The Saga of
© Peter Tunstall, 2005
1. How Grim Found Himself a Woman, and Lost Her
It’s said of Grim Shaggy-Cheek that he was big and strong and quite dauntless. He was called Shaggy-Cheek because one of his cheeks was covered in dark hair, and he was born like that. No iron could cut him there. Grim took over the farm at Hrafnista after his father Ketil Trout. He became rich. Besides that, he was virtually sole ruler over the whole of Halogaland.
Harald was a noted and powerful lord down south in Oslo Fjord. He was married to Geirhild, daughter of King Solgi, who was the son of King Hrolf of Berg in the Uplands. Their daughter was called Lopthoena. She was the fairest of women, well bred and accomplished in skills and refinements. Grim went there in a boat with eighteen men and asked for Lopthoena’s hand in marriage. That was agreed and the wedding set for autumn. But seven nights before the big day, Lopthoena vanished, and no one knew what had become of her. And when Grim came to the wedding, he had something of a shock to find his bride gone, but he felt sure that her father had nothing to do with it. He stayed there three nights and they drank but with little joy. Then he went home to Hrafnista.
Five years earlier, it happened that Harald’s wife had died, and a year after that he married Grimhild Josur’s daughter from Finnmark in the north and brought her home with him. Soon she seemed to spoil everything. She hated her stepdaughter Lopthoena as would become apparent later.
Grim was not too happy with his life when he heard nothing about Lopthoena, his bride-to-be. Then, as so often happens, there came a great famine to Halogaland. Grim Shaggy-Cheek got ready to set out and went in his boat with two other men. He headed north for Finnmark and so east to Gandvik, and when he entered the bay, he saw there was plenty of fish there. He drew his boat onto land and then walked up to a shelter and lit himself a fire.
But when they’d gone to sleep for the night, they were woken by a storm and a blinding blizzard. Such bitter cold came with this storm that everything froze, inside and out. Come morning, when they were dressed, they went out to the sea. Then they saw that all the fish had gone, leaving not a trace. They didn’t think they were in such a good spot now, but there was no wind to sail away. So they went back to the shack and spent the day there.
In the night, Grim wakes to hear laughter right outside the hut. He jumped up quick and got his axe and went out. He also had with him, as ever, the arrows Gusir’s Gifts, that his father Ketil Trout had given him. But when he came out, he saw two troll-women down by the boat, tugging one at either end of it, and they seemed set on shaking it to pieces. And Grim spoke this verse:
“What names do they bear,
who want to shake
my ship to bits?
More dreadful dames
I don’t think I’ve seen,
a pair more appalling
in appearance, to date.
The one nearest him said this verse:
“Bashful they call me,
born up north,
from the High Fell,
my sister here,
Splodge they call her,
she’s come to the sea.”
“Worst of women,
you won’t get far,
when I get mad.
I’ll send you straight
to wolves, a tasty
treat for sure.”
“Before we fared
our father cast spells;
it was he who drove hence
the herds of the wave.
You mortal men
will never make it
safe home from here
if that’s not your fate.”
“I’ll promise the pair of you
a speedy piercing,
steel bolts for starters
and spikes that strike.
They’ll find out then,
will Frosty’s girls,
whether point or paw
will prove the best.”
Then Grim took one of Gusir’s Gifts and shot the troll who stood furthest from him so that she died. Bashful said, “That went badly, sister Splodge.”
Then she wades up to Grim. So he hacks at her with the axe and it hit her shoulder-blade. She gave a yelp and raced in along the beach. Grim lost his grip on the axe and it stuck fast in the wound. Grim gave chase—he couldn’t catch her but neither did she manage to shake him—and so it went on till they came to some big cliffs. Then he saw, there in the cliff-face, a great cave. There was a narrow path leading up into it, and she raced up it as fast as if she was running on level ground. And as she leapt up into the cliff, the axe slipped out of the wound. Grim picked it straight up, and he had to hook the axe in one crack while he put his foot in the next, and he hauled himself up by the handle, and in this way he got up to the cave.
He saw a bright fire burning there, and two old trolls sat by the fire, a male and a female, with the souls of their feet touching. They were both dressed in short smocks made of shrivelled skins. He couldn’t help seeing what they each had between their legs. He was called Frosty and she Fiery. And when Bashful came into the cave, they greeted her and asked where her sister Splodge was.
She answered, “Get this: she’s lying dead out on the shore and I’m mortally wounded. And here are you two, lying by the fire.”
The giant said, “That wasn’t much of a feat, killing you two little girls, one six and the other seven. Who did this anyway?”
Bashful answered, “It was that wicked man, Grim Shaggy-Cheek—he did it. Him and his father are more to blame than most for killings of trolls and mountain giants. But still, even though he’s done this, he still won’t ever find his woman Lopthoena. And it’s funny to think how close they are now.”
Then Frosty said, “That’s my sister Grimhild’s doing. She is most accomplished.”
Then Bashful got faint from loss of blood and she fell down dead. That instant, Grim stepped into the cave and hacked so hard at Frosty that he took his head off. Then the woman Fiery jumped up and ran at him, and they wrestled hard and long, for she was a big huge troll, and Grim a powerful man. But the upshot was, he caught her out and threw her over his hip so she fell. Then he cut off her head and, leaving her dead there, he went back to his shack.
2. Grim Freed Lopthoena from Spells
Next day the weather was good. They went to the shore and saw that a big rorqual had run aground. They go down there and start cutting up the whale. After a while, Grim saw twelve men coming. They approached at speed. Grim hails them and asks their names. They leader says he’s called Hreidar the Rash, and asked why Grim was trying to make off with his property. Grim says he found the whale first.
“Don’t you know,” said Hreidar, “that I own whatever drifts ashore here?”
“I don’t know about that,” said Grim, “but be that as it may, we’ll still take half.”
“I don’t think so,” said Hreidar, “You’ve got two choices: leave the whale, or we’ll have to fight.”
“We’d rather do that,” said Grim, “than lose a whole whale.”
So they got to it, and fought, and that was the toughest set-to. Hreidar and his men dealt out heavy blows, and were nifty with their weapons too, and it wasn’t long before both of Grim’s men fell dead. Then a mighty battle ensued, but in the end, Hreidar fell and all his men. Grim fell too, from wounds and weariness. He lay there now among the dead on the beach, expecting nothing but death for himself too.
But he’d not been lying there long, when he saw a woman coming—if you could call her a woman. She couldn’t have been more than a seven year old girl, going by her height, but so fat, Grim doubted he could have got his arms around her. She was long-faced, hard-faced, hook-nosed, with hunched up shoulders, black-faced and wobbly-jowled, filthy-faced and bald at the front. Both hair and hide of her were black. She wore a shrivelled leather smock. It barely reached down to her buttocks. Hardly kissable, he thought, as she had a big bogie dangling down in front of her chops.
She went over to where Grim lay, and said, “The chiefs of Halogaland are in a bad way now, unless, Grim, you want to be saved by me?”
Grim answers, “I’m not sure about that, you being so ugly. What’s your name, anyway?”
She says, “I’m called Geirrid Gandvik-Bed; be aware that I have some say around the bay. So make up your mind, one way or the other.”
Grim answers, “There’s an old saying, that everyone’s greedy for life. I’ll chose to be saved by you.”
She snatched him up under her smock and ran with him like a baby, and so hard the wind filled it. She didn’t stop till they came to a cave in a big cliff, and when she let him down, she seemed to Grim just as ugly as before.
“Now you’re here,” she said, “and I want you to pay me back for saving you and bringing you off the beach, so kiss me now.”
“No way, I can’t do that,” said Grim, “you seem so fiendish to me.”
“Then I can’t help you,” said Geirrid, “in which case, I see, you’re as good as dead.”
“Well, I’ll just have to do it then,” said Grim, “though I’d really rather not.”
So he went to her and kissed her. She didn’t seem as bad to touch as she was to look at… And now it was evening. Geirrid made up a bed and asked whether Grim wanted to lie on his own or with her. Grim said he’d prefer to lie on his own. She says she didn’t want to waste any time healing him then. Grim saw this wouldn’t help him very much, and says in that case he’d rather lie with her, if those were his options. And that’s what he did. First she bound all his wounds, and he felt neither pain nor burning. He was amazed at how soft-fingered she was, how gentle, with such ugly hands as she seemed to have, which looked to him more like vulture’s claws than human hands. And the moment they were in bed, Grim slept.
But when he wakes, he saw such a beautiful woman lying in the bed beside him, he could hardly remember seeing anyone so pretty. He was surprised at how much she looked like Lopthoena, his betrothed. Down on the floor at the foot of the bed, he saw that hideous troll-husk Geirrid Gandvik-Bed had worn. There wasn’t much strength left in that one now. He got up quick and dragged the husk onto the fire and it burnt to ashes. Then he went over and dripped water on the woman till she came to and said, “Now we’re both alright. First I saved your life, and then you rescued me from this.”
“How did you get here? And for that matter, how did you end up like this?” said Grim.
She answers, “Not long after you left my father Harald in Oslo Fjord, my stepmother Grimhild met me and said, ‘Now I’m going to pay you back, Lopthoena, because you’ve shown me nothing but strop and stubbornness ever since I came to this country. This I do solemnly pronounce: May you turn into the ugliest troll-woman and vanish north to Gandvik and live there in a side-cave right next door to Frosty, my brother, and quarrel long and hard the pair of you, and may whoever is least able to keep their spirits up come off the worst. Also, you will be detested by all, trolls and men alike. And what’s more,’ she said, ‘you will be in this plight for the rest of your life and never get out, unless some human man agrees to these three things when you ask him (and I know there won’t be anyone to do that). This is the first: to let you save his life. This second: to kiss you. And this the third: to sleep in the same bed as you, you who will fare worse than anyone.’”
“Now,” said Lopthoena, “you’ve done all this for me, even though you had to. And what I want now is for you to take me home to my father in the south and then drink the wedding feast with me, as was intended.”
They went back to Grim’s shack, and there was plenty of game to be had now. A whale lay in every bay. He loaded his boat and when he was ready, put out from land, with the two of them on board, Grim and Lopthoena. He then began to use that trick that Ketil Trout, his father, had had—and other Hrafnista men too—of hoisting sail in calm weather, and a fair breeze began to blow. And he sailed home to Hrafnista, and people felt they’d got him back from the dead.
3. Grim Fought a Duel with Sorkvir
Not long after, Grim headed south to Oslo Fjord, and Lopthoena went with him. By now Grimhild had practically taken over the running of everything down there. But when Grim came, he had Grimhild taken and a bag put on her head, and stoned to death, having first told Lord Harald what had happened. Then he celebrated his wedding with Lopthoena and went home to Hrafnista. And Harald married a third time and took Thorgunn Thorri’s daughter.
Grim and Lopthoena hadn’t been together long, before they had a daughter, and she was called Brynhild. She grew up at Hrafnista and was the prettiest of girls. Grim loved her a lot. But when she was twelve years old, a man called Sorkvir asked for her. Sorkvir was the son of Svadi, the son of Raudfeld, the son of Bard, the son of Thorkel Bundinfoti. She didn’t want to go with him, and so Sorkvir challenged Grim to a duel. Grim agreed. Sorkvir’s family was from Sogn on his mother’s side, and he owned farms there. The duel was to be in half a month’s time.
There was a chief in
At the appointed time, Sorkvir came to the duelling-island with eleven men. They were all berserks. Grim had come too, and Ingjald with him and many Halogaland farmers. They went to the island and it was Grim’s turn to strike first. He had the sword Dragvendil, which had belonged to his father. The man who held the shield in front of Sorkvir was called Throst. Grim hacked so hard on his first blow that he split the shield top to bottom, and his blade sliced Throst right through from his left shoulder to just above the right hip, cutting into Sorkvir’s thigh so as to take off both legs, one above the knee, one below, and he fell down dead. Now Ingjald and the others turn on the remaining ten, and didn’t stop till they’d killed them all. Then Grim chanted this verse:
“Here we’ve hewn,
hacked down to earth,
bad men, gloryless.
Though for brawn and brute-power
Sorkvir was best
of those warriors,
and Throst second.”
And he also said:
“In my father’s footsteps
I’ll follow first;
my daughter won’t
be wed by force.
to any man,
young pine of velvets,
without scalps cloven,
not while Grim lives.”
Now Grim went home from the duelling-isle, and Ingjald to Berurjodr. Not long afterwards his father died and he took over the whole property and became a great farmer, and his hospitality was legendary.
4. Of the Descendents of Grim Shaggy-Cheek
A few years earlier, Bodmod Framarsson had died, leaving his wife Hrafnhild—who then went home to Hrafnista to live with her brother, Grim—and a daughter called Thorny. Her son was Thorbjorn Whalebone, the father of Broad Ketil, father of the Thorny who married Hergils Button-Arse.
There was a man of note called Thorkel. He was jarl of the
Namdalen province. He went to Hrafnista and asked to for the hand of Hrafnhild.
She married him. Their son was Ketil Trout, who burnt Harek and Hraerek, the sons
of Hildirid, in their own house after they slandered his kinsman Thorolf. After that, Ketil went to
Vedrorm, son of Vemund the Old, was a great lord. He asked for the hand of Brynhild, daughter of Grim Shaggy-Cheek. She went with him. Their son was Vemund, the father of Vedrorm, who fled King Harald to Jamtland and cleared the forest to live there. His son was Holmfast, and Vedrorm’s sister was called Brynhild. Her son was Grim, who was named after Grim Shaggy-Cheek.
Those kinsmen, Grim and Holmfast, went raiding in the west
and killed Jarl Asbjorn Skerryblaze in the
Grim went to
Grim Shaggy-Cheek lived at Hrafnista, as has been said. With his wife, he eventually had a son called Odd. Odd was fostered with Ingjald at Berurjodr. He was later called either Arrow-Odd, or Odd the Traveller. Grim was considered a man of no small consequence. He was strong in body and very daring though he tended to keep himself to himself. He died of old age.
And here ends the saga of Grim Shaggy-Cheek.
 In Old Norse: Víkin ‘the Bay’.
 A kenning for ‘lady’. Tree names were used, according to their grammatical gender, as base-words in kennings for men or women. They were qualified with male attributes such as weapons and ships, or female attributes such as clothes and jewelry.
 Harald Finehair, first king of all Norway, ruled c. 890-942.