Höršur Grķmkelsson

born: 950 at Ölfusvatn at Grafningur in Iceland
died: 989 at Hvalfjaršarströnd in Iceland
married: 968 Helga jarlsdóttir

Höršur was an outlaw. But unlike the other outlaws whose stories have been preserved in the sagas, Höršur did not lead a solitary, lonely life. He lived with his wife, and together with his foster-brother Geir, he formed a band of outlaws who lived and worked together for several years, following their own laws, and causing great trouble.

Kjartan arrived on the island where the outlaws lived and tricked them into believing that the people in the district wanted to come to terms with the outlaws to put an end to the troubles. Kjartan filled his boat with the outlaws and took them ashore, out of sight of the island, where the outlaws were promptly beheaded by the people of the district. Kjartan returned to the island a second time, and once again, he filled his boat with outlaws, including Geir. Again, on reaching shore, the outlaws were killed.

The third time that Kjartan returned to the island, Höršur and the remaining outlaws were very suspicious because their comrades did not return in the boat. Kjartan accused the outlaws of being cowards in not daring to go ashore. Höršur entered the boat, and as they reached shore, he saw the body of his foster-brother floating in the water, confirming Kjartan's treachery. The saga tells how he struck out at Kjartan.


Hord then struck at him with Soti's sword and split him all the way down to his waist, the whole trunk in a double coat of mail. At that moment the ship ran ashore and everyone who had been on the ship was captured. Indridi first seized Hord and tied his hands quite tightly. He then held out an axe and indicated that someone should kill Hord, but no one would do it. Then Hord suddenly twisted hard and got loose. He grabbed the axe out of Indridi's hand and jumped over a ring of men three deep. Helgi Sigmundarson got loose and ran right after him.

Haršar saga, ch. 36
translation: Robert Kellogg, The Complete Sagas of Icelanders, Leifur Eiriksson Publishing (1997).

Höršur was able to kill 13 men before the axehead slipped off the shaft. At that moment, Žorsteinn cut to his neck with a long-shafted axe, and that was Höršur's death.

Höršur's disarm of Indriši and his leap over the circle of men is yet another example of a Viking-age fighter being clever and improvisation, doing what needs to be done, when it needed to be done, in order to succeed in the fight.


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