Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 544
Among the Icelandic sagas, Grettir’s saga occupies a central place. The character of Grettir is beloved for his all-too-human flaws as well as his might heroic acts. Despite curses, bad luck, and outlaw status, he show true greatness.
The late 19th-century extension of the saga’s popularity into England led to a translation by William Morris and Eiríkr Magnússon .
The early parts of the saga deal with the history of Grettir’s family and community. In fact, Grettir only enters the story in Chapter 14, which tells of his lineage and his rambunctious childhood. His parents were Asmund and Adis, and his older brother was Atli.
No matter what chore he is assigned, Grettir cannot resist doing it wrong; his father tries to ignore him, and his mother worries over his recklessness
When Asmund send Grettir with some relatives to attend an annual family obligation, the boy gets into an argument with another member of the party. Because he not only kills Skellig but lies about it, when he is found out, he is banished for three years. Upon leaving home, his father refuses to give him a weapon, but his mother helps him.
She took out from under her cloak a sword well wrought, and a fair thing it was, and then she said, "This sword was owned by Jokul, my father's father, and the earlier Waterdale men, and it gained them many a day; now I give thee the sword, and may it stand thee in good stead."
He sailed to the Island of Haramsey, where he was set ashore to begin his exile under its chief, Thorfinn. There Grettir begins to show his heroic qualities by reclaiming buried treasure from a barrow, and cutting off the head of its demonic guardian using his mother’s sword:
Grettir drew the sword, 'Jokul's gift,' and drave it at the neck of the barrow-bider so that it took off his head….
By bringing the treasure to Thorfinn, from whose family it had been taken, Grettir gains his first ally.
Returning to Iceland after more...
(The entire section contains 544 words.)
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