Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 152

The Game of Ball

Notwithstanding this smouldering animosity, the youths often met; and the saga relates that they used to play ball together, and gives a description of the earliest ball game on record in the Northern annals. Viking’s sons, as tall and strong as he, were inclined to be rather reckless of their opponents’ welfare, and, judging from the following account, translated from the old saga, the players were often left in as sorry a condition as after a modern game.

“The next morning the brothers went to the games, and generally had the ball during the day; they pushed men and let them fall roughly, and beat others. At night three men had their arms broken, and many were bruised or maimed.”

The game between Njorfe’s and Viking’s sons culminated in a disagreement, and one of Njorfe’s sons struck one of his opponents a dangerous and treacherous blow. Prevented from taking his revenge then and there by the interference of the spectators, the injured man made a trivial excuse to return to the ground alone; and, meeting his assailant there, he slew him.

The Blood Feud

When Viking heard that one of his sons had slain one of his friend’s children, he was very indignant, and mindful of his oath to avenge all Njorfe’s wrongs, he banished the young murderer. The other brothers, on hearing this sentence, vowed that they would accompany the exile, and so Viking sorrowfully bade them farewell, [302]giving his sword Angurvadel to Thorsten, the eldest, and cautioning him to remain quietly on an island in Lake Wener until all danger of retaliation on the part of Njorfe’s remaining sons should be over.

The young men obeyed; but Njorfe’s sons were determined to avenge their brother, and although they had no boats to convey them over the lake, they made use of a conjurer’s art to bring about a great frost. Accompanied by many armed men, they then stole noiselessly over the ice to attack Thorsten and his brothers, and a terrible carnage ensued. Only two of the attacking party managed to escape, but they left, as they fancied, all their foes among the dead.

Then came Viking to bury his sons, and he found that two of them, Thorsten and Thorer, were still alive; whereupon he secretly conveyed them to a cellar beneath his dwelling, and in due time they recovered from their wounds.

Njorfe’s two surviving sons soon discovered by magic arts that their opponents were not dead, and they made a second desperate but vain attempt to kill them. Viking saw that the quarrel would be incessantly renewed if his sons remained at home; so he now sent them to Halfdan, whose court they reached after a series of adventures which in many points resemble those of Theseus on his way to Athens.

When spring came round Thorsten embarked on a piratical excursion, in the course of which he encountered Jokul, Njorfe’s eldest son, who, meanwhile, had taken forcible possession of the kingdom of Sogn, having killed the king, banished his heir, Belé, and changed his beautiful daughter, Ingeborg, into the similitude of an old witch.