literature at the University College of South Wales (UK) and author of THE NORSE ATLANTIC SAGA (1964),

"Farley Mowat has written an adventurous, romantic and sometimes heretical book on a thrilling theme, the early Norse voyages to Greenland and the North American continent.

"He has something decidedly his own to add to this much-debated topic: a close knowledge of the lands and waters concerned, together with their fauna and flora [truly astonishing, in such exact detail--Ed.], long experience of ships and sailing, and a considerable acquaintance with the Eskimo and Indian of the appropriate areas. A latter-day Viking in more respects than one, he has tried to think himself into the minds of the Norse sea captains. This is what they would do because this is what he would do. This means laying yourself wide open indeed..."


"In detail, I believe I have resulved a number of outstanding problems including the degree of Celtic participation in the westward thrust [the Celts of Britain and Ireland first settled and colonized Iceland, and then southern parts of Greenland, called "Greater Ireland, before the time pagan Vikings conducted an armed subjugation, slaughtering and enslaving the Christian Celts in Iceland as they conquered the island and set up their Viking-style communities and farmsteads--Ed.], the real scope of Eric the Red's explorations [he was first after the Celts to colonize Greenland and establish his own mini-kingdom--Ed.]...the identification of the native peoples the Norse encountered [who as non-Europeans were really first to colonize the areas concerned--Ed.], havens and settlements, major factors which prompted, shaped, and sometimes doomed the efforts of the westward venturers; and many lesser matters [which include the great climatic shifts from cold to warm, from ice-free waters to ice-choked waters and many violent storms, all of which had corresponding effects on Norse voyagers and their trading and colonizing ventures--Ed.].

From the Book Jacket again, but anonymously, though presumably with the author's oversight and approval of the personal facts given: "Farley Mowat knows what it is like to sail out of sight of land without a compass because he has done it. He knows the Eskimos because he has lived with them and speaks their language. As a onetime professional biologist he understands the complicated ecology which enabled the Vikings to survive in the grim latitudes of Greenland and Baffin Land. As a student of meteorology he understands the weather cycles which have been ignored by most of the literary saga scholars. he has undertaken massive research into saga sources, archeological evidence, ancient maps, and church documents. As a writer he has marshaled it in exciting and readable form. He lives in Burgeo, Newfoundland, a tiny rock-studded fishing outport."

A chief value for this Archives Center of the Plain View Farm Heritage Center, is, we think, that we can gain much insight from a close look into this account of what Vikings (ancient Norse) were like as people, particularly how they thought and how they believed.

The ancient Norse or Viking culture was thoroughly pagan, that means they believed in the old Norse gods and lived according to their Germanic tribal ways and religion and customs; but then Christian belief penetrated their society in the far north, making slow progress until certain strong-armed Norse kings took up the cause, as they saw it, and imposed Christian belief on their Norse subjects (or they could choose to die with great suffering on the spot!).

Other Norse accepted Christian belief in Christ less forcible ways, as is shown here in this saga. But it was still not a very Biblical Christian belief, and it still penetrated slowly into the Viking convert.

Converts such as Thorgisl might take a lifetime to turn Christian, slowly working out the effects in their own decisions for their lives and families; even then, at the close of his life, Thorgisl still acted with the proverbial violent and boastful manner of the classic pagan Norse, who were very much in the majority during his lifetime.

This account is not for the weak in stomach, it is full of violence and brutality and details that are not for the squeamish; it is hardly fare for tender-minded children among us, so parental guidance is very much advised.

Evenso, for the sake of our understanding the ancient Norse better, we must make the effort of reading some of these accounts if we can find them in translation. The Vikings, pagan or newly and roughly Christian, were oustanding individuals and people-- and though their faults were glaring and terrible, their achievements were often epic and thrilling. As a race, they stood apart from many others in the world--as venturers, voyagers, explorers. A courageous folk, indeed! There is hardly any to equal them in history.

Try stretching your history-poor, time-compressed, data-overloaded but essentially unfocused/homogenous horizons, imagine a fully colored and breathing, spitting, yelling, plotting, planning, loving, hating, sweating, brother-bonding Thorgisl among us today! Immediately, he casts Hollywood's Zorba the Greek, the wonderful, zesty, individualistic Greek, in the shade as a mere pantywaist, somebody with a thin, reedy voice and skinny Tyrone Powell legs. Oh, but Erroll Flynn? Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Terminator Man? They can all step aside for this HUNK OF REAL MANHOOD!--Ed.].

The exceptionally stormy weather of 997, which had driven Leif [son of Eric the Red--Ed.] so far off course, brought hard times to several other voyagers. One of these was a man named Thorgisl Orrabeinsfostri (Scarleg's Fosterson), who had received an invitation from his old friend Erik the Red to come out from Iceland to Greenland, either for a visit or to join the new colony there.

The storms which gave Leif so much difficulty dealt even more harshly with Thorgisl. After a long time his ship was driven ashore and wrecked on an unknown coast. The location of the shipwreck has been a matter for much dispute. Most authors have claimed it was on the norltheast coast of Greenland; but if this was the case, we need an explanation as to why the survivors spent four or five years trying to work their way to the Eastern Settlement instead of returning to Iceland, which would have been the simpl;est way out of their difficulties.

We conclude that Thorgisl missed Greenland (as so many others did before and afterwards) and, as a climax to his efforts to reach the Eastern Settlement, was blown north through Davis Strait, to be ultimately wrecked somewhere on the Baffin Island coast to the northward of the Cumberland Peninsula [we shall be including maps in succeeding portions soon--Ed.]. The evidence supporting this conclusion is to be found in the saga text, and I have commented on it in the various footnotes.

Apart from the fact that Thorgisl's saga deserves a place in any book dealing with the western voyages, it is also the most detailed and explicit account of the hazards of voyaging in the northwestern Atlantic during the Norse period.

What follows is a free translation of that portion of the Floamanna Saga which deals with the voyage. When the story opens Thorgisl had recently become a convert to Christianity and consequently was being plagued by his old god, Thor.


Time passes, and after the navigation season opened one spring, Erik the Red sent messages from Greeland to Iceland asking Thorgisl to join him there, and making him very good offers if he would come. At first Thorgisl was not much interested. However at that time his son Thorleif arrived home from a foreign-going voyage [perhaps a Viking raid] bringing considerable treasures with him and Thorgisl was delighted to see him. Shortly afterwards he made up his mind to make a Greeland voyage in his son's company [now, did the father think his son's taking of treasure from no doubt Christian towns and communities by force, killing whomever they caught, not quite Christian? Apparently, it did not disturb him, that Christians had to suffer so that his son, and himself, might profit from their robberies.--Ed.]

Thorgisl asked his wife Thorey if she would go with him to Greenland [when did a Viking husband ask his wife's advice on what was considered a man's business, voyaging? Apparently, he was in some serious doubt about so great a venture into uncharted waters, and so he played with the idea and thought he would let his wife in on it, and see what a woman would do, and he would naturally choose the opposite as the more manly option--Ed]. She replied that it was a risky business to change one's home.

"You can stay home if you want to, and look after the homestead, but I intend to go," he told her. Thorey still insisted it was a mistake, but reluctantly agree to go since he was going. This intention of Thorgisl's was widely spoken of throughout the land [probably to cow their wives into submissions, who were naturally suspicious about venturing to go to such an unknown, far land across hazardous seas--Ed.]

He planned to take his son Thorlief with him, together with a freeman called Col and Col's brother and sister, Starkad and Gudrun. He also took ten slaves including Snae-Col and Ozur. Thorgisl picked out big, powerful men, in case he decided to stay and settle in Greenland. He took cattle as well. There were seventeen people in Thorgisl's party. However, he also took with him another franklin, named Iostan, who was accompanied by his wife Thorgerd and his son Thoarin, and whose party totaled thirteen in all.

Thorgisl bought a ship at Leiravage and then he arranged for his estate to be looked after in his absence. He intended to take his eight-year-old daughter Thorny with him but she became sick before they sailed and after waiting for three days for her to get better, Thorgisl decided he would sail without her.

They all got on board and waited for a fair wind. Thorgrisl had a dream in which a big fellow with a red beard [Footnote: This would have been the chief god Thor himself] warned him he was in for a hard time of it unless he changed back to his belief in Thor. But Thorgisl cried out in his dream: "Begone, foul fiend!" When he woke up he told his wife about it and said that if he had had such a bad dream earlier he would have given up the voyage, but now he was determined to go on. He warned her not to tell Iostan about it. Thorey took it as a bad portent but reassured Thorgisl that he was wise to have nothing to do with Thor.

Then a fair wind came and they sailed out of Faxafiord. Iostan and his party lived in that part of the shop forward of the mast, while Thorgisl's people lived abaft the mast. When they got out of sight of land the fair wind failed and they were tossed about at sea for a long time until both meat and drink ran short.

Thorgisl had more dreams in which Thor offered help on condition that he give up the Christian religion but Thorgisl spurned these offers. The state of the people grew even more miserable. It was getting on for harvest time and still they were at sea. Some of the people were all for placating Thor, but Thorgisl said: "If I get win of anyone sacrificing to Thor and becoming an apostate, it will go hard on him."

Another night Thor came again in a dream and promised Thorgisl that he would reach a haven in seven days. If he would only do homage to him, Thorgisl replied: "Though I never get to harbor, I won't do you a favour. What's more, if you bother me again I'll do you any evil I can."

"Then," said Thor, "at least give me back my own, and what you owe me."

Thorgisl woke up and thought about this dream a long time and then he remembered that he had once dedicated a calf toThor. He told his wife Thorey about this and said that nothing belonging to Thor should remain aboard the ship. The calf was by now grown to be an old ox, but Thorgisl and Thorey agreed to throw it overboard.

When Iostan's wife heard about this she begged for the meat of the ox since they were running out of food. Thorgisl refused, for he was bent on getting completely rid of the ox. So they threw it overboard, but they were still at sea for a long time afterwards. They had now been three months afloat, blowing about, and with seldom a fair wind.

It is told that one evening they wrecked their ship under the ice mountains of Greenland on a sandbank in a certain fiord [it will be remembered that Greenland, to the Vikings, included BOTH sides of Davis Strait and Baffin Bay]. The ship broke up and the stern drifted ashore to the south of where they were. All the people and livestock were saved and the afterboat came safe to shore as well. It was then early in October, a week before winter began.

Glaciers ran around the sides of the bay and the most habitable spot lay in the westgern part of it. Here they all labored together to build a hall which they divided with a cross-partition. Thorgisl's party had one end of the hall and Iostan's party had the other. They had saved some meal from the wreck and some flotsam, and the two parties shared these things in common. Most of their cattle died [for want of fodder].

Thorgisl's men were always better at hunting and fishing than Iostan's. He made his people be temperate, and kept them quiet in the evenings, and forced them to stick tot he [Christian] faith. Goodwife Thorey was far gone with child at this time, and not very strong.

Iostan and his people stayed up late in the nights and had a wild time of it, engaging in mummury and gaming and one thing and another [here we see the stark contrast between a pagan family and a Christian one in their behavior and their pasttimes--Ed.].

One time Iostan spoke to Thorgisl, saying that there seemed to be a great difference in their catches. Thorgisl told him that this was because they did not work in the same way: "You keep longer at it in the evening," he said, "but we get started at it earlier in the morning." Aftger that there was a coolness between them. Thorgisl and his people stayed quiet, but Iostan and his kept up their gaming, with lewd uproars and ribald times.[here we see the difference between pagans and Christians in their morals, a difference that stands to this day.--Ed.] Thorey had her baby about midwinter. It was a boy and they called him Thorfinn. Thorey could not thrive on the food they had.

After Yuletime a sickness came on Iostan's company and six people died. Then Iostan himself got sick and his wife watched over him, but the sickness wore him out and he died and he and the others were buried in the new-fallen snow. Then his wife died, and one after another of Iostan's party died [in all likelihood of scurvy].

Thorarin Iostasson died last and he was buried under the wreck of the ship. There were great hauntings after that. The spirits mainly haunted the part of the hall which had been the Iostaners' in life, but they came into the other part too, and the ghost of Iostan's wife was particularly troublesome. Finally, Thorgisl had all their corpses piled up and burned in a balefire, and after that there was no more trouble.

During the rest of the winter Thorgisl and his men worked at the ship [building a new one out of the wreckage]. But they could not get away that summer because the fiord ice did not clear out of the bay. They hunted all summer and built up their stock of provisions. The next winter Gudrun, Col's sister, died. Col buried her under her berth in the house.

Thorey became unable to leave her bed and she prayed to the men to find a way to get them all out of those desolate regions; but Thorgisl replied that he could see no way for them to escape.

Finally one fine day in the spring Thorgisl decided he would climb up the glaciers to see if theere was any sign of the fiord ice loosening. Thorey said she did not like him going any distance away from her,and when he replied that he would only go a short distance she answered that she supposed he would have his own way this time, as always. Thorlief [and the freemen] Col and Starkad asked to go along with Thorgisl. He told them that if they did so there would be none to keep an eye on things at home, and "We should be trusting the slaves too much if we did that." Nevertheless they all took their pole-axes and went along with him. The slaves were out fishing and the overseer, a man called Thoarin, was left at the house with Thorey.

They walked and climbed most of that day, and bad weather caught them so it was late before they got back. As they apporached they could see no sign of the ship. They reached the hall and went in, andall their chests of goods were gone, their supplies rummaged, and the slaves had vanished. "This is a bad lookout," Thorgisl said. They went into the dark, back part of the hall and heard a gurgling sound from Thorey's bed.

Thorgisl found that she was dead, but the boy was sucking at her even though she was a corpse. They examined her and found that under her arm the flesh was clotted with blood and there was a little wound as if a fine knife blade had pierced her. All the bedclothes were soaked in blood.

This was the most terrible sorrow Thorgisl had ever known. They buried Thorey beside Gudrun, and Thorlief did his best to cheer his father up. The slaves had stolen all the provisions; had even taken the very doors off the hinges; and all the bed coverings and blankets were gone.

All that night Thorgisl watched over his infant son and he could see that the boy would not survive unless something drastic was done. He did not intend to let him die if he could help it. Then he showed his mettle, for he took a knife and cut his own nipple. It began to bleed, and he let the baby tug at it until blood mixed with fluid came out. He did not stop until milk came out; and the boy was nursed upon that.

When Snae-Col and the other slaves went off in the ship they took the big kettle and all the tools out of the tool chest. Thorgisl and the others survived by hunting and fishing,a nd they tried to construct a boat, even though they had so few tools. Eventually they built a wooden-framed boat covered with hides.

So this summer passed, but they could never get enough food on hand to provision their boat for a voyage. They hauled her up in the autumn and covered her with a shed. They lived on such small game as ground squirrels and whatever drifted shore [ground squirrels are not native to Greenland. However, Parry's ground squirrel is locally abundant in parts of Baffin Island].

One morning when Thorgisl came out he saw a big piece of flotsam drifting in an opening in the ice. It was some kind of sea mammal. Besides it were two giant women wearing skinclothing, and they were making up bundles of meat from the animal. Thorgisl ran up to them and slashed at one of them with his sword, which he called Earth-house-loom. He cut the woman's arm clean off at the shoulder. Her bundle dropped down and she ran away [the author identifies them "women" as pre-Eskimo people, the peaceable, large, long-haired Dorsets, who were at that time still to be found on the Baffin Island, Labrador, and Newfoundland coasts, but who had vanished from Greenland some centuries earlier. To the Norse, these individuals would appear to be giant women.--Ed.].

The Norse took the flotsam for themselves and aftger that they were not short of provisions throughn the winter, but they ran short again before spring came.

Thorgisl declaredd that he was weary of this place and once the ice had loosened he gave the order to set out in their boat. They did not wait for the fiord ice to clear but dragged their boat along the ice-foot and, when necessary, over the floes between leads of open water.[the northern climate had turned colder, so that the fiord did thaw and open up as it had earlier, and now we see that the ship would not have made it out now, packed with goods and people and supplies, and only a much smaller boat, which they had jerry-built, was possible to get out. This must have seemed fortuitous to Thorgisl, as a vindication of his faith and that his God was helping him escape the death-trap that was once their haven--Ed.]

That summer they got south to the Seal Islands, but they had a hard time surviving on fishing alone. [This was evidently a locality well known tot he Greenland Norse, and could have been a particularly good sealing place in the Vestri Obygdir; perhaps in the vicinity of Home Bay.] However, at the Seal Islands they got enough seals to last them through the succeeding winter.

At the beginning of the next summer they set out again. On one occasion they found some black-backed gull's eggs. They boiled them and the child Thorfinn ate one egg but would not eat any more. They asked him why he refused, and he replied: "You eat little enough of our food and so I will eat but little too." They spent their nights ashore and their days aboard the boat. They got only small catches of food.

One day they found the stump of an oar with these runes carved on it [which were satiric verses about a ship, with a man at the oars complaining of his sore palms--Ed.]...On another occasion they dragged their boat ashore over the ice-foot [shore-fast ice, producing a fixed ice-foot extending up to several miles offshore, is a summer feature of the northeast Baffin Island coast, but is not found, except in winter, on the west Greenland coast] and came to a cliffy place where they set up their tent.

They were almost out of food. In the morning Col walked out of the tent and found that the boat had vanished. He went back inside and lay down. He would not tell Thorgisl, thinking that he was depressed enough as things were. But after a time Thorgisl himself got up and went out and saw that the boat was gone. Then he came back and said: "Now I can't see how we can go on. Take the boy and kill him." [He meant that, since they would all soon be dead, it would be better for the boy to die quickly.]

Thorlief argued and said there was no reason to give up and kill the boy, but Thorgisl insisted that they obey orders. They took the child away and Thorlief ordered Col to kill him, because "such a deed does not befit me, as his brother, and I won't do it." Col would not do it either since, as he said, the effect of the deed on Thorgisl might have been to finish him off entirely.

They left the boy outside and went back into the tent and when Thorgisl asked if the boy were dead, they answered no. He thanked them and was greatly relieved. "I am badly upset," he told them. "But you have prevented mefrom committing a terrible crime." Now they all had many dreams and visions, for they were starving [details of these dreams have been omitted].

Then they heard a great deal of noise and when they went out they saw their boat was back, and there were two women near it holding onto it. These people went away at once. [Why the natives should have brought back the boat is not explained. They may not have taken it in the first place, but may have found it after it had drifted off and brought it in the hope of establishing some sort of friendly contact with the strangers.]

Some time after that the men discovered a bear struggling in an opening in the ice. It could not get out because its forepaw was broken. They ran toward it and Thorgisl hacked at it with his sword until it was dead. Then they drew it up on the ice and loated it on their boat. The beast was frostbitten on its forepaw,from which it can be judged how hard conditions were, when even the beaswts were maimed by the cold.

Thorgisl gave a chunk of meat to every man, but they thought it was too little and grumbled among themselves, saying that he was niggardly. Thorlief spoke for the rest: "The mean say you are stingy with the meat, father." Thorgisl replied: "It has to be done this way, my son, for we are starving and therefore we cannot eat too much for a while."

Next they rowed down out of a fjord [out of Home Bay?] and it took them a long time too. And then they turend towardc the open sea and rowed along past many bays,taking the shortest way across the mouths of the bays [toward Cape Dyer?]. Then the ice began to open and the whole shound began to broaded out and they went straight on out [across open water--across Davis Strait]. Sometimes they dragged their boat over the ice between the leads.

They were terribly weary and even Thorgisl was half dead with thirst. There were only the five of them left now: the boy Thorfinn, Thorgisls himself, Thorlief his son and the brothers Col and Starkad. There was no drinking water near and they were almost finished for alack of a drink. Then Starkad spoke up: "I have heard that men have mixed together salt water and urine as a drink." So they took the bilge scoop and made water in it, and they agreed it was right to do this if men's lives depended on it. They asked Thorgisl's permission, and he replied that he would neither forbid it nor give them leave, but he himself would not drink the mixture. So they mixed it up.

Then Thorgisl asked the scoop,saying he would give them a health. He took it, and he spoke like this: "You cowardly and evil beast [Thor] who are holding us up on our journey--you won't get your evil way and persuade me or any of the others to drink such filth!" And with that he threw the stuff overside out of the scoop.

Then he said to the rest of them, "This is a poor way for me to reward you after you saved me from committing a fearful crime when I would have had the boy killed, but the shame and abomination would always have stuck in your minds if I had let you drink. Now maybe our luck will mend."

Later that same day they were able to get drinking water from ice.

At last they came to the mouth of a great fiord [on the other side of the sound? Possibly one of the great fiords near Holstgeinsborg] and found a berth there. Later they came to a certain island and they were there three days before they discovered a linen tent. They recognized it as Thorey's tent. When they went in they found Thoarin, the slave-overseer, lying sick. They asked him how in the world he had got there. He told them that Snae-Col and the other slaves had given him the choice of going along with them and of being killed at the hall where Thorey died. He said they had spent the past winter not far from the Seal Islands.

They asked him many questions. He told them that he had been forced to take part in everything; that the slaves had taken all the goods aboard the ship; and that it was Snae-Col who had stabbed Thorey. Thorgisl told him he did not know whether he was one of the guilt or not, but in any case he would not abandon him. But before they could get Thoarin out of the tent he died,and they buried him there.

They kept on along the coast and when harvest time was drawing on again they came to a fiord where there was a boathouse. They pulled up their boat there and walked up to where they saw a small homestead.

A man was standing out of doors and he greeted them. They told him about their journey. He said his name was Herjolf, and he invited them to come and stay with him, and they gladly accepted.

The women of the house tended Thorfinn and gave him real milk to drink, whereat he said that his father's milk did not look like that.

Herjolf explained that he had been outlawed from the settlements of Greenland because he had committed manslaughter. He was very hospitable to Thorgisl and told him a ship had come that way in the summer [presumably this was the stolenship, manned by the runaway slaves] but her people had not come ashore. He also said it was a long and difficult journey to the Eastern Settlements, which was where Thorgisl wished to go, and so they stayed that winter with him.

In the spring Herjolf told them they could either stay on with him or take any of his boats if they wanted to continue to the settlements. Thorgisl accepted the offer of a boat and said he would do whatever he could to reward Herjolf. Herjolf replied that he expected Thorgisl would succeed in his journey, and he therefore requested that he try and get him in-lawed into the settlement. Thorgisl promised to dow what he could and when they parted they blessed each other.

Now they journeyed on southward along the coast, passing Hvarf [this may have been Cape Desolation, which was at that time known as Hvarf], and they were on their way until harvest time. Early in October, when winter began, they reached Eriksfiord, which they entered. They moored their ship and set up their tent ashore...

Erik the Red asked Thorgisl and his men to his house at Brattalid and they acceepted. Thorfinn was given a nurse but he would not drink milk before dark, and he was weaned soon after. Erik was not very gracious and after the visit didnot go very well [perhaps because Thorgisl had become a Christian]. Thorgisl got news that his slaves were living in the country in great estate and telling very little that was true about the voyage.

That winter a [polar] bear came in among the sheep and did a lot of damage. Men from both settlements got together and agreed to pay a bounty for the bear's death. One day when Thorgisl was in the storehouse the boy Thorfinn called out to his father, saying, "There is a beautiful white dog outside. I never saw one like it, he is so big." His father was busy and told himnot to bother about it,and not to go out. However, the boy ran out anyway.

It was the bear. It had come down off the glacier. It caught the boy and he cried out. Thorgisl ran out with his sword, Earth-house-loom. The bear was toying with the boy. Thorgisl struck the bear so hard that he split its skull in two; then he took up his son, who was not badly hurt.

Thorgisl became famous by this deed and many brought him their share of the bear bounty. But Erik did not like the deed at all. Some say it was because he had an evil and heathen belief in bears.

One day when men were gathered around Brattilid they began to talk about the relative merits of Erik and Thorgisl. One of Erik's servants claimed that Erik was ag reat chief, but that Thorgisl was an unimportant sort of a fewllow; he wasn't even sure if he was a man or a woman. Whereupon Col snatched up a spear and ran the servant through. Erik ordered his men to seize Col, but a number of traders who were there took Col's side, and Thorgisl told Erik that it was his business to avenge his servant himself. It came close to a battle, but men made peace between them although it was hard going.

After that Thorgisl went to the Western [Ivitgut] Settlement to collect the bear money from that district. There he found Snae-Col and the other slaves. He was going to slaughter them, but he was persuaded it would make better sense to sell them for cash, and this is what he did.

Soon after that Thorgisl and his men put to sea [on the ship of Thorstan the White, a trader and a relation] and they had a hard voyage until they neared Iceland. Then they had a southerly gale and made toward the land but for two days Thorgisl would not let them approach too close for fear of being driven ashore. They lay off for those two days, bailing to keep afloat in the heavy seas. Eight big seas swept over the ship and then a ninth came, and it was the biggest of them all. It drove Thorgisl from the bilge beam where he was bailing, and it picked Thorfinn off his knee and carried him overboard.

Then Thorgisl cried out that were was no use bailing any more since the sea which had gone over them had almost swamped the ship. But at that moment another great wave washed the boy back on deck again and he was still alive. Then they took heart and bailed for allt hey were worth, managing to empty the ship. But Thorfinn vomited blood, and after a while he died.

Thorgisl nearly went out of his mind with grief. He did not sleep or eat for forty-eight hours, and and even after they had made land safely he would not part with the body of his son. He had to be tricked into leaving it, whereupon Col took the body to the graveyard and buried it. Thorgisl threatened to kill him for that, but later he came to his senses and they were reconciled.

Thorgisl said it was no wonder that women loved the children they had nursed at their own breasts better than they could love anyone else.

Thorgisl remarried when he was fifty-five and took over his old estate, and prospered. When he was seventy years old he challenged Helge Easterling to combat and killed him. When he was eighty-five he took ill and after a week he died, but there are many great men come from his seed and scattered far and wide over the land.

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