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The Saga of Hrolf Kraki

32. Bodvar Found his Brother Thorir

Now they part, and Bodvar goes on his way until he comes to Gautland, and King Thorir Houndsfoot was not at home. But Bodvar and Thorir looked so much alike that no-one could tell them apart, and the people assumed that Thorir must have come home, and he was set in the high-seat and served just like a king in every respect and put to bed beside the queen, Thorir being married. Bodvar won't lie under the same bed cover as her. This seemed to her strange, because she truly thought it was her husband, but Bodvar told her everything, how things were. She kept this to herself. And so they spent each night, talking together, till Thorir came come, and then people have no choice but to realise who this man is. There's a joyful meeting then between those brothers. Thorir says there's no-one else he would trust to lie next to his queen.

Thorir invites him to stay and have half of all his treasure. Bodvar says he doesn't want it. Thorir offered then to go with him wherever he wanted, or to give him soldiers. He didn't want that. Bodvar rode away, and Thorir came along a little way to see him off, and they parted in friendship, though holding something back. And nothing is told of his travels till he arrives in Denmark, not far from Hleidargard.

33. Bodvar Stays with Peasants

One day there was a massive downpour, and Bodvar gets very wet, and his horse is tiring terribly and becoming tired under him, for he was riding hard, and the ground got soggy and the going tough. It grew very dark as night came on, and rain continued to fall. And he doesn't notice till his horse hits an obstacle of some sort. Bodvar dismounts and looks around, and he makes out what seems to be a house, and he finds where the door is. He knocks. A man comes out. Bodvar asked to stay the night. The cotter said he wasn't about to turn him away in the dead of the night, even if he was a stranger. To the cotter, this man seems very imposing, from what he can see.

Bodvar stops the night there, with good cheer. He asked a lot of questions about the exploits of King Hrolf and his champions and, for that matter, whether it was far.

"No," said the old man, "not far at all now. Are you planning on going there, by any chance?"

"Yes," said Bodvar, "that's my plan."

The old man said he'd fit right in there, "as I see you are a big strong man, though they do think themselves very gallant fellows."

And at this the old woman sobbed out loud, when they mentioned King Hrolf and his champions in Hleidargard.

"You poor woman," says Bodvar, "why are you crying?"

The old woman said, "My husband and I, we had one son, who's called Hott. And one day he went to the stronghold for a lark, but they taunted him, the king's men, and he took it badly. Then they took him and stuck him in their bone-heap. But it's their custom at mealtimes that when each bone is gnawed loose, they throw it at him. He gets really badly hurt by this sometimes, if one hits him, and I don't know if he's alive or dead. And the payment I want from you, for my hospitality, is: I want you to throw smaller bones at him, instead of big ones, if he isn't dead by now."

Bodvar says, "I'll do as you ask, but it doesn't seem to me that gallant to be hitting people with bones or hurting kids or ordinary folks.

"That's very good of you," said the old woman, "because your hand looks pretty strong to me, and I know for sure, no-one would stand much chance against your blows, if you decided not to pull your punches."

34. Bodvar Came to King Hrolf's Retinue

Then Bodvar went his way to Hleidargard. He comes to the king's residence. Bodvar then, without asking anyone, stables his horse next to the king's best horse and walks on into the hall, and there weren't many people there. He sits himself down near the door, and when he's been there a little while, he hears a great din of something thrashing around in one of the corners. Bodvar looks across and sees a man's hand coming up from the big bone-heap which was there. The hand was very black. Bodvar goes over and asks who was in the bone-heap there?

An answer came back, rather timidly: "Hott's my name, buck."

"Why are you here?" says Bodvar, "And what are you doing?"

Hott says, "I'm making myself a shield-wall, buck."

Bodvar said, "You've got a pretty sorry shield-wall there."

Bodvar grabbed the man and yanked him out of the bone-heap.

Hott yelled out and said, "Don't do that - do you want to kill me? I'd just got nicely set up as well, before you came along, and now you've gone and wrecked my shield-wall, and I'd finally got it high enough around me that it protects me from all your bones, so that I haven't been hit in ages, although it still wasn't as good as I meant it to be."

Bodvar said, "You will not build that shield-wall any more."

Hott said, sobbing, "Must you kill me now, buckie?"

Bodvar told him to keep his voice down, picked him up and carried him out the hall and to a nearby pond - and few gave any heed to this - and washed him top to toe. Then Bodvar went to the same seat that he'd taken before, and led Hott after him, and he sits Hott down beside him, but Hott was so scared he was shaking all over. And yet, he has a feeling this man wants to help him.

Evening comes now, and men crowd into the hall, and Hrolf's champions see that Hott has been put up on a bench, and they think that the man who did that is brave enough. Hott doesn't look too happy, when he sees his old acquaintances, as he's had nothing but trouble from them. He's keen to stay alive and go back to his bone-heap, because he thought he wouldn't be as exposed to them as he is now, if he could just get down there - but Bodvar holds him, so that he can't get away.

Following their usual practise, the retainers now start tossing small bones across the floor at Bodvar and Hott. Bodvar pretends not to notice. Hott is so scared he can't eat or drink, and he thinks he'll be hit at any moment.

And now Hott says to Bodvar, "Buck, mate, there's a big knucklebone coming your way, and I think it's meant to hurt us."

Bodvar told him to shut up. He held out his palm and catches the knucklebone. The legbone was still joined to it. Bodvar sends the bone back, aiming for the man who threw it, and it slammed into him so hard it was the death of him. Great fear came over the retainers then.

This news comes to King Hrolf now, and his champions up in the castle, that a distinguished-looking man has come to the hall and killed one of his retainers, and they want to have the man killed. King Hrolf enquired whether the retainer had been killed for no reason.

"Near enough," they said. Then the whole truth came out.

King Hrolf said that killing him was the last thing they should do. "You've taken up a bad habit, hitting innocent men with bones. It's unworthy of me, but for you it's an absolute disgrace to be carrying on like this. I've often spoken of this before, and you've taken no notice, and I doubt he'll be a push-over, this man you've attacked, so call him to me so that I can learn who he is."

Bodvar goes before the king and addresses him in the most refined manner. The king asks him his name.

"Hottsguard, your men call me, but my name is Bodvar."

The king said, "What compensation do you offer me for my retainer."

Bodvar said, "He got what he asked for."

The king said, "Will you be my man and take his place?"

"I don't say no to being your man, but we'll stick together just as we are, me and Hott, and either we sit nearer to you than he did, or else we both go away."

The king said, "I don't see any worth in that one, but I won't begrudge him food."

Now Bodvar goes and takes the space he likes, but he won't have the seat of the man he killed. In one place he yanked out three men, and then he and Hott sat down there, further in towards the centre than they were assigned. The men thought Bodvar a tough man to deal with, and they have the greatest resentment for him.

35. Bodvar Beat the Dragon

And as Yule drew on, people grew glum. Bodvar asks Hott what this meant. He says to him that this creature has come along two years running, huge and horrible, "and it's got wings on its back and it always flies. Two autumns now it's visited here and done lots of damage. No weapon pierces it, and the king's best champions don't come home.

Bodvar said, "The hall's not as well manned as I imagined, if one animal can come here and waste the kingdom and the king's cattle."

Hott said, "It's not an animal, it's the worst sort of troll."

Now Yule-eve comes. Then the king said, "Now I want people to be still and quiet tonight, and I forbid all my men to go and take any risks with this creature. If the cattle go, the cattle go, but I will not lose any of my men."

Everyone promised faithfully to do as the king commanded.

Bodvar crept away in the night. He takes Hott with him, though Hott only goes under duress, and claimed he was being led to his death. Bodvar says it won't be that bad. They walk away from the hall, and Bodvar has to carry him, he was that scared.

Now they see the creature. And immediately Hott screams as loud as he can and said the beast would swallow him. Bodvar told him to shut up, bitch, and throws him down on the moss, and there he lies, not entirely free of fright. He daren't go home either. Now Bodvar steps up to the creature. It doesn't help that his sword is stuck fast in its scabbard when he wanted to draw it. Bodvar urges his sword strongly now, and then it stirs in the sheath, and now he manages to draw it so that the sword comes out of its sheath, and he thrusts it straight under the beast's shoulder, so hard it stuck in the heart, and the beast dropped down dead on the ground.

After that, he goes over to where Hott is lying. Bodvar picks him up and takes him to where the creature lies dead. Hott is shaking miserably.

Bodvar said, "Now you must drink the blood of the beast."

For a long time he's reluctant, but, at the same time, he daren't really do anything else. Bodvar makes him drink two big mouthfuls. He also had him eat a bit of the creature's heart. Afterwards Bodvar attacks him and they struggle for a long time.

Bodvar said, "Now you've grown plenty strong, and I doubt you'll fear King Hrolf's retainers now."

Hott said, "I will not fear them or you after this."

"It turned out well then, Hott mate. Now we'll go and raise the beast and set it all up so that other people will think it must be alive."

They do just that. Afterwards they go home and keep quiet, and no-one knows what they've done.

36. Hott Joins the Champions

In the morning, the king asks what they know of the beast, whether it visited at all that night. He was told that all the cattle was safe and sound in their pens. The king instructed men to go and find out if anyone had seen traces of it's having come. The guards did that, and came quickly back and said to the king that the beast was on its way, at a furious pace, and making straight for the stronghold. The king commanded his men to steel themselves and told each man to do as well as his courage allowed and see off this monster. And it was done as the king commanded, they prepared themselves for this.

The king looked towards the creature and eventually said, "I don't see any movement in the creature. Who will seize the chance now and go against it."

Bodvar said, "That would cure the curiosity of the stoutest man. Hott mate, time to clear yourself of that slander, that men claim there's no spunk or spirit in you. Go now and kill the creature - you can see none of the others are too keen for it."

"Yes," said Hott, "I'll give it a go."

The king said, "I don't know where this courage has come from Hott - a lot has changed in you in a short time."

Hott said, "Give me the sword Gullinhjalti, that is Goldenhilt, which you hold, and I'll fell the beast or get death trying."

King Hrolf said, "This sword is not for any man to bear unless he's a good lad and a gallant warrior."

Hott said, "That's me, you can well believe it."

The king said, "Who knows, maybe more has changed in you than can be seen. I doubt that many would recognise you as the same man. Now take my sword and it's yours, best of men, if this deed be done well."

Then Hott goes quite boldly up to the beast and hews at it as he comes in range, and the creature falls down dead.

Bodvar said, "See now, lord, what he's done."

The king says, "He's certainly changed a lot, but Hott hasn't killed the beast alone, rather you've done it."

Bodvar says, "Maybe so."

The king says, "I knew when you came here that few would be your equal, but still that seems to me your finest work, making a new champion for me, in the form of Hott, who seemed so unpromising too, and unlikely to have much luck. And now I will call him Hott no longer, but he will be called Hjalti from now on. You will be named after the sword Gullinhjalti."

And here ends this tale of Bodvar and his brothers.

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