born: ?
died: ?

Viking-age people enjoyed competitions of all kinds. Grappling was a competitive sport practiced for fun wherever people congregated. At a regional assembly, rur grappled with Grettir the Strong.

Grettir was an outlaw, and during the spring assembly for the district, Grettir left his island hideaway at Drangey to get provisions while all the farmers were at the assembly. He was curious to see festivities, so he traveled to the site in disguise.

He was unrecognized by his nemesis, orbjrn ngull, who tried to force Grettir to take part in the grappling. Grettir agreed only if his security was guaranteed until he reached home. Everyone agreed and swore oaths.

Grettir took off his hood and tunic to wrestle and was instantly recognized. Some wanted to break the truce, but honorable men had their way and the truce was observed. There were two brothers, both named rur at the assembly, both powerful wrestlers.


Then it was suggested that one of the two Thords should wrestle with Grettir, and he said it was up to them to decide. One of the brothers came forward. Grettir stood there firmly, and Thord took a swift run at him, but he did not budge. Then Grettir reached over Thord's back, took hold of his breeches and lifted him off his feet, and threw him backwards over his head so that he landed on his shoulders, suffering a considerable fall. People said that both brothers should tackle him at once, and they did so. A great tussle ensued and each gained the upper hand in turn. Grettir always managed to keep one of the brothers on the ground, but all three of them went down on their knees or were thrown down. They wrestled so hard that they were bruised and scratched all over. Everyone greatly enjoyed the match.

Grettis saga, ch. 72
translation: Bernard Scudder, The Complete Sagas of Icelanders, Leifur Eiriksson Publishing (1997).

This episode highlights the value men put on their word. The farmers freely granted sanctuary to their guest, but when the guest turned out to be the outlaw Grettir, they kept their word, even though Grettir has caused harm and loss to many of them in his struggle to stay alive on his island hideaway.

It also highlights the value that men placed on their grappling prowess. Grappling provided entertainment, but it was an important part of combat as well. It's possible that grappling competition was one way that Viking-age fighting men kept in training.


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