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The Faroes History and the Saga

A visit to the outlying islands gives you an insight into the Faroese history and the ancient sagas. All the islands have one or several legends associated with the island. It is interesting to read the saga stories, but even more interesting to visit the islands where history lives. F. ex. in Skúvoy you can see Sigmund's gravesite, and the place where he jumped into the sea, and in Svínoy, you will see sites that tell about Svínoyarbjarni (Swiney-Bearne).

A Snippet from the saga of Sigmund and Thrond

Chapter 37

It came to pass that one day, as the winter was drawing nigh, Thrond gathered men to him, and there came to him sixty men, and he told them they should go to seek Sigmund, for he said that he had dreamed they would get very near him this time. They had two ships and a picked crew. There were with Thrond on this raid Laf Ossursson, Sigurd Thorlacsson, Thord the Low, Geat the Red, an Eastrey franklin named Stangrim, and Eldearn Combhood, who had been long with Thrond. Swiney-Bearne took no part in these things ever since he and Sigmund were set at one. Thrond and his men set out and got to Scufey (Skúvoy), and drew up their ships, and went up altogether till they came to the path on to the island.

Scufey is such good vantage-ground that they say the island could never be won if there were but ten men to keep the path; came there never so many, they should never win it. Eldearn Combhood went up first, and met Sigmund's warder by the path; they made at each other at once, and the end of their struggle was that they fell over the cliff together and got their death there both of them. Then Thrond went up and they all, and came to the homestead and made a ring round it: and their coming was so unawares that they within knew nought of it till they broke down the doors. Sigmund and his men ran quickly to their weapons, and all those that were in the house did likewise. Yea, Thurið the goodwife took weapon in hand, and did as well as any man of them. Thrond and his fellows set fire to the houses, and set on the homestead with fire and weapons, and made a hard onslaught; but when they had been fighting for some time, goodwife Thurið went out to the doors and called out, "How long are you going to fight with the headless men, Thrond?" said she. Thrond answered, "As true as day," said he, "Sigmund must have got away." Then he went round the houses withershins whistling after them, till he came to the mouth of an earth-house a little way off the homestead. There he stopped and put his other hand down on the ground, and then brought it up to his nose once or twice. At last he said, "Three men have gone this way---Sigmund, Thore, and Einar." Then he went about for a little snuffling as if he were tracking their slot like a hound; then bidding none follow him, he went on till he came to a rift. Now this rift runs across the island of Scufey. Then he said, "They have gone this way, and Sigmund must have leapt over here, whatever they have done with themselves. Now we will deal out our company," says Thrond; "Laf Ossursson and Sigurd Thorlacsson shall go to the other end of the rift and some of the men with them, but I will go to the other end, and we will meet on the other side of the rift." They did so. Then Thrond called out, "Now is the time, Sigmund, to show thyself if thou hast as brave a heart and wouldst be thought as bold a man as thou hast long been held. " It was then as dark as it could be. Soon after this a man leapt over the rift to where Thrond and his men were, and hewed at Stangrim Thrond's neighbour with his sword, and clove him down to the shoulders. It was Sigmund. Then he leapt swiftly backward over the rift again. "There goes Sigmund," says Thrond; "let us keep after them to the end of the rift." They did so, and there Laf and Thrond and all their men met. Sigmund and his fellows had now got to a rock that jutted over the sea, and could hear men's voices all round them. Then Thore said, "Let us stand at bay here, as fate will have it. ""I am not fit for fighting," said Sigmund, "for I lost my sword when I leapt backward over the rift; let us therefore leap off the rock and betake us to swimming. " "We will do as it pleases thee," said Thore. They took that counsel, and leapt off the cliff into the sea. And when Thrond heard the splash he said, "There they go! Let us take boat as we can and follow them, some on sea and some on land. "And so did they, but found them not.


Chapter 38

Now it must be told of Sigmund and his friends that they swam for a while, heading for Southrey, for that was the nearest land. But it was a long sea-mile, and when they had swum halfway Einar said, "We must part here." Sigmund said that should never be. "And do thou, Einar, lean on my shoulders!" And he did so. So Sigmund swam on for a while. Then Thore said, as he swam behind him, "Kinsman Sigmund, how long wilt thou flit a dead man on thy back?" "I don't see that I need," said Sigmund. They swam on till they had only a fourth of the way to go, when Thore said, "All our lives long we have been together, kinsman Sigmund, and great love have we twain had towards each other; but now it looks as if our life together was come to an end. I have pushed on as far as I can, and now I would have thee look to thyself and thine own life and give no heed to me, for thou wilt risk thine own life, kinsman, if thou art cumbered with me. "But Sigmund said, "It shall never be that we two part so, kinsman Thore. We will both of us come to land or neither. "Then Sigmund took him on his shoulders, but Thore was so worn out that he could do hardly anything to help himself. Then Sigmund swam on till he got to Southrey. There was a surf running on the island, and Sigmund was so worn out by this time that he was now driven from the land, and another time borne towards it. And Thore slipped off his shoulders there and was drowned, but Sigmund got to land at last, and he was so worn out that he could not walk, but he crawled up the shore and lay down on a heap of seaweed. This was at daybreak, and he lay there till it was quite light. There was a farmstead called Sandwick on the island a little way up, where dwelt a man named Thorgrim the Wicked, a big strong man, who held under Thrond of Gate. He had two sons, Ormstan and Thorstan, both hopeful men. Thorgrim the Wicked went down to the shore that morning, and he had a pole-axe in his hand. As he went by he saw red clothes sticking out of the seaweed heap; he pushed away the wrack and saw a man lying there. He asked him who he was. Sigmund told him his name. "Low lies our lord," said he, "but what hath wrought this?" Sigmund told him all that had happened. With that his sons came up. Then Sigmund prayed them to help him. Thorgrim did not answer at once, but began to talk to his sons in a low voice. "Sigmund has so much gear on him as it seems to me we have never owned the worth of, and his gold ring is mighty thick. The best thing we can do, it seems to me, is to slay him and then hide his body; it will never be known. "His sons spoke against it for a while, but at last they were of the same mind. Then they went up to where Sigmund lay and caught hold of his hair, while Thorgrim the Wicked hewed off his head with the pole-axe. In this way Sigmund, that was so good a man in all ways, lost his life. They stripped off his clothes and gear, and then dragged him up under an earth-bank and buried him there. Thore's dead body was cast ashore, and they buried it beside Sigmund, and hid them both.

Source: The Icelandic Saga Database

Faroese folkdance