The Northern Way

The Saga of Grim Shaggy-Cheek - Translation by Peter Tunstall

© 2005 Peter Tunstall

1. How Grim Found Himself a Woman, and Lost Her

It's said of Grim Shaggy-Cheek, that he was both big and strong and not fazed by anything. 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 Ketil Trout, his father. He became rich. Besides that he was virtually sole ruler over the whole of Halogaland.

Harald was a fine 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 Lofthaena. She was the fairest of women and well brought up. Grim went there in a boat with eighteen men and asked for Lofthaena's hand in marriage. That was agreed, and the wedding set for autumn. But seven nights before the big day, Lofthaena vanished, and no one knew what had become of her. And when Grim came to the wedding, he was instantly struck with grief at the loss, because his bride was 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, Lofthaena, as would become apparent later.

Grim was not too happy with his life, when he heard nothing about Lofthaena, 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 Bay, 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,
those basalt dwellers
who want to shake
my ship to bits?
Till now I've never
known such a pair
of ladies more loathsome
in my life to date.”

The one nearest him said this verse:

“Bashful they call me,
born up north,
from the High Fell,
Frosty's daughter.
So superior
my sister here,
Splodge they call her,
she's come to the sea.”

Grim said:

“Worst of women,
you won't get far,
giant maidens,
when I get mad.
Before sun-up
I'll send you straight
to wolves, a tasty
treat for sure.”

Splodge said:

“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.”

Grim said:

“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 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 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, touching with the souls of their feet. They were both dressed in short smocks made of shrivelled leather. 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 Lofthaena. And it's funny to think how close they are now.”

Then Frosty said, “That's my sister Grimhild's doing, and she is blessed with many skills.”

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.

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