|Hítárdalur, looking north into the valley|
|Hítarnes, Þórðr's (and later Oddný's) home|
(with view over to the Snæfellsnes peninsula)
And these misgivings prove -- after a few sentences and a voyage by sea -- to be all too well founded. Þórðr delivers Björn's message (that he still intends to return to marry Oddný) and gives her the ring -- but treacherously, he adds a false post-script to Björn's message and claims that Björn has made over the betrothal to him should he die or not return to Iceland. Meanwhile, Björn is sent to Russia where he wins a great duel but is badly wounded; by the time he gets back to Norway at the end of the next summer, three years have passed and he all the boats sailing to Iceland have left...Þórðr marries Oddný; Björn hears the news and won´t go back to Iceland now, preferring rather to go to England where he kills a dragon. Björn runs into Þórðr back in Norway on one occasion and vows to fight him next time they meet; only his respect for King Óláfr (who has come to power now) prevents him from challenging Þórðr to a duel immediately. Eventually, Björn does return home (as, 1000 years later, do most Icelanders abroad, unless they are útrásarvíkingar on the run). And the feud between Björn and Þórðr -- the subject of the rest of the saga -- begins in earnest.
At first, this feud is conducted verbally and the two men exchange insult verses in which they communicate accusations of cowardice and deviant sexual behaviour or origins, with escalating seriousness. On one occasion, a local man and his farmhand discuss the relative insulting value of the verses Björn and Þórðr have composed about each other while busy with the outdoor task of charcoal-burning. Björn had composed a poem called 'Grámagaflím' ('Grey-belly Satire') in which he describes how Þórðr's mother had eaten a slimy rotten fish she found by the side of a lake and thereby conceived Þórðr. The farmhand has never heard anything to rival this poem in the gravity of its insult but his master thinks the poem that Þórðr composed about Björn and which is known as 'Kolluvísur' ('Cow Verses') is worse. He won't recite it at first despite the farmhand's urging since if Björn hears anyone perform it aloud he will kill them without having to pay compensation, since the transmission of such insult 'níð' verses in medieval Iceland was prohibited by law. Eventually he gives in -- only for Björn to leap out from behind a tree and strike him a deadly blow...tantalisingly, we, as the readers of the saga, never get to judge the which of the two poems is the more scurrilous for ourselves.
|The red track to Hítarvatn (looking south)|
|Hítárvatn; Hvítingshjalli on the left-hand shore|