The Northern Way

The Saga of Bosi and Herraud - Translation by George L. Hardman

1: Of Hring and His Son

The king was named Hring, and ruled over East Gautland. He was the son of the King Gauti, son of Odinn, who was the king in Sweden and came out of Asia. The most famous line of kings here in the Northern lands are descended from him. This king, Hring, was the brother of Gautrek the Mild on his father's side, and of noble lineage on his mother's side. King Hring was married to Sylgja, daughter of Earl Seafarer of Smaland. She was a peaceful woman and good looking. Her brothers were Dagfari and Nattfari. They were retainers of King Harald Battletooth, who ruled over Denmark and the greatest part of the Northern lands.

They had one son, who was called Herraud. He was well grown and good-looking, strong in power and good at sports, so that few men were his equal. He was well liked by everyone, but did not get much affection from his father, because the king had another son, born out of wedlock, and prized him more. This son was called Sjodr, or “Purse”. The king had fathered him in his youth, and he was now a full-grown man. The king gave him large fiefdoms, and he was a counselor of the king and collected his fees and estate taxes, and controlled the intakes and outlays. Most people thought him to be greedy in collections and tight-fisted in compensation, but he was loyal to the king, and quite devoted. His name became a well-known phrase, and thus people are called “pursers” who watch over one's affairs and look after them the best.

Sjodur gathered for this purpose money bags, which were subsequently called “purses,” to keep the silver that was received in debt to the king. But that which he collected in excess, he put into small money-bags, and he called that "profit," and utilized this for expenses, leaving the remainder untouched. Sjodur was not well liked by people, but the king valued him highly and allowed him to rule over everything.

2: The Lineage and Fostering of Bosi

The man was called Thvari and was called Bryn-Thvari. He lived a short distance from the king's residence. He had been a great viking in the previous part of his life, and when he was raiding, he met a “shield-maiden” who was called Brynhild. She was the daughter of King Agnar of Noatun. They fought one another and Brynhild was wounded, to the point where she was unable to fight. Thvari took her under his care, and much property with her. He nursed her back to health, but after that she was bent and twisted and thus she was called “Baga-Brynhild”. Thvari married her, and she sat on the bridal bench with a helmet and byrnie, but they loved each other dearly. Thvari left off plundering and settled down, and they had two sons. The oldest was called Smidur; he was not large, but quite handsome and clever at all sports and so skilful, that he excelled in everything he did.

Their other son was named Bosi. He was well-grown and powerful, dark complexioned, and not very peaceful. He was like his mother in personality and appearance. He was cheerful and humorous, and persistent in everything he took up, and not very circumspect with people he was dealing with. His mother loved him very much and he was known after her and called “Baga-Bosi.” He had many pranks, both in words and deeds, so that he was well named.

There was an old woman named Busla. She had been a concubine of Earl Thvara, and fostered his sons. She knew much magic. Smidur was much more docile, and learned much from her. She offered to teach Bosi magic also, but he said that he did not want to have written in his story that he gained anything by trickery, rather than by his manhood. Herraud, the king's son, and Thvari's sons were very close in age, and they did many things together. Sjodur complained that Herraud gave Bosi his clothes, since Bosi's were often ripped. Bosi was thought to be rather rough, if he was playing with the others, but no one dared to complain to Herraud, since he always defended Bosi. Now Sjodur asked the retainers to give Bosi a thrashing, so that he would stop playing.

3: Herraud Goes Plundering with Bosi

There was one time when the king's men had a ball game, and people were playing with much energy, and the action came to Bosi. He responded roughly, and the arm of one of the king's men was dislocated. The next day he broke the foot of another. On the third day two men went after him and many of them shoved him. He struck the eye out of one of them with the ball, and felled another and broke his neck. They ran for their weapons and wanted to kill Bosi, but Herraud stood by him with all the men he could get. They were about to strike, but then the King came. At the urging of Sjodur, the King made Bosi an outlaw, but Herraud helped him to get away so that he wasn't captured.

A short time later, Herraud asked his father to get him some warships and sturdy men, because he wanted to leave the land and gain more fame, if this was possible. The King referred the matter to Sjodur, but he said that it would deplete the treasury if Herraud was outfitted as he wanted. The King said that they should try to do it, and it was as the King willed. Herraud's journey was prepared at great expense, since he was quite particular about everything, and the brothers did not agree on very much. He set off from the land with five ships, although most of them were old. He had brave men with him, and much treasure in gold and silver. He sailed now from Gautland and south to Denmark.

One day, in bad weather, there was a man standing on a cliff asking for passage. Herraud said that he was not going to make a detour for him, but said that he could come along if he could reach the ship.

The man jumped from the cliff and came down on the tiller jutting out from the helm. That was a jump of fifteen yards. Then the men recognized Bosi. Herraud received him well, and said that he should be the forecastle-man on his ship. From there they sailed to Saxland and plundered everywhere they went. They got a lot of treasure, and sailed thus five years.

4: Bosi Kills Sjodur and Falls Out of Grace

Now, back home in Gautland, when Herraud was away, Sjodur looked at his father's treasury. The chests and boxes were all empty, and the same words often came to his lips: “I remember,” he said, “when it was otherwise to look at this treasury.” Then Sjodur set about to gather the king's taxes and tributes, and he was harsh in most collections. He came to Thvari and requested the war taxes, as others paid. Thvari said that due to his age, he did not have to pay the war tax. Sjodur said that he had to pay more war tax than other men, and said that he was to blame that Herraud had left the country, and also asked for compensation for the men Bosi had injured. But Thvari said that men had to take their own responsibility if they went to the games, and that he was not going to pour out his treasure for such. They got into an argument. Sjodur then broke into Thvari's storehouse, and took away two chests of gold and much other treasure of weapons and clothes. With this being done, they parted. Sjodur went home and had many valuables, and told the king of his journeys. The king said that this was an ill thing, that he had robbed Thvari, and said that he thought that things would go badly. Sjodur said that he could not worry himself about that.

Now to speak of Herraud and Bosi, that they prepared to sail home from plundering. They had heard the news that Sjodur had robbed Thvari. Herraud decided to make peace for Bosi, and reconcile him with the king. They had such fierce weather, that their ships were separated, and all were lost that Herraud had from home. He came with two ships to the Elfa Skerries, but Bosi was driven to Vindland with one ship.

Sjodur was there with two ships, just arrived from the East, and he had gotten fine treasure for the king. When Bosi learned that, he ordered his men to arm themselves, and set off for a meeting with Sjodur and asked, how he intended to compensate for having robbed Thvari. Sjodur said that he thought it was rather bold, that he dared to speak thusly, since he was an outlaw of the king's, and told him that he was lucky, that he did not lose more. They both seized their weapons, and struck in battle, and it ended up that Bosi slew Sjodur. He spared all those who were with Sjodur, and took for himself the ship and everything that was on it.

When he got a breeze, he sailed to Gautland and found Herraud, his foster brother, and told him the news. Herraud said to him that he would not exactly improve his friendship with the king – “or why do you come to meet me, when you have killed one so near to me?”

“I know,” said Bosi, “that I would not be able to avoid you, if you wanted to strike ill, but I thought that you were the only person I could trust.”

“You could say,” said Herraud, “that there was little valor in Sjodur, even though he was my kinsman. I will go to meet my father and try to reconcile you.”

Bosi said that he did not expect much to be improved with the king, but Herraud said that there was no harm in trying. He went to meet his father and went before him and spoke to him respectfully. His father received him coldly for he had heard of the conflict between Bosi and Sjodur.

Herraud spoke to his father: “It is right that Bosi, my companion, should make amends to you, since he has brought much mishap. He has killed Sjodur, your son, though there was some cause for this, and we wish to offer compensation and such great treasure as you will choose, and with that our faithfulness and favor, and such service as you will claim from him."

The king answered angrily: “You put forth much ardor, to help this scoundrel, but many would think better of you to avenge your brother and our disgrace.”

Herraud answered: “There was not much loss in Sjodur. I do not know whether he was my brother or not, although you valued him greatly. It seems to me that you do not value me very much, since you will not take the reconciliation I ask for, and I think I offer a better man for your service, in the place of Sjodur."

The king spoke very angrily: “ All your talking, which you do on Bosi's behalf, is just going to make matters worse, and when I get him, he will hang higher than any thief has ever hanged before."

Then Herraud answered very angrily: “Many people will say that you don't recognize what befits you. Now, since you will not even give me respect, then you must intend that the same will go for Bosi and myself, and I will defend him as my own self, until my life and courage end. And many will say that you will have bought a son of a bondswoman rather dearly, if you sacrifice us for him.”

Herraud then turned angrily and did not stop until he found Bosi and told him what had transpired between him and his father.

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