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Summary

(Essentials of European Literature)

The troubles of the Steinfinnssons began when Tore Toresson sent his youngest son to the royal bodyguard at Bergen. There Steinfinn Toresson saw Ingebjorg Jonsdatter, who had come from Denmark with young Queen Ingebjorg, and he fell in love with her. King Magnus, however, had already promised the girl to his friend, Mattias Haraldsson. Steinfinn was in the Orkneys that winter. The next summer, he went to Bergen and stole Ingebjorg out of the king’s court.

Although Tore was displeased with his son, he gave the couple the manor at Frettastein, where they lived as if in lawful wedlock. After a time, the queen reconciled all concerned, and Steinfinn and Ingebjorg held their wedding at the royal court in Oslo. Ingunn, their first child, was three years old when her parents were wed.

Meanwhile, Mattias Haraldsson had gone into foreign lands, so that Steinfinn had little thought of his ill will. When Steinfinn and Ingebjorg had been married about seven years, however, Mattias came one night with his men, bound Steinfinn, and shamed him before his household. After Mattias rode home to his own manor, young Olav Audunsson cut his foster father’s bonds. Steinfinn swore that he would not sleep with his wife until he could show the world that she was his without Mattias’ leave.

Steinfinn, however, had no revenge at that time, for Mattias sailed again to foreign lands. Meanwhile, life grew slack and somber at Frettastein. Steinfinn often kept company with Kolbein, his grim half brother, and Ingebjorg lived in a house apart with her women and her two small sons, Hallvard and Jon. Ingunn and Tora, the older daughters, would have been left to themselves if it had not been for Olav Audunsson, Steinfinn’s foster son.

Olav’s father had been Audun Ingolfsson of Hestviken; his mother had died at his birth. One summer, when Steinfinn met Auden at the Thing, the man from Vik said that he was soon to die. There was much drinking that night, and it seemed good sport to betroth little Ingunn to Olav. Next morning, Steinfinn would have called off the agreement, but Audun held him to his word, so Olav grew up at Frettastein. An aged kinsman managed his estate at Hestviken.

All of his life, Olav remembered a day just past his sixteenth year. The edge of his ancient Viking ax, Kin-fetch, being blunted, he took it to an armorer in Hamar. Ingunn stole away from the house to go with him, and the two rowed up the fjord under sunny skies. Later, he never knew whether his deep feeling of pleasure came from a sudden, disturbing sense of Ingunn’s loveliness, the summer light over the town, or the vesper service he and Ingunn attended before they started home through the dark; but he always thought that day the happiest of his life.

Arnvid Finnsson, Ingunn’s cousin, brought word that Mattias was at Birid, and two days later, Steinfinn and his kinsmen, Olav among them, rode away. There was great merriment at Frettastein when they returned. Mattias and his housecarls had been taken by surprise, and Steinfinn had killed his enemy in a fair fight. Although badly wounded, Steinfinn laughed at his own hurts. After he and Ingebjorg went to their loft room, the dancing and drinking continued, and some people became wanton. Half-tipsy, Olav went with Ingunn to her loft.

That night, Ingebjorg died suddenly in her sleep, and Steinfinn’s wounds reopened. From that time on, he grew steadily weaker. While he lay dying, Arnvid asked him to declare the marriage of Ingunn and Olav but he refused, saying the settlement had never been clearly drawn. After Steinfinn’s death, Olav found among his own gear the betrothal ring he had given Ingunn many years before. He suspected Kolbein of that sly attempt to repudiate the betrothal.

Arnvid stayed on at Frettastein for a time. That fall, Olav spent many nights with Ingunn in her loft. When Arnvid finally learned how matters stood, he advised Olav to lay the case before Bishop Thorfinn in Hamar and to claim that he had only...

(The entire section is 1,219 words.)