Medieval Icelandic Literature

Eyrbyggja Saga

13th century, Old Norse, Iceland.

Glossy the Bull was chased into a marshy area of the river and disappeared, never to be seen again.

Continually in the background of the later stages of the Icelandic story of the Ere-Dwellers, written in the thirteenth century but set in the tenth and eleventh, is the supernatural presence of the ghost of Thorolf Halt-foot. A disgruntled old man, Thorolf had been brooding, when he died, upon perceived injustices done to him; injustices perpetrated by, amongst others, his son Arnkel and Snorri the Priest. Soon after his burial, his ghost began to walk.

A reburial at first puts paid to Thorolf’s nocturnal wanderings. But following the death of his son Arnkel at the hands of Snorri the Priest, odd things begin to happen at the farmstead owned by Thorod Scat-Catcher, the husband of Snorri's sister. Many deaths take place, a fishing boat is lost with all hands, including Thorod Scat-Catcher himself, and a ghostly seal begins to haunt the fish pile.

And from this time onwards, the ghost of Thorolf Halt-Foot terrorises the area where Arnkel and Thorod Thorbrandsson reburied him. On one occasion, a sea eagle snatches up a deerhound belonging to Egil the Strong and carries it towards Thorolf Halt-foot’s burial mound. This is deemed a unwelcome portent. Nobody will live within miles of the place now, men and animals are killed by his ghost, and things get to such a state that Thorod Thorbrandsson goes to the burial mound with men and tools and digs Thorolf Halt-foot’s body up for a second time. It has not decayed and is as large and blue as a seal’s. They raise it with levers, roll it down to the shore and there set fire to it with bales of straw, then dump as many of the ashes as possible into the sea.

A little later, a cow is recovering from a broken leg and recuperating on the pastures around the beach where Thorolf Halt-Foot was burned. She licks the rocks where the ashes of Thorolf Halt-foot had blown around and shortly afterwards is found to be with calf. Thorod Thorbrandsson spares her from the autumn slaughter and around about Yuletide she gives birth to two calves; one is a bull calf which they name Glossy. Glossy grows into a fine animal, but during his third summer he breaks into the hayfield close to Thorod Thorbrandsson's farm and begins to trash the haystacks that have been built for winter fodder. Thorod, who twice dug Thorolf Halt-foot from his grave, goes to get him out, and in doing so is gored badly in the stomach by the bull and dies.

Glossy then runs down to the river, is chased into a marshy area and disappears, never to be seen again.

Story fragment retold from: Eyrbyggja Saga – Saga of the Ere-Dwellers. English translation by William Morris and Eirikr Magnusson. LXIII. Of The Walking Of Thorolf Halt-Foot. He Is Dug Up And Burned. Of The Bull Glossy.

See for yourself

Sagas of Icelanders – Wikipedia

Eyrbyggja Saga – Wikipedia

Eyrbyggja Saga – 1892 translation into English by William Morris & Eirikr Magnusson from the original Icelandic 'Eyrbyggja saga'.

Birds and animals

Northern Line

animal montage
pencil drawing, a sleeping cat

Navigate the tunnel